For a long time, ballet flats were my staple. I was keen on owning a few pairs in different colors. But i was wearing out my shoes too fast. As as i downsized, I started to look for versatile shoes – ones that i think can fit every occasion without looking too casual. And oxfords became my everyday staple. I bought my first pair for travel. A single pair that fits all the requirements. Comfortable, durable, stylish, formal, informal, protective – check. It helped me travel light. After i came home, i didnt see the need for my huge shoe collection. And there was no going back. It wasn’t a seamless transition. Oxfords for women is hardly mainstream and is still referred to, as a trendy item to own. I keep getting started at, when i wear them, everyday. It took me a while to get over it and stop caring about what other people think of them. And i hope its not a trend in my life but a staple. Two years and still going strong.
As i grow older, i have been settling into my own style of dressing. There are all these boxes – traditional, classic, preppy, bohemian, tomboy, clean lines, etc for categorizing personal style. Surprisingly, all the women who’s personal style i adore do not fall into a box. And even better, inspired their own categories of boxes over time that women emulate these days. Armed with this confidence, i picked my staple everyday shoe & wear them with everything. “Its like someone metamorphosed you into a man, ankle down”, i once got told. “Are those your husbands, how to they fit you?”….. “Why? Why ? Why?”….. Seeing how the European women wear them, helped me get over the fear of looking too masculine. I wear flowy dresses with black oxfords. I mix navy blue and black. I do not want to emulate the fashion bloggers/instagrammers who perfectly match everything. Not the fashion editors who drive the trends. I want to make my own staples. And wear them the way i want. Isn’t it too hot to wear shoes all the time i get asked. Firstly, i have a pet peeve about footwear that get my feet dirty when i don’t intend them to. I walk and bike a lot. This rules out most of the dainty ones. And good leather, breathes. Its not a myth. I give my testimony for it. I wear mine in Arizona heat. Enough with the justifying.
And i am not the only one. This picture of Garance speaks volumes about her. When Jamie bought her pair, she taught me a lot on how to confidently pair them with everything. Its rather dated to categorize wearing heels or flats as feminine. I am a proud curator of my favourite outfits into a pinterest board: here. The downside of learning from pinterest is the fact that it is flooded by fashion images of models or street style fashionistas. I did find a few non fashion industry professionals who beautifully styled their outfits with oxfords. Anyone reading this should head over and take a look.
Its easy to find oxfords in every street style store or high end store. What demarcates them in the quality, maker and shape.First to my observations on quality. Upper and insole has to be leather for breathability. Rubber outsoles last a long time. But i prefer the leather soles because they look more dressy. The downside of it is that it wears out faster. But a trusted cobbler can resole or apply a protective layer to make them last longer. Now to my favourite part: shape. Shape can be a deal breaker for me when buying a pair. And i have opinions. Lots of them.
The shoe makers. Ethical and handmade is my choice. I regretted the shoes i bought on high street, always ! When i see a Made in China/India/Bangladesh tag, it makes me sad. I know that these companies pick those places so that they can get away with sweatshop labour and very low ( read non existent ) environmental standards. Half the rivers in China are dead ( 0% oxygen ) and Holy Ganges river is a pile of slime. Owning a pair of shoes are not worth doing that to the environment. Plastic polymer shoes are a no-no. Even if you can recycle them, most places dont because of the mix of polymers used in making the shoe. You will have to take it apart. America lets you put a ‘Made of leather’ tag if upper is leather. Europe has stricter rules: leather upper, insole and outsole. Great shoemakers always put out information bragging about the make. My favourites are N.D.C Made by Hand ( absolute fav ), Coclico, BedStu, Officine Creative, Churchs, …
Some interesting facts about oxfords:
1. All the pairs shown in the pictures above, are not oxfords. They are technically called Derbys. Oxfords are closed laced shoes. There is a whole debate on what’s an oxford, derby, brogues.
2. There were popularized by the students attending Oxford University, setting a fashion trend. Soon becoming a classic for men. Women embraced them much later.
3. The once closed laced shoe gave birth to open laced versions later on. The rumour has it that the 14th Earl of Derby, Edward Smith-Stanley, was a man of jolly proportions. And couldn’t get his foot into this style of shoe, and requested his shoe makers for a solution. And came up with the laceups.
4. Women embraced this style, but with a heel eventually leading to the flapper shoes. Since then, the laces disappeared and they became more open toed.
…. to be updated.
Irony of it all : Harsha loves his flip flops. I dont own any flip flops and wear oxfords most days of the year.