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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Before reading this, please refer to this thread about shoes, which I would like to talk about but not to hijack.

The OP posted a picture:


...of a pair of shoes that, in my current state of knowledge about shoes, can be described as a pair of men's, black, Oxford, Derby's with an apron front.

The first comment was:
ToryBoy said:
Although I prefer oxfords with a suit, I do have a pair of derby's in my 4-day rotation.
So clearly one of us is confused about the terms Oxford and Derby. I think they can go together but ToryBoy sees them as being mutually exclusive.

Later on,
Leather Man said:
...Derby is less formal than an Oxford...
Leather Man seems to agree with ToryBoy, a Derby is not an Oxford, they are mutually exclusively different shoes.

My understanding is that an Oxford is a shoe cut below the ankle, whereas Derby refers not to the cut of the shoe but to its style of lacing. So to me, both a Derby and a Balmoral are (or at least can be) Oxfords but to both ToryBoy and Leather Man the term Oxford seems to mean something else.

Clarification would be appreciated.
 

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I wouldn't be surprised if your definition is slightly archaic or perhaps something specific to the military services. One of the wonderful things about language is that it changes and mutates. It may well be that originally an oxford was just what you described. But now that definition would include just about anything that isn't a boot. It would include slip-ons, and frightfully, even the dreaded flip-flop!

My understanding is that an oxford (balmoral in U.S. speak) is a close-throated laced shoe, whereas a derby (blucher in U.S. speak) is an open-throated one. (Unless of course it's a gillie!)

Yes, in any back-alley scrap regarding footwear, my money is always on Leather Man!
 

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In America, an Oxford has come to mean any dress shoe with laces. The term Balmoral in America is what an Oxford is in the traditional sense. A Balmoral is actually a variation of the Oxford, which is also occasionally termed Galosh Oxford. Another variation of the Oxford is the Adelaide. Derby and Blucher are pretty much the terms used for an open-laced shoe in England and America, respectively.
 

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Derby = Blucher = Open lacing
Oxford = Balmoral = Closed lacing

I hope I have that right.

Edit: Flanderian is faster at responding than I am - he posted as I was typing.

What the heck is a gillie?
Ah, ha! :icon_smile_big:

The mystical gillie is easier known than described. As best I can manage, imagine an oxford in which the portion of the shoe that closes over the tongue does not extend all the way across. But rather, portions are cutaway to leave remaining fingers with the eyelet at their end, and the laces inserted through these and tightened. And these laces often have tassels on their ends. It's a rustic appearing design that I suspect may be Scottish in origin.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Jim In Sunny So Calif said:
What the heck is a gillie?
A ghillie is a man or boy who works on a Scottish country estate, particularly one devoted to fly fishing or deer hunting. He is essentially the equivalent of what elsewhere is called a gamekeeper. Traditionally, he wore highland dress, including shoes like this:



...which are called ghillie brogues, or just ghillies. A more modern interpretation of the same shoe would look like this:

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Flanderian said:
I wouldn't be surprised if your definition is slightly archaic or perhaps something specific to the military services.
Well, not exactly archaic and certainly not confined to the military. I actually got it from this forum. If you read this thread, and scroll down to post number 9 and you can read our founder saying:

Andy said:
OXFORD describes all lace-up shoes that don't rise above the ankle. It was originally a half boot introduced in 1640 and worn by Oxford University students in England. Oxford then became a shoemaker's term to distinguish low cut shoes from boots.
He then goes on to explain how Oxfords are divided according to their lacing systems into Balmorals and Derbys. He then ends with:

Andy said:
Mixed Terminology: In some countries "Oxford" refers to a shoe with closed lacing ("Balmorals"), and "Derby" is used to refer to open lacing ("Blucher").
I actually suspect that Andy has got that final part (after the comma) the wrong way round. He meant that in some countries, "Oxford" is used to mean "Balmorals", and "Blucher" is used to mean "Derby".

Flanderian said:
But now that definition would include just about anything that isn't a boot.
How many lace up slip-ons or flip flops have you seen?
 

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Please, Andy, we need an American-British dictionary of shoe terminology (Balmoral, Blucher, Weejun etc.). These terms are totally unfamiliar to me, (but that is, of course, my fault); also, some British terms might be unfamiliar on the other side of the Atlantic.
 

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George Bernard Shaw said:
"England and America are two countries divided by a common language"
Andy said:
OXFORD describes all lace-up shoes that don't rise above the ankle.
That's what the Americans do. (The English will call it a 'Lace-up'.)

Andy said:
Mixed Terminology: In some countries "Oxford" refers to a shoe with closed lacing ("Balmorals"), and "Derby" is used to refer to open lacing ("Blucher").
Cottonshirt said:
I actually suspect that Andy has got that final part (after the comma) the wrong way round. He meant that in some countries, "Oxford" is used to mean "Balmorals", and "Blucher" is used to mean "Derby".
No, Andy got it right (for an American, because that is what he is.)
In some countries (England for example) an 'Oxford' is the shoe Americans call 'Balmoral' and a 'Derby' (or 'Gibson' or 'Navvy Cut') refers to what is called a 'Blucher' in the States.

In some countries (France) they talk about a 'Richelieu' or a 'Molière'.

-----------------------------------------------
In an English restaurant you use a 'cheque' to pay the 'bill', in an American one, you use a 'bill' to pay the 'check'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I was actually referring to the way the sentence is constructed. In the first part of the sentence he has the American term in inverted commas and the English equivalent in parenthesis; in the second half of the sentence he has reversed this useage which means that the second half of the sentence does not have the meaning he intended.
 

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Here's the unabridged (almost) section from The Encyclopedia of Men's Clothes, Shoe Chapter:

OXFORD describes all lace-up shoes that don't rise above the ankle.
It was originally a half boot introduced in 1640 and worn by Oxford University students in England. Oxford then became a shoemaker's term to distinguish low cut shoes from boots.

Oxfords are divided into two different lace-up systems:

1. The Blucher is named for Field-Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, Prussian commander at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. He devised this type of lace system for army wear in 1810. It laces up center front through six pairs of eyelets, and the tongue and vamp are cut in one piece with an open throat.

These are also know as Derby (men's shoes) or Gibson (women's shoes).

2. Balmoral or Bal is named after the Queen Victoria's Scottish castle, which is still in possession of the British Royal Family and was first worn there in the 1850's.

The tongue is cut in a separate piece from the vamp and joined with stitching across the vamp. It has a closed throat, which means the leather piece through which the laces pass is joined at the bottom in a "V" (closed lacing).

Mixed Terminology: In some countries "Oxford" refers to a shoe with closed lacing ("Balmorals"), and "Derby" is used to refer to open lacing ("Blucher").

Oxfords are also divided into different styles:

Plain Toe -- no decoration on the shoe

Cap Toe -- a separate piece of plain leather is attached straight across the shoe's toe. It may be plain or decorated with brogueing.

Brogue -- any dress shoe that includes "brogueing", the tiny holes punched in the leather to form a pattern. "Brog" is the Gaelic word for shoe. The word is also used for an Irish or Scottish accent. Maybe it means the speech of one who wears brogues!!

In about 1790 the Irish and Scots wore a coarse heelless shoe of untanned deer hide with the hair left on. After walking through a marshy field and having their shoes fill with water, the Scots started punching holes into the toe and around the sides of their shoes to let bog water escape. At the end of the 19th century shoemakers began copying the elaborate decorative perforations and by 1915 wing tips were in vogue.

The wing tip is the best know brogue and gets it name because the perforated toe decoration resembles a bird with spread wings. It is the traditional shoe for business, which excludes it for casual wear, and especially formalwear.

"Medallion" or "semi-brogue" describes a perforated design only on the toe, like the cap toe. "Full brogues" refer to a design carried onto the sides, like wing tips. The more design the less dressy the shoe.

Both buck, originally made of suede buckskin (deer), and white buck, made of leather colored white, may have red rubber soles.

Gillie or ghillies are Oxfords without a tongue, laced across the instep often with fringed laces and worn with kilts, argyle socks and plus fours.

This style of shoe and the kiltie style was popularized for golf shoes by English King Edward VIII, 1894-1972, (King from Jan to Dec 11 1936), abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice divorced commoner, and was then given the title of Duke of Windsor.


The word "gille" means "boy" or porter in Scottish Gaelic and came from the Old Irish "gilla" from "gildae".

Two color shoes, usually white and black or brown. They can be two colors of leather or leather and canvas.
  • Spectator or Co-respondent shoes are two color tone shoes. They are usually considered a non-business shoe and worn only during the summer season. Most popular versions are wing tip.
The name co-respondent came from the shoes popularity among men who wore them to court for divorce proceedings. A "Co-respondent" is one who "responds" or a defendant, especially in a divorce or equity case.

They originated as sporting and hunting footwear, but by the 1880's had transcended into fashion.

The Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) helped their popularity when he wore tan and white spectator shoes during a 1925 visit to the U.S., and further popularized them as golf shoes in 1937. Fred Astaire wore them to dance in, and they became the signature shoes of jazz musicians, gangsters and zoot-suiters through the early 1940's.

  • Saddle or "saddle oxfords" are characterized by a separate "saddle" shaped piece of leather at the instep. The saddle can be the same color or different.

    The shoes were called duotone if the saddle was a different color than the rest of the shoe.
Kilties are oxfords with a tongue of fringed leather that is draped over the instep and covers the laces and eyelets. The style was a popular golf shoe (see Gillie), but has transferred to slip on shoes

Spit-toe styling, introduced in the 1950's by J. M. Weston, is named for the vertical seam at the toe, which connects two separate pieces of leather making up the sides of the upper with another separate piece of leather forming the top of the vamp. The style reinforces the toe and was originally designed for hunting. This style is usually found on bluchers, but it can also be on a loafer.
 

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How many lace up slip-ons or flip flops have you seen?
Had not read all of the suggested reading as I was far too late into my day, but rathert was responding to your phrase in an earlier post, "My understanding is that an Oxford is a shoe cut below the ankle" which did not specifically mention lacing.

And thank you particularly for the photos of a gillie. The second is closer to what popped into my head. I had been looking through and old Paul Stuart catalog earlier where they had a shoe for sale that employed that system of lacing, and the name, though modified with a conventional tongue and other details.
 

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I have seen alot of discussion regarding which shoes are appropriate for suits, and I remain confused. Which shoes are meant to be worn with suits, and which colors?
With a suit (in general):

Oxfords in black, dark brown and medium brown - yes
Oxfords in light brown - no, unless it is summer suit, e.g. linen, cotton, seersucker, etc.

Derbys - depends on the design; in terms of colour scheme, re: Oxfords.
- suitable derbys
Derby posted in the first post - not suitable
 

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Andy's encyclopedia is from an American perspective. It should be titled The American Encyclopedia of Men's Clothes. The American terminology does not work when talking about dress boots. There are Oxford boots and there are Balmoral boots, and they are not the same thing. If an Oxford is a low-cut shoe, then what is a boot made in that style? The American terminology is flawed and confusing.
 

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With a suit (in general):

Oxfords in black, dark brown and medium brown - yes
Oxfords in light brown - no, unless it is summer suit, e.g. linen, cotton, seersucker, etc.

Derbys - depends on the design; in terms of colour scheme, re: Oxfords.
- suitable derbys
Derby posted in the first post - not suitable
While I'm aware of the general differences of opinion from a UK and American perspective regarding derbys/bluchers, I entirely agree with your statement above. Some are undeniably rustic and ill suited to anything but country wear, where others work very well with a city suit. I was reminded in particular of a design by American bespoke maker Perry Ercolino. Depicted in espresso brown calf, it would be difficult to find a more elegant shoe despite the open throat and broguing.
 

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My question is not one of usage, but rather of pronunciation. In England, a local football rivalry is called a derby. It is spelled "derby" but pronounced "darby". Does the same hold true when describing the shoe? Many thanks for any insight.
 

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My question is not one of usage, but rather of pronunciation. In England, a local football rivalry is called a derby. It is spelled "derby" but pronounced "darby". Does the same hold true when describing the shoe? Many thanks for any insight.
Yes. "Derby" is invariably pronounced "Darby", just as "clerk" is pronounced "clark", and "Berkeley" is pronounced "Barkley".
 
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