Spring footwear: Oxford lace-ups for women
Oxford-educated: How to wear an Oxford shoe
Words— Mylène Genty
"The world surely has not another place like Oxford; it is a despair to see such a place and ever to leave it, for it would take a lifetime and more than one to comprehend and enjoy it satisfactorily." These words, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, echoes the spirit that’s embodied in the legendary university. It’s a place that conjures distinct images - even without ever having stepped foot on campus. With the power of images and legacy, the simple act of naming a suddenly evokes a design full of history, refinement, and savoir-faire.
Oxford shoes indeed came about in England around 1846, as a result of a quest for a more comfortable shoe than its predecessor, the half boot – which was often high and tightly fitted with buttons instead of laces. Initially named the Oxonian shoe, it gained popularity throughout campuses, because they were simply best to walk in with. The name later switched to Oxford.
The Oxford, unlike other late 1800s trends like bustle dresses and embellished hats, has held on to its must-have appeal.
Fast forward to the end of the 00s - when menswear pieces started infiltrating our closets (all for the best). The year 2009 was a period where semi-retro, vintage, and ultra-feminine styles began to appear, thanks to the hugely influential Zooey Deschanel, among others. Flat shoes were all the rave; they were present but discreet. At that time, the simple act of being anti heels was a micro-step towards embracing a femininity that was hassle-free.
Now, Oxfords are as genderless as it can be. Because of their collegiate feel, they inevitably add a touch of preppiness to an ensemble. Doesn’t it seem like the perfect shoe to get lost in a library on a rainy day? With its scholarly vibe and elegant shape, it’s not hard to see why it’s a great option for the arrival of fall.
Put some texture on it
A black on black combination is quite a power move. Ann Demeulemeester said it best: "Black is poetic. How do you imagine a poet? In a bright yellow jacket? Probably not.” A poet would, however, definitely wear Oxfords. Aside from the intellectual appeal of the dark look, this shoe calls for warm textures and layers. Try something new: a shoe in a deep burgundy will look its best supported with a rich fabric - like a heathered blazer. Heavy knits will do the trick, too.
Get a light jacket
Whether you decided to go through fall with a trench coat, a leather jacket, or a bomber (or all of the above), these jackets are all convenient to mix with Oxford shoes. A trench coat will give a minimalist vibe if you pick neutral pieces such as black, grey, and white to complete the outfit. The leather jacket option calls in a more laid-back look while keeping a professional aura. Pair the shoes with a bomber for happy hour - it’ll channel a more easygoing attitude.
Match it with a skirt
Think: gallerist chic. This outfit requires a perfect balance of nonchalance and neat pieces. There’s something about the length of a midi skirt that’s quite modest, and pairing it with such a serious shoe recalls school uniforms, with a grown-up twist. The skirt allows for style experimentation, too: depending on how capricious the weather is, you might want to play with the colour of your tights, or pull on some fancy socks.
Whether you want to keep it formal or venture outside your comfort zone, the Oxford will have your back (or your lumbar support, at least.) Think of them as the dressy alternative to sneakers.