There are two main types of formal shoes for men i.e. Derbys and Oxfords. Oxfords originated at Oxford University and were worn by young fashionable undergraduates defying the fashion vogue of the time i.e the buckled shoe. Circa late 18th c lacing shoes were considered rather effeminate and worn tight as feet corsets. When peacock fashions for men were challenged by the French Revolution gradually lacing Oxfords gained more popularity among more conservative dressers. When Queen Victoria made hill walking and outward bound activities fashionable by taking her annual holiday in the Scottish Highlands, the Oxford style became fashionable for both genders.
Brogues were based on the ghillie shoe which was worn traditonally by game keepers in Scotland and Ireland. Holes were cut ito the uppers to help drain excess water from about the feet. The small holes were cut following traditional patterns. Exposure to cold and damp conditions caused foot fatique and trench foot but with the water able to slip through the holes the gamekeeper were able to walk miles. The fashion for Oxfords and English Brogues (aka Wingtips) became vogue by the 19th century and the English Look was a main feature of male fashions in the early to mid twenties. The body of the classic Oxford shoe is constructed to look like one seamless piece of leather. It differs from the Derby in that the eyelet tabs are stitched underneath the vamp, or the top of the shoe. This construction method is more commonly referred to as ‘closed lacing’. This design lends itself to a sleeker, more elegant shape making it the more formal of the two classic shoes. The Oxford shoe for the modern man has become a truly versatile lace-up shoe that can be worn at any formal occasion from business wear, weddings and ceremonies to dress, and casual occasions like dates and weekend festivities. The Derby shoe (Gibson or Blutcher) was named after Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742 -1819) a Prussian general who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He became a favourite general and wore a modification on oxfords where the laces were part of two pieces of leather independently attached to the vamp. The shoes were called open lacing or Derby in the UK and provided easy access for the broader foot.