Well, OK, let me start off, but I'm going to do just a small piece of this.
Let's start with oxfords. Oxford
is the British name for a particular kind of lace-up shoe that we often refer to in North America as Balmoral
, or Bal
. This is a lace-up shoe with closed lacing
, meaning that the divide in the vamp comes together at the bottom, so that the opening between what we call the facings
(edges of the vamp pieces) describes a V shape. This is in distinction to the Derby
(British) or Blucher
(NA), which has open lacing
, in which the two pieces of the vamp are really pieces of leather than can be pulled back to the sides. In this latter arrangement, there is no coming together of the sides of the facings at the bottom of the gap. I'll let someone else develop bluchers.
Oxfords, or balmorals, can come in a number of styles, that differ in the stitching and decoration. The brogue
or full brogue
is an oxford that has the wingtip form at the toe (and thus is often called a wingtip
), with elaborate bands of broguing
or punched holes usually ahead of the wingtip form, running around the facings, running back along the top of the sides, and running along the edge of the heel piece. Here's an example:http://www.pediwear.co.uk/detail.php?stock_ID=674
A slightly less elaborate amount of broguing can be found on the half-brogue
, with which the usual cap-toe design (thus not a wingtip form) has broguing ahead of it, and some of the bands of broguing behind as on the full brogue. Here's an example:http://www.pediwear.co.uk/detail.php?stock_ID=238
Less elaboration still can result in the perf cap-toe
or punch cap-toe
where you'll notice that the only broguing occurs at the rear of the toe cap.
Next, with less elaboration still, the plain cap-toe
where there is no broguing at all.
Plainest of all is the plain-toe
in which there is no toe cap or broguing at the toe whatsoever. This particular plain-toe oxford is also what we call a wholecut
, meaning that there are no seams in the (except at the back where the single piece of leather comes together with itself).
In addition, we encounter plain-toe oxfords with a medallion
in which there is no toe cap, but there is a medallion composed of broguing in a design (in this case a ram's head design).
In all the preceding cases, the vamp-to-toe form has been a smooth curve with no separate pieces stitched together to form the toe; that is, there is a single piece of leather that runs from side to side over the vamp, and not three pieces stitched together--top and two sides. However, I imagine that there are true oxfords that have a mocassin-toe
, or Algonquin
toe form, although at the moment I can't recall a single one. OK. I just found one - edit. Such a form is extremely rare, largely because it is difficult to run the seam attaching the apron
(top part) of such a toe form to the side pieces back into the middle of the shoe in a simple way. Such toe forms are commonly seen with bluchers. However, after some searching, I was able to find a moc-toe oxford:http://www.zappos.com/n/p/dp/2923593/c/7495.html
In the above example, this mocassin toe form has the additional feature of having a split toe
, that is a seam running down the toe right in the center. This feature is not seen on all mocassin-toe shoes. I should add that the seam attaching the sides of the front part of the shoe to the apron on this shoe is unusual in that it looks more like piping than the usual stitching seen on this seam.
Here's another vamp/toe form occasionally seen with an oxford--the bicycle stitch
or bicycle toe
form, in which you see two seams running parallel down each side of the vamp and over the toe to the sole:http://www.zappos.com/n/p/dp/8752655/c/42219.html
These aren't easy to find either--most bicycle-toe shoes are bluchers, or open-laced--and this particular one is truly an ugly mother; sorry about that!
Finally, the term "oxford" can be precisely defined as above, and is understood in this way by the British. Unfortunately, in North America is has become common practice to refer to just about any shoe that laces up as an "oxford." This is simply degradation of the language.
Of the lace-up shoe designs, oxfords are considered the most formal. Such closed-laced shoes are seen as the only really appropriate style with more formal suits and serious occasions. They provide the level of elegance and formality needed when wearing a finely-tailored suit made of a worsted wool.
I've run out of gas. Others can chime in and perhaps refine this description of oxfords. However, remember that lots of other shoe forms exist beyond oxfords. We now need Jcusey or Tattersall to come on and give a scholarly treatise on bluchers
Picture of plain cap-toe corrected. And where the hell are Jcusey and Tattersall when they're needed?Further edits
: Picture found of moc-toe balmoral and bicycle-toe bal.