A debate recently broke out in the office regarding the difference between brogues, oxfords and loafers. Some of us believed the first two were the same thing. Others claimed that the tell of an oxford was that it comprised of two colors — a “saddle shoe.” All of us had different definitions of a loafer. It was absolute madness and wigs were flying and shoes were lobbed at heads. It was extremely uncivilized. But pandemonium is only natural when you don’t know what to call the items on your feet!
The only way to restore order to the office was to seek outside help of an expert. I called upon Dan Rookwood, US Editor for MRPORTER.com, to break it down and bring back our office peace.
An oxford is a formal lace-up shoe. It is not, as some of you may have thought, an esteemed English university worn on one’s feet.
University of Oxford, Old Souls Quad
Rookwood says you can distinguish the oxford from the other main type of lace-up shoe, a derby, by looking at the lacing itself: “An oxford has a ‘closed front’ which gives it a sleeker appearance and thus is usually a more formal shoe than a derby.”
If you look at an oxford, it is basically wearing a lace-up V-neck shirt that stops where your foot bends.
The derby, Rookwood explained, is a lace-up where the eyelet facing are stitched on top of the vamp (the front section of the shoe). This is called an “open front.” If you take out the laces, it opens like a flasher opening his trench. An oxford would never do that, both because it is more dignified and because it wouldn’t physically be able to, thanks to the stitching.
According to Rookwood, a brogue is “strictly speaking, a decorative perforated pattern in the leather of the shoe. You could have an oxford shoe that is also a brogue, for example.”
Fun fact: a brogue is also a heavy Irish and sometimes Scottish accent. “Tom Branson has a sexy Irish brogue.”
A loafer is a slip-on shoe without laces. “Think of the classic Gucci horsebit loafer,” said Rookwood who kindly does not think I am an idiot despite basically asking, “What is a shoe?”
The man in the orange kilt is wearing A) an oxford B) a loafer C) a brogue?
The real answer is that this picture isn’t close up enough to tell. We know they are not loafers. He is likely wearing oxfords as opposed to derbys due to the formal nature of his dress and though I see no apparent perforation to determine these oxfords as brogues, he definitely speaks with a Scottish brogue.
The more you know.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Illustration by Emily Zirimis and Handwriting by Krista Anna Lewis