Brushing up on one’s Shoe Vocabulary
As an Undandy it is your duty to try to converse in many languages. After all, as Gandhi once said, if you speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head and if you speak his language that goes to his heart. If your passion, like mine, is shoes, then you need to be well versed in the particularities and peculiarities. Here is a short but definitive guide to all the lingo one needs to possess to converse with one’s cobbler or assist you on the path to formal shoes becoming your specialist subject on Mastermind. At the very least you’ll be able to make more informed decisions when selecting the next pair for your wardrobe. And a man that is forewarned is forearmed.
The Anatomy of a Dress Shoe
The most timeless and classic type of formal shoe, the Oxford is defined by is closed lace system and slim silhouette. Conceived around the 1800s, rumour has it, Oxford students created this style as a less formal shoe to romp around campus. Ironically now it is the most formal of all dress shoes.
Derby or Blucher
The Derby shoe or Blucher was originally created for sporting pursuits, and it was only at the turn of the 20th century that this style became town appropriate. You can tell a Derby apart from an Oxford by its open lacing system, with the facing stitched on top and visible, rather than hidden as with the Oxford. This gives a less formal feel to the shoe and garners extra points in comfortability because of this.
The construction of a monk strap is akin to an Oxford, but in place of a lacing system, has a flap of leather fastened with a buckle at the front. Whether featuring a single or double strap, the monk strap is now considered a classic alternative to laced formal dress shoes, despite its humble roots as a closed toe sandal traditional worn by monks in the 1600s.
Another shoe with a gloriously extraordinary history, the Chukka boot takes its name from the game of Polo, where chukka refers to the duration of a match. Worn after the match by players Chukka boots were supposed to be a less formal and comfortable style of shoe. Featuring two of three eyelets for the lace fastening, giving a snug fit around the ankle when compared to a Chelsea boot. An extremely informal dress shoe, this should be reserved for weekend attire only.
Inspired by a moccasin, this dress shoe is perhaps the most instantly recognisable with its slip-on style. Available with a tassel, penny loafer strap or Gucci-esque bar. Popularised in the 1930s, and a favourite with business men in warmer months or gentleman in warmer climates.
With a construction similar to an Oxford, the standard dress boot simply has a long ankle shaft, protecting the wearer from inclement weathers. This style harks back to the Victorian era.
Though originating in Victorian England, the Chelsea boots has its iconoclastic fame thanks in part to the Beatles in the 1960s. A practical and easier slip on version of the standard boot with the same ankle height. Instead of laces, the Chelsea boot features elastic sides to allow the wearer to slip the style on and off. For more of a smart casual occasion though and not office appropriate.
The definitive part of the shoe, the upper and sole make up the whole of the shoe.
Part of a shoe’s upper, covering the sides and back of the foot behind the vamp.
This refers to the section of upper that covers the front of the foot as far back as the join of the quarter.
An additional piece of leather sewn onto the top of the lace area, to reinforce the lace holes and shoe opening.
A stiff piece of material at the heel of the shoe, maintaining the shape of the shoe, strengthening the rear of the sole.
Not to be confused with the backstay, this is a strip of leather sewn to the back of the shoe to connect the quarters together.
The height of the shaft measured from the middle of the arch to the top of the boot.
The flexible piece of material that sits just underneath the laces and allows for spread of the shoes closure.
A bi-product of the industrial revolution, Blake stitched shoes are sewn on the inside of the shoe, with the upper wrapped around the insole and attached between this and the outsole with a single stitch. Allowing for resoling after wear, Blake stitching is superior to the Goodyear for a more elegant European style, slim line sole as it has less layers than Goodyear and is therefore more flexible.
The oldest type of stitching which involves multiple stages and layers. It is easier to re-sole a Goodyear welted shoe and the extra layers mean these soles are more waterproof however the look is slightly bulkier than Blake stitched shoes and therefore more Anglo-Saxon in style.
The lacing system that defines an Oxford from a Derby, a closed lace system means that the quarters and facing are secured under the vamp. This is the most formal style of lacing but as the laces are supposed to be fully closed on an oxford, it means the fit is much tighter. Great for those that have a narrow foot or experience heel slippage.
The lacing system of a Derby, the quarters are sewn onto of the vamp here and the facing can be expose the tongue of the shoe. Less formal but accommodates feet with a wider than average width.
The whole of the shoe which has no visible joins and is made from one ‘whole’ piece of leather.
Full Brogue or Wingtip
Referred to as either full brogue or wing tip, this decoration extends around the outer edge of the toes.
This type of brogue is similar to a cap toe, but features holes punctured in a medallion style pattern on the tip of the toe. There is no other brogueing detail on the rest of the shoe
A stitched horizontal edge joining two cuts of the vamp, seen along the toe of the shoe for simple decoration. An example of the definitive formal dress shoe is the Oxford cap toe.
Leathers, Materials & Finishes
The standard finish for leather, this gives a matt look, but a soft and supple feel to the leather.
A type of leather with a napped finish, suede is made from the underside of the hide. The feel is soft, luxurious but not appropriate for wet weather.
A durable, lightweight yet strong fabric which is perfect for the summer months.
A glossy finish is given to the calf leather, making the appearance shiny but also hardening the surface of the hide.
A glazed effect achieved by layered painting onto undyed and raw leather. This technique adds a worn, authentic feel to leather and comes in many shades and colours.
Phew, a long but exhilarating catch-up on one’s shoe know-how. If you believe I’m missing any vital and enlightening anatomical discourse, do drop me a line!