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A lifetime in English Oxford shoes

Sartorial pundit Bernhard Roetzel reflects on the Crockett & Jones shoes he’s owned over the years – and why a stylish man can never own too many pairs of Oxfords

A lifetime in English Oxford shoes

Looking back at my own experience with Crockett & Jones shoes, the company’s timeless Oxford shoes come to mind first.

I started wearing C&J shoes about 30 years ago now, and the first pair I stepped into were suede punched toe cap Oxfords – a classic design that is still available today in the guise of the Westbourne in dark brown suede, or the Westfield in Tobacco Suede. I don’t quite remember whether that 30-year-old pair of shoes were indeed the Westbourne, or one of its forerunners, but I do recall their attractive squarer toe shape.

I’d been looking for a certain type of nut brown suede that I found more versatile than the dark chocolate or polo brown suede shoes I already owned. That’s not say these colours aren’t both excellent choices, but at the time my wardrobe needed something in-between the two. Suede Oxfords are not understood by everybody. Most men wear black Oxfords in town and suede Chukka boots or loafers off-duty. In my opinion, mid-brown suede Oxfords are perfect for the wardrobe of a man who doesn’t have to wear town suits and black shoes all the time, but who wants to dress a tad more smartly.

You might have guessed that Oxford shoes are my favourite lace-ups...and the only real choice for timeless dress shoes.

You can never have too many Oxford shoes of course, and the most recent pair I snapped up are Crockett & Jones’s Lonsdale model from the Hand Grade collection, which have been a joy to wear. Previously, though, my second pair of shoes from Crockett & Jones were black calf cap toe Oxfords from the company’s very first Hand Grade collection. I spotted them at the GDS shoe fair in Düsseldorf and ordered a pair on the spot. The toes were slightly pointed and the overall look of the shoes was very ‘bespoke’ – without frills and demonstrating an exceptionally high quality of make.

You might have guessed that Oxford shoes are my favourite lace-ups. I picked a pair of black Oxfords for my first Hand Grade shoes because they are the most versatile dress shoes in available to men today, and the only real choice for timeless dress shoes. Black brogues are a bit too fussy to pair with suits made of fine worsteds, and their heritage has stamped ‘countrywear’ all over them.

Next to black Oxfords, a decent pair of brown Oxfords is a men’s wardrobe essential. Personally, I prefer brown suede to calf’s leather, but I wouldn’t want to be without a pair made of polished brown boxcalf. Brown suede is versatile because it can be worn with town suits in greys (both solid colours and patterns), tweed, summer suits, all manner of sports jackets and blazers, and of course with all types of casual clothes too. In summer I frequently wear brown suede Oxfords with khaki cotton trousers and lightweight sports coats, especially when I wear a tie.

I stumbled across a quote from a famous Viennese shoemaker a little while ago. He said that a pair of shoes must fit a man’s feet and they must also suit his face. It has stayed with me, that quote. I read it and suddenly understood why I wear Oxford shoes 90 per cent of the time – my face and my figure call for something slim and undecorated.

It’s important for any style-conscious man to understand this point, and to identify which shoes work for him. Of course, loafers and brogues will always have a place, but to me, if you’re in doubt, a pair of Crockett & Jones Oxford shoes will take you anywhere and everywhere without fail.

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Words by

Bernhard Roetzel

Bernhard Roetzel

Menswear Journalist and Author

A man of experience, Bernhard was born in 1966 and after a short spell at junior school in South Africa, followed his dream to return to his home country - Germany. Studying hard in his early years, he always had an eye for design which later evolved into a love for classic menswear from all over the globe. This eventually led to Bernhard putting pen to paper, becoming an author of some of the finest books on menswear available today. For those who have a thirst for the classics of the clothing world they are not to be missed. From grooming to footwear with general care thrown in for good measure… because that is what a true Gentleman would do. Asking and answering all of the right questions that would concern the discerning man on becoming… A Gentleman.

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