Oxfords vs Derbys  – What Are The Differences?

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Oxfords and derby shoes are the two most popular formal shoes for men, with many guys owning at least one of these pairs in their wardrobe. But what are the differences when it comes to oxfords vs derbys?

As two distinguished styles of dress shoes, oxfords, and derbys each boast unique characteristics that make both styles different, though they also share certain similarities, leading to occasional confusion. So let’s delve into the distinctive features that set oxfords and derbys apart.

Oxfords vs Derbys

Oxfords vs Derbys

The primary distinction between oxford shoes and derby shoes lies in their lacing system and fitting. Despite sharing similarities in formality, construction, and toe area, these shoes exhibit differences in their lacing arrangement and fit.

What Are Oxfords?

Oxford shoes are recognized as the most formal footwear for men, characterized by a closed-lacing system and a standard fit.

The toe area may be plain or cap toe, depending on personal preference. In terms of construction, oxford shoes can be cemented, Blake-stitched, or Goodyear-welted.

What Are Derbys?

Derby shoes are regarded as the second most formal men’s footwear, distinguished by their open-lacing system and a more spacious fit compared to oxfords.

In terms of the toe area, derby shoes typically feature a cap toe or a plain toe. Regarding construction, oxford shoes can be cemented, Blake-stitched, or Goodyear-welted.

What Are The Differences Between Oxfords And Derbys?

The primary distinctions between oxford shoes and derby shoes lie in the lacing system and fitting. However, they share similarities in formality, construction, and toe area.

The Formality

Oxfords vs Derbys - Formality

The formality of shoes refers to how dressy or casual they are, often determined by their design, construction, and materials.


Oxfords boast a rich history deeply rooted in traditional men’s footwear. Their long-standing association with formal occasions and adherence to traditional dress codes have established them as the preferred choice for formal footwear.

Cap toe oxfords stand out as the most formal variant within the oxford shoe category. Their distinctive design gives them a refined touch that makes them ideal for business dress and formal occasions. Conversely, plain toe oxfords, while maintaining formality, showcase a simpler and understated design.


Derby shoes hold the position of being the second most formal footwear for men. This style has a rich heritage and is deemed less formal than oxfords, attributed to its open lacing system which passes on a more relaxed yet sophisticated character to the shoes.

Cap toe derby shoes are acknowledged as the most formal within the derby shoe category, thanks to their distinctive design, embodying a refined choice. Conversely, plain toe derby shoes are perceived as less formal but still maintain a notable level of formality when compared to most other shoes.

The Lacing

Oxfords vs Derbys - Lacing

I know it’s kind of self-explanatory but the lacing in shoes refers to the method of fastening or securing the shoe onto the foot using shoelaces. This is also the biggest difference regarding oxfords vs derbys.


Oxford shoes have a closed-lacing design. Closed lacing on Oxfords means that the eyelets, where the laces go, are positioned underneath the front part of the shoe, called the vamp. The facing, which is the part with the eyelets, is stitched under the vamp. This creates a sleek and formal look on the upper part of the shoe


Derby shoes have an opened-lacing design. Opened lacing on derbys where the quarters (the sides of the shoe with the eyelets) are sewn on top of the vamp (the front part covering the toes). This imparts a more relaxed appearance compared to oxford shoes, yet retains formality through other aspects of the shoe.

The Fitting

Oxfords vs Derbys - Fitting

The fitting of a shoe refers to how well it conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot. It encompasses the overall comfort, support, and suitability of the shoe for a person’s foot shape and size.


The closed lacing system of oxford shoes typically offers a more streamlined and snug fit, making it ideal for some men. However, it may pose challenges for guys with wide or narrow feet as there is less room for width adjustment.


The open lacing system of derby shoes provides greater adjustability in terms of width, making them often perceived as roomier. This design is beneficial for individuals with wider feet since you can loose the laces. It also allows for a tailored fit for those with narrower feet who need to tighten the laces for comfort and a better fit.

The Toe

Oxfords vs Derbys - Toe

The toe area on a shoe refers to the front portion of the shoe that covers and protects the toes. The design and structure of the toe area can vary among different shoe styles, and it plays a crucial role in the overall look.

Oxfords & Derbys

There isn’t a significant difference in the toe area between oxford and derby shoes. Both types frequently feature a cap toe (an extra layer of leather across the toe box) or a plain toe (a clean and unadorned front without additional stitching or a cap).

Other than the widely popular cap toe and plain toe designs, both derby and oxford shoes feature various toe formats. One such design is the wingtip, characterized by a pointed toe cap with extensions (wings) that extend along both sides of the shoe, resembling the shape of a bird’s wing (W or M shape).

The Construction

The construction of a shoe refers to how the various components of the shoe are assembled or stitched together to form a complete and functional footwear. These are the three most popular methods in men’s footwear:

Cemented Construction – The sole is glued to the upper using a strong adhesive.

Blake Stitch Construction – A single stitch attaches the upper, insole, and outsole from the inside of the shoe.

Goodyear Welt Construction – Involves stitching a leather strip (welt) to the upper and the insole, with a separate outsole stitched to the welt.

Oxfords & Derbys

Both oxford shoes and derby shoes use all three construction methods, and the choice often depends on the brand and shoemaker.

High-quality oxford and derby shoes frequently feature Goodyear welting, whereas more budget-friendly options commonly use cemented construction. Blake-stitched oxfords offer durability and present an alternative to Goodyear welting with a distinctive construction approach.


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