What’s the Best Oxford for Your Budget?
Like many people across the world, my oxfords have not seen too much wear throughout 2020. In fact, the only time they’ve been taken out is to keep the dust off of them. Thankfully, with a light at the end of the tunnel, we might be breaking out the oxfords soon. In light of that, it might be worth taking a look at the best oxford in each price range, along with a few close seconds.
For those who are not aware, an oxford is a lace-up shoe with closed lacing. In other words, the toe panel sits on top of the panels that features the lacing. These are generally considered the most formal of the common types of footwear, and are typically worn only with suits.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best choices in every budget.
What’s the Best Oxford Under $125
When it comes to formal shoes in this price range, you’ll be giving up a lot compared to other brackets. Often, you’ll end up spending a lot more overall. These shoes are almost always cemented construction and made with upper leather that wouldn’t last through a resole anyway.
That being said, for many men you might only wear an oxford once or twice a year. If you’re looking for a wedding/funeral shoe, a great option is the Jetson Cap Toe Oxford from Florsheim. While you’re clearly giving something up compared to the brands below, the Jetson checks a lot of the boxes. It has a leather outsole with (likely decorative) stitching, an OrthoLite insole, a classic-looking last, and even comes in multiple widths.
Alternatively, it’s always worth checking Nordstrom Rack for any deals they have. You can typically find something for under $50. Just be aware that most of these shoes will be made specifically designed to be sold for next to nothing at outlets. Don’t expect to get more than a few dozen wears out of them, though for many that will be enough.
What’s the Best Oxford under $200
Moving from the previous range to this range provides a significant increase in quality. Here, you’ll generally find stitched construction, higher quality full or top grain leather, and features like a leather footbed. All of these mean a longer lasting, more comfortable shoe.
If you live in New York or Spain, or already know your size, it’s hard to argue with the Meermin Cap Toe Oxford. Featuring a calf upper and goodyear welt stitching, it’s a lot of value. Unfortunately, for everyone else, there is one major drawback – the shoes are only available in limited stores in Europe and just one store in North America (which is currently closed). If you need to buy online, the shipping costs will push the shoes into the next category. Further, returns are not free and exchanges each require a new shipping fee, so finding the right size can be expensive and time-consuming.
Knowing of the drawbacks for Meermin, I’d like to give a runner up award to the Beckett Simonon Dean Oxford. In exchange for switching from goodyear welt stitching to blake stitching (you still get the full-grain calfskin upper), you’re getting a much simpler buying experience. Importantly, they have free shipping, returns, and exchanges. Also, while we are placing shoes in here based on their MSRP, Beckett Simonon offers a 15% off discount for signing up to their email list. They also regularly runs sales around the typical shopping holidays. These combined means that the Beckett Simonon will likely be significantly less than the Meermin.
What’s the Best Oxford under $300
For those of us who wear oxfords multiple days a week, this price bracket is likely to provide the best return on investment. It’s a fair expectation that you’ll be able to get decades of wear out of these with proper care. I’ve also found that the higher end materials from here on out creates a more comfortable pair of shoes when running from meeting to meeting.
In winter of 2020, it’s hard to say there is a better choice than the Grant Stone Cap Toe Oxford. Made with high-quality materials and overall great quality control, the Grant Stone oxford does just about everything right. The only major drawback for some is that, like every other Grant Stone, these are made in China. That may or may not bother you, but it is something to be aware of at this price point.
Two years ago, this year’s runner up would have been the clear and obvious first choice: the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue (Seconds). For generations, the Park Ave was the go-to for the cap toe oxford, and the seconds (which had minor flaws) offered an affordable way to enter the world of Allen Edmonds. A review of a pair was one of the first posts on this website.
It’s easy to see why. They are offered in a half dozen colors, various outsoles, 9 (!!!) different widths. Further, almost every major city has at least one Allen Edmonds store. For those who didn’t, the line was carried by Nordstrom. Trying them on was easy.
Unfortunately, over the past few years Allen Edmonds has lowered the bar for acceptable seconds. Even more egregious, they now charge a $25 restocking fee when returning them. These combine to mean you can get shoes with holes or stains and need to pay to send them back. If you live near an outlet to inspect them first, they could still be a great value.
What’s the Best Oxford under $500
In the $300 to $500 price bracket, the number of choices available expands significantly. Buyers can be a bit more particular about what they are shopping for. It also allows for more interesting types of stitching, such as Rancourt’s Blake-Rapid line [Review Here], if you’re looking for something other than Goodyear welting.
Perhaps the most appealing shoe in this price range is the Carmina Dress Oxford. Carmina is known for their attention to detail, and this pair will not disappoint. With tight welt stitching, closed channel outsoles, and small details like nails in the toe to extend the life of the sole, the Carmina Dress Oxford is a product that feels worth the premium. Unfortunately, it is not an obvious choice. One item that stands out is that this shoe only comes in a single width. If you’re not a D width, these will not fit your foot in the way they should for nearly $500.
Thankfully, by going to this price point you can resolve the biggest issue with the Allen Edmonds Park Ave by going with Firsts (Allen Edmonds themselves offer more widths, but Nordstrom interestingly offers more colors). With first-quality and the ability to easily return, buying this shoe is a much simpler process than the Seconds. However, it still retains all the benefits mentioned above. The Park Avenue is not going to have the quality of the Carmina, especially after the recent quality drop, but is going to fit significantly more foot shapes.
What’s the Best Oxford under $700
Where the previous price point offered almost too many options, there is a surprisingly limited number of choices that can easily be found globally. Thankfully, what is available is worthy of the cost if you have dollars to spend.
Much like the previous price point, the winner here is a shoe that focuses on getting the little things right – the Crockett & Cones Connaught. The C&J oxford offers a meticulous attention to detail, often in places only the wearer will notice. For example, the stitch density on the outsole of this shoe is a work of art. Even though you’ll be rubbing it against the floor as you walk.
It’s fair to think of wearing a pair of these as an event.
Another alternative is the Alden Straight Tip Bal. Much like the Carmina vs. the Park Ave, the Alden here trades some manufacturing excellence for sizing options and availability. That isn’t to say this shoe is poorly put together. It is still a $565 dollar pair of oxfords after all. It just doesn’t have the same level of near perfect construction that the C&J pair does.
What’s the Best Oxford for Any Price
- Winner: Edward Green Chelsea – $1,285
At this price point, there are variety of places to spend your excess cash. Unfortunately, many brands in this price point go too far in trying justify their cost. You’ll find odd looking lasts, too many – or too few – lace holes, etc. An oxford is designed to be a shoe that compliments a more formal outfit, not stand out.
Knowing that, it’s hard to say that anything short of a custom shoe does a better job of representing the pinnacle of the oxford than the Edward Green Chelsea. This shoe is the old money of the oxford world. It has everything you could possibly want, but it doesn’t shout it at everyone who walks down the street.
Sure, the Edward Green Chelsea costs as much as a mortgage payment, but is your house this well built?
Do you agree with my list? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below.