The Oxford shoe is considered one of the most elegant of mens shoes. Its main characteristic is it has a closed lace system as opposed to an open one (like the Derby shoe). The origins are said to have come from a half boot called the Oxonion popularised by Oxford Union students around 1825. However, others insist they originate from Scotland and to this day, some call the shoe a Balmoral (after the castle).
What is not disputed is that the Oxford came about in a quest for comfort. Ironically, even if it did start in a university campus, it may be considered too formal to wear in such a setting today.
Style wise, a plain black oxford is considered an evening shoe with a patent oxford appropriate for black or white tie events. However, as oxford shoes come in various colours, in brogues and materials such as suede, they can be worn in a more versatile way.
See The Gentleman’s Gazette for an in depth guide to Oxford shoes.