What's the difference between an Oxford and a brogue?

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Although most of us have either an Oxford or a shoe with brogue detailing in the cupboard, the difference between the two is still a regularly searched for question on Google.

The misunderstanding around them has only gotten worse with the now famous advice given in the suave spy film Kingsmen of “Oxfords, not brogues”, inferring that these are two types of shoe when in fact, they’re not.   

Why “Oxfords, not brogues”?

Rather than this being style advice to religiously stick to, it’s more likely that this gem from the film relates to the traditional distinction of when it’s suitable to wear an Oxford. Especially as a brogue is not actually a type of shoe, whereas an Oxford is.

Shoes with “broguing”, the decorative perforation of the leather, tended to be seen as country shoes that were otherwise unsuitable for city gents. On the other hand, traditional Oxfords were considered smarter due to the closed laces which made them more suitable for a business setting.

A shoe with broguing - the perfect choice for the countryside?

Does it have to be one or the other?

So, as mentioned it is the traditional pattern of perforations, or broguing, on the toe and around the seams that makes a brogue. There are a number of patterns that come under this term, and it can actually be applied to any style of shoe.

This means that any shoe with broguing can be called a brogue…even if it’s an Oxford!

An Oxford, for clarification, is a recognised style that relates to a shoe with closed laces. A closed lace refers to a design when the eyelets are sewn underneath and can’t be seen on the top, making the Oxford clean with a slim silhouette and therefore the classic choice when wearing a suit.

Whether you’re still following our meaning, or not (!), the bottom line is that whether you opt for an Oxford or a brogue - or a combination of both - they are classics that provide the perfect finishing touch to a sharp outfit. Plus, creative designers continue to put a modern twist on these style classics, making it easy to achieve a more contemporary and casual look.


A brogue can even be a boot – check out the Gatsby hi boot in tan and green.

Can a classic look ever go out of style?

You could of course go for the classic colours and lines of the traditional Oxford, but you can get the best of both worlds by choosing an Oxford with broguing. Whether you choose a tonal colour and leather finish or a lace and heel in contrasting colours, you can't go wrong with this classic shoe.  


Remember that an Oxford can have broguing! The closed laces are the secret to a true Oxford like these bordo beauties.

Whichever colour or design you go for, it’s worth investing in quality and craftsmanship. For example, make sure the inner and sole is leather so it’s breathable and comfortable whatever the weather. Many cheap shoes have plastic material inside which is why your feet can get sweaty and feel like they’re tied in a plastic bag! 

How to nail the smart/casual look with brogues

Seen as the more casual design, which is perhaps why Colin Firth in the Kingsman suggested that the Oxford is the only choice for a sophisticated man about town. This stems from their traditional association with the countryside and rural activities; the holes in the broguing were originally functional and allowed water to pass through whilst walking through damp fields. This may not be the main use of brogues nowadays, but the relaxed style means that they nail the perfect smart/casual look when paired with jeans.  


Both brogues and Oxfords don’t have to be formal or stuffy – pair the chestnut shoes with jeans or casual trousers to get a fresh look.

Whilst black and tan remain the traditional colours of choice, there are plenty of variations to help you make your outfit your own. Choose a slightly richer chestnut colour, a navy or a bordo to bring some personality to a slightly casual work outfit or a smarter social occasion. For a stronger look, the two-tone shoe is an absolute classic.

Whereas Oxfords must have the closed laces, other shoes with broguing can have any style of fastening which can help you get a unique look, whether that be slip on or a buckle.

The amazing Louis tassle loafer in tan pictured here with brogue detailing is a classic with real personality.

How can I mix up my style?

Never be afraid to break tradition and mix-it up how you wear smarter shoes, no matter what they say in films. Designers are definitely experimenting with different materials and colours so don’t be afraid to be adventurous too.

Our spring collection will be launching very soon and it’s definitely going to break all the rules. Keep an eye on our social channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to find out as soon as it’s available.

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