Some things are so woven into the fabric of daily life that we barely give them a deeper thought. Oxfords fall firmly into this category. Sleek, classic and effortless, the Oxford is the shoe you invest in, keep forever, and wear everywhere. A dive into the style’s history proves there’s a lot more than meets the eye.
Fit For Royalty
While the exact origins of the Oxford are debated (Scotland & England have both claimed credit), the original name for the streamlined shoe was the “Balmoral”, after the Scottish queen’s Balmoral Castle. While they’ve evolved many times since their original debut in the mid-1600s, the Oxford stands out from other dress shoes due to its sleek, closed lacing.
You could have guessed this one—the Oxford as we know it today was popularized at the English Oxford University. A popular half-boot of the 1800s, dubbed the Oxonian, rose just above the ankle and featured side slits. Eventually, as students got tired of high socks and boots, the style was upgraded to a fashionably rebellious, ankle-exposing shoe.
At the turn of the century, the Oxford’s popularity finally crossed the pond and became a mainstay in the American businessman's uniform. The refined silhouette and wearability of the shoe conveyed professionalism and polish that complimented practically any look.
All That Jazz
It wasn’t long until women borrowed the look from the boys, making it a staple of the 1920s. Wearing men’s clothing acted as a form of silent resistance to oppressive cultural norms, and allowed women to both rebel and embrace their own personal sense of style. The Oxford became a tool for empowerment, especially during WWII when women ran the workforce.
That ’50s Shoe
It’s hard to think of a classic ‘50s look without imagining a two-tone oxford with a pair of bobby socks, ready to rock-n-roll on the dancefloor. The contrasting saddle style began as a sporty design for golfers, but women were attracted to the simplicity and versatility, and began to style them with everything from feminine dresses to menswear-inspired trousers.
Today, the oxford remains a universally beloved, incredibly versatile style that should be a staple in anyone’s collection. Born from rebellion, their complex, empowering history adds an edge to their elegant profile. From classic black or white to artful prints, choose one that expresses your personality and sense of style best.