Oxfords and Derbys
Oxfords (also called “Balmorals” after the monarch of Great Britain’s Balmoral Castle in Scotland) have their origins in Scotland and Ireland. The stylistic origin of the now-classic shoe is the “Oxonian,” an 18th-century half-boot with two side slits that became popular with Oxford University students around the year 1800. Eventually, the side-slit boots were designed with side-laces. But as the students rebelled against knee-high and ankle-high boots, the boots were cut down, becoming shoes with their laces at the instep.
To the untrained eye, oxfords and derbys (also called “blüchers”) are one in the same. But the fundamental difference between oxfords and derbys (despite variations in terminology from one region to another) is that the lace eyelet tabs of the oxford are stitched under the vamp (a construction commonly referred to as “closed lacing”), while the lace eyelet tabs of the derby overlap the vamp (a construction commonly referred to as “open lacing”). Because of the sleeker, more “contained” construction of the oxford, it is regarded as the more formal of the two classic styles. Both styles, however, have remained immensely popular for over 200 years.