Men’s fashion has been a riot lately. The rubble of old dismantled dress codes is a playground for designers who are rebuilding ideas about smart and casual dress in ways we haven’t seen before.
Not with your shoes, though. Discounting sneakers, most men still wear their shoes in only two colours, black or brown. It’s boring (some would say classic), and it’s been like this for more than 100 years, a two-party system that has always governed smart footwear.
Oxblood shoes are a way to clad your feet in something different. The burgundy tone is just about the only other colour that looks good on leather versions of Oxfords, Derbies and loafers. It’s smart enough for the office but eye-catching nonetheless, because you can almost guarantee that nobody else is wearing a pair. Quietly rebellious, it’s no surprise that Dr Martens is one of the brands that have long championed oxblood versions of its best boots and shoes.
Not that sticking it to the man should be your motivation. You’ll also get plenty of wear from a pair of oxblood shoes, dressed up and down, says Olie Arnold, style director at Mr Porter.
“The burgundy shade of oxblood goes with just about any trouser colour, so it’s a great versatile alternative to have in your wardrobe. A pair of classic denim or white jeans work well with oxblood boots, and although the burgundy hue gives an autumnal feel, it can work across seasons when paired with light and white denim.
“When teaming with tailoring, a navy or grey suit works best with the shade.”
To prove that oxblood shoes deserve a spot in your rotation, we’ve found the most wearable types of shoes you can find in the shade. You deserve at least one of them.
The footwear of choice for debonair dandies and misbehaving playboys, the loafer is one of the most casual smart shoes there is. Which makes it a perfect option to step away from black and brown in. Penny loafers in oxblood are also a classic choice for anyone interested in mod fashion, proponents of which are partial to a high-shine finish. Patent leather is a lot more casual in this style and this colour than it would be in, say, black Oxford shoes, so embrace your inner peacock.
Wear them with: tailored charcoal trousers, a knitted polo shirt and a Harrington jacket.
The plain, easy-wearing nature of Derby shoes makes them perfect for smart-casual wardrobes that regularly mix good-quality denim with tailored trousers. The simple design can also handle the flash of colour that oxblood brings, especially on chunky modern soles.
Even in oxblood, however, this is still a utilitarian shoe that looks as good with hardy workwear as it does with relaxed tailoring.
Wear them with: selvedge denim, a T-shirt and a worker-style jacket like a chore coat or overshirt.
In many of the shoes on this list, an oxblood finish makes the style a little less formal. On boots, it’s the reverse. Hiking boots, worker styles or even the odd Chelsea boot can all be found in the lesser-spotted oxblood, and the reddish shade adds some regal, autumnal polish.
A pair of Redwing boots in burgundy looks slightly dressier than the same style in brown, and a factory floor is no place for a pair of rich, oxblood work boots. Not that you’d do manual labour in any of these. Save them for date night outfits and smart-casual offices.
Wear them with: slim indigo denim, a sweatshirt and, if the weather calls for it, a proper winter coat.
As the stiffest and stuffiest type of formal shoe, an Oxford is probably the one most resistant to any colour that isn’t black or brown. This is the go-to shoe for the most formal tailoring – the banker’s shoe, the funeral shoe – so an oxblood Oxford is quite a hard sell.
To make it work, use it strictly as an occasion shoe; it has no business in your Monday-to-Friday rotation, but rather works as a lively accompaniment to bold tailoring. Use them to break the rules on black tie or jazz up a cocktail suit.
Wear them with: a charcoal, textured dinner jacket, a black shirt and black trousers.
As any menswear aficionado will know, brogues aren’t a specific type of shoe. The term just refers to the statement perforations on the leather, and those can be applied to Oxfords, Derbies or anything else. Brogues do have their own character, though, one that walks a masculine line between smart and casual, and is a little less town and a little more country.
This effect is amplified in oxblood, but that shouldn’t affect how you wear them. Stick with outfits that best suit the style and colour of the shoe.
Wear them with: a check grey suit if they’re Oxfords, pinrolled denim if they’re Derbies.