What are Derby Shoes & How to Wear Them?

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Billy Ruffian Derby Shoes

The Derby shoe is one of the most classic types of footwear a gentleman can have in his wardrobe. Ready to step up to any occasion, this formal-meets-casual footwear boasts the ability to be both practical and polished, making them one of the most functional wardrobe items you can find.

What are Derby Shoes?

Derby shoes are a versatile piece of footwear for men’s wardrobes. They can be dressed up for formal occasions, or styled down when you need a more casual look. Because of their versatility, they have even been hailed as an ‘essential’ by many menswear gurus.

What is the Difference Between Derby and Oxford Shoes

The Derby and Oxford often receive a case of mistaken identity. These two styles of shoe are very similar looking at first glance, but they have some key differences that have a big impact on the overall look and feel of an outfit.

So, how do you tell the difference between an Oxford and a Derby?

First of all, look at the laces.

The Derby, is an open front shoe. This means that the eyelet quarters are enclosed by the vamp, giving them more movement and flexibility.

An Oxford shoe is a closed front shoe, meaning the quarters with the lace eyelets are sewn under the vamp at the front of the shoe. This gives them that sleek and formal appearance they are so well known for, making them the shoe of choice for weddings, business and other special occasions.

Billy Ruffian Derby and Oxford shoe diagram

It’s not just a technicality that makes Derby shoes different to Oxford shoes. The open front style gives Derby shoes some key characteristics to consider when choosing between the two…

  • Comfort – as they can easily be adjusted to the natural foot shape, Derby shoes are often more comfortable, especially for those with a higher in-step
  • Multifunctional – while Derby shoes are not as classically formal as the Oxford shoe, they can be worn with both a suit and more casual pieces
  • Diverse – there are a wide range of Derby styles available.

Overall, Derby shoes take the well-dressed image of Oxford shoes and give them a more wearable edge. They have a slightly chunkier feel to them, which means they can hold up better with denim and other tougher fabrics, giving them more of a utilitarian style.

Billy Ruffian Derby Style Shoes
Billy Ruffian Derby and Brogued Derby Shoes

Are Derby Shoes Casual or Formal?

This is key to understanding the appeal of Derby shoes – they can be both formal and casual. While Oxford shoes have a reputation for looking sharp, modern menswear has relaxed its conventions, meaning the Derby shoe is just as at home when worn with a suit and tie as they are with jeans at the weekend.

How to Wear Derby Shoes

With so many options, the world of Derby shoes might seem difficult to navigate. However, there are some simple directions you can take to use Derby shoes to your wardrobe’s advantage…

Wearing Derby shoes with a suit

Billy Ruffian Malvern Brogue
Pictured: Malvern Brogue in Black Leather

You can wear Derby shoes with a suit, but it is important that you choose the right pair. A correctly worn Derby shoe can give your suit a more personalised style that allows you to look well-tailored, but still comfortable. To wear Derby shoes with a suit stick to dark colours, such as black, dark brown or even a subtle oxblood. Be careful with brogued styles that might overpower your suit, and find a slim shaped pair with a single sole.

If you are edging more towards the smart-casual scene – suit trousers without a tie – you might want to branch out into the more diverse Derby shoe options. Experiment with pairing chunky soles with tweed jackets or maybe a brogued Derby shoe with a trenchcoat. What is so great about wearing Derby shoes formally is their ability to inject some personality into your clothing, so find what feels most ‘you’.


Wearing Derby Shoes with Jeans

Billy Ruffian Kendal Brogue in Snuff Suede
Pictured: Kendal Brogue in Snuff Suede

You can absolutely wear Derby shoes with jeans and other casual outfits. Derby shoes go best with well-fitted jeans and chinos with a slim cut, tapered leg or turn-up. Stay away from bootcut or flared jeans and trousers when wearing Derby shoes casually.

One type of Derby shoe that offers the best options for casual wear is the brogue shoe. You can play around with different colours of suede and thicker, gripped soles, which can bring a military feel to your outfit. Suede Derby shoes are a good option for wearing with jeans or other denim pieces, they can also be paired with light-coloured chinos and a t-shirt.




Looking for more Derby shoes? At Billy Ruffian, all our shoes are carefully crafted from fine leather by our trusted master shoemakers.

Shop our full men’s shoes collection online today

Billy Ruffian – Walk Well