(This is Part III of All In The Details: Leather Shoes. Here is Part I, and Part II.)

Did you know that there are differences in the level of formality when it comes to your leather dress shoes?

It doesn’t matter so much nowadays (at least not in the overly-casual US where I live), but depending on the event you’re attending, you should be wearing a certain kind of dress shoe.

First off, there are two basic kinds: the oxford and the blucher. You may hear an oxford referred to as a balmoral. You may also hear the blucher referred to as a derby or buck. The main difference between the two is how the vamp is stitched.

With oxfords, the eyelets are stitched underneath the vamp, while the blucher has eyelets stitched on top of the vamp. Check out the image above.

As far as formality goes, oxfords are more formal than bluchers.

Within that, a plain toe is more formal than anything with broguing. Brogues, remember, are the holed patterns you see on shoes (which had the original purpose of aeration when wet, wayyy back in the day).

Wear which one where? Huh?

Ultra formal event? Plain toe oxford. Casual Friday? Full brogue (or semi, or quarter, whichever you prefer).

Can only afford one? I suggest the semi brogue. They’ll go with everything from your navy suit to your denim. Perfect!


I mean, what else is there to know?

Have questions? Let’s hear em below.


All shoe images: Alden

Learn a few shortcuts to dressing well

Enter your first name and email, and I'll send you a free eGuide with quick and easy tips you can use today.

23 Responses

    • Mike on

      You should never wear brouges with a tux. Patent leather is ugly, in my opinion. You can shine up a nice, plain toe black oxford.

        • Matt Riddell on

          As he said, you can get the same shine out of a straight leather shoe. A patent leather shoe is covered with plastic – why not just make the effort and polish a normal leather shoe rather than a plastic one?

          • Barron on

            I’m not a fan of the patent leather either… I’ve seen it done well, but I just don’t like it on me personally. If I were going to an event and putting on a tux, I’d probably stick with a straight black oxford, highly polished, no broguing.

  1. BrockMcGoff on

    Nice, simple breakdown…well done! I like the quarter brogue oxfords. One good pair of those is all you need.


    • Barron on

      I agree. For a person who owns none, I’d say quarter brogue is a safe place to start. I prefer the half or full myself; I just like the ornate broguing in general.

    • Barron on

      Hey Gabe, being a plain toe blucher, they’re pretty formal. I’d wear them with suiting trousers mostly. But! It depends on what else you’re wearing them with. For example if you had dark denim, shirt and tie, and a wool sport coat, those shoes could work. So, depending on the rest of the outfit it could look good, but generally I wouldn’t.

    • Jake on

      I wouldn’t say they are super formal – they are bluchers, and although all of Barron’s info is technically correct, society has been slowly leaning towards what is formal/casual… the Kenilworths specifically would definitely go with any pair of jeans

  2. Frank on

    Time out! I thought the term “oxford” applied to both bluchers and balmorals. In fact, I am pretty sure that saddle oxfords have the blucher cut. Am I missing something?

  3. Chris Jones on

    What do you call it when there is no broguing? “non-brogue”? (as in the brown shoes in the first picture). I prefer that, unless with jeans, in which case I like full brogue the best.

  4. Rik on

    Guys i’m a bit desperate. I’ve been nominated for a creative business award (not bragging). However the award night is Black Tie. I’ve bought a new tailored fit navy tuxedo/3 piece suit (see pic) with a long tie but i have 1 minor problem and a major which i could do with some advice.

    1. Minor. Pocket square? Should i get one that is white and boring or match one with the wife’s dress (Navy with white dots). How’s best to wear it. Don’t want to keep messing with it if i’m honest!

    2. Major. I have 2 pairs of black slip on shoes, both uncomfortable and 1 pair of handmade brown/tab brogues. Can i wear my brogues?

    I can buy new black shoes but i won’t wear them and i’m a bit skint. I’d rather buy the wife some new underwear for her dress if i’m honest.

    What you think? I want to stand out, break convention and look a bit different and creative. The rest of the awards is business related and i can see it all being boring black tux’s. So i don’t want to look corporate!

    Thanks guys!

    • Rik on

      PS I would love some oxbloods to go with it but i’d want a pair i could match up with indigo jeans as that is what i live in!

    • Barron on

      Hi Rik,

      Sorry, just seeing this now, so hopefully it’s still helpful. If it’s black tie, safe bet would be to go with a white pocket square, folded so it’s straight across in the pocket. If you want to stand out just a little, go with the dotted square, but I’d still keep it folded down and straight across.

      With a tux, you want a plain black lace-up, preferably an oxford, minimal / no broguing. Considering your only black shoes are slip-ons, I’d probably go with the brown brogues (since your tux is navy).