Oxford vs Monk Strap: Which Dress Shoe Style Is Right for You?

Oxford vs Monk Strap: Find out the key differences between Oxford and Monk Strap shoes. From elegance to versatility, discover which style suits your needs best.

If you’re looking for a pair of dress shoes that can elevate your outfit and make a lasting impression, you might be wondering whether to go for Oxfords or Monk Straps. Both are classic and versatile styles that can suit a variety of occasions, but they also have some key differences that you should know before making your decision.

When it comes to classic footwear options for the modern gentleman, Oxford shoes and Monk strap shoes stand out as timeless choices. These two styles exude elegance and sophistication, making them a must-have in any stylish man’s shoe collection.

In this blog post, we’ll compare Oxfords and Monk Straps in terms of their history, appearance, formality, how to wear them, highlight their differences, and help you decide which style suits your needs.

What Are Oxfords?

Oxfords are the quintessential dress shoes for men. They have a closed lacing system, which means that the eyelets are attached under the vamp (the front part of the shoe) and create a sleek and seamless look. Oxfords are also known as Balmorals in America, after the Balmoral Castle in Scotland where they were popularized by Prince Albert in the 19th century.

Oxford shoes are a traditional type of men’s footwear that originated in Scotland and Ireland. They are known for their closed lacing system, where the shoelace eyelets are stitched under the vamp. This construction method gives the shoes a sleek and clean appearance.

The history of Oxford shoes dates back to the 19th century when they were predominantly worn by students at the University of Oxford. Over time, Oxford shoes gained popularity and became a staple in men’s formal attire.

Design and Features

Oxford shoes are characterized by their closed lacing system, low heel, and exposed ankle. They are typically made of high-quality leather, ensuring durability and a polished look. The toe cap can be plain, adorned with broguing (decorative perforations), or featuring a wingtip design.

Popular Variations

There are several popular variations of Oxford shoes, including:

  1. Plain-Toe Oxford: A simple and minimalist design with a plain toe cap.
  2. Cap-Toe Oxford: Features a horizontal line across the toe cap, enhancing its elegance.
  3. Wingtip Oxford: Recognizable by its “W” shape design on the toe cap.
  4. Brogue Oxford: Embellished with decorative perforations, giving it a classic and sophisticated appearance.

What Are Monk Straps?

Monk Straps are similar to Oxfords in shape and construction, but instead of laces, they have a wide strap of leather that fastens across the front of the shoe with one or two buckles. Monk Straps are also known as Monk’s or Monk Shoes, and they originated in Europe several centuries ago as a more protective alternative to sandals worn by monks.

Monk strap shoes are another classic option that has been favoured by stylish men for decades. They are characterized by their distinctive closure system, which consists of one or more buckle straps instead of laces. This unique feature sets them apart from Oxford shoes and adds a touch of uniqueness to any outfit.

The history of monk strap shoes can be traced back to European monks who wore them as a practical and comfortable alternative to traditional lace-up shoes.

Design and Features

Monk strap shoes typically have a slightly higher heel compared to Oxford shoes. The closure system varies from a single monk strap with a buckle to double monk straps or even triple monk straps, depending on the desired style. Like Oxford shoes, monk strap shoes are usually crafted from high-quality leather.

Popular Variations

The popularity of monk strap shoes has led to various design variations, including:

  1. Single Monk Strap: The most common variation, featuring a single buckle strap.
  2. Double Monk Strap: Adds a second buckle strap for a bolder and more sophisticated look.
  3. Plain-Toe Monk Strap: Simple and elegant, without any decorative embellishments.
  4. Cap-Toe Monk Strap: Features a horizontal line across the toe cap for added style.

Oxford vs Monk Strap: Key Differences

While both Oxford shoes and Monk strap shoes are revered for their elegance, they differ in several aspects. Let’s compare them based on the following factors:

Closure Style

Oxford shoes feature a closed lacing system with shoelaces, ensuring a snug fit. On the other hand, monk strap shoes employ buckle straps for closure, providing a stylish and adjustable option.


Oxford shoes are considered more versatile and can be worn with various outfits, including formal and casual attire. Monk strap shoes, with their unique closure system, are generally more suited for formal or smart-casual occasions.


When it comes to formality, Oxford shoes are a staple in formal menswear. They are commonly worn with suits, tuxedos, and other dressy ensembles. Monk strap shoes, while still elegant, have a slightly more relaxed formality and can be paired with tailored trousers, blazers, and dressier business-casual outfits.

Style Options

Oxford shoes offer a wide range of style options, from plain-toe to wingtip and brogue variations. Monk strap shoes, though not as diverse as Oxfords, provide their own unique charm with single or double buckle straps.

Occasions to Wear

Oxford shoes are suitable for various occasions, including formal events, business meetings, and weddings. Monk strap shoes, while versatile, are often favoured for dressier occasions, such as cocktail parties, semi-formal events, and upscale social gatherings.

Choosing Between Oxford and Monk Strap Shoes

When deciding between Oxford and Monk strap shoes, consider the following factors:

Personal Style Preference

Your personal style should be the primary driving force behind your choice. If you prefer a classic and timeless look, Oxford shoes might be the ideal option. If you desire a touch of individuality and a modern twist, Monk strap shoes can provide that distinct flair.

Monk Straps are more expressive than Oxfords, as they have a distinctive buckle that adds some flair and character to your outfit. They are also more uncommon than Oxfords, so they can make you stand out from the crowd. Oxfords are more classic than Monk Straps and convey a sense of elegance and sophistication. They are also more versatile than Monk Straps, as they can match almost any outfit.


Oxfords are more formal than Monk Straps and are suitable for business, weddings, or black-tie events. Monk Straps are more casual than Oxfords, but still smart enough for business casual, dates, or parties.

Dress Code

Consider the dress code of the occasions you typically attend. If you frequently find yourself in formal settings, such as black-tie events or business meetings, Oxford shoes are a safe bet. However, if your lifestyle involves a mix of formal and smart-casual events, Monk strap shoes offer a versatile alternative.

Foot Comfort

Comfort is crucial when choosing footwear. Consider factors such as arch support, cushioning, and the materials used in the construction of the shoes. Monk Straps are more comfortable than Oxfords, as they have no laces to tighten or loosen. They are also easier to put on and take off. Oxfords are more rigid than Monk Straps and may require some breaking in before they fit well.

Visit a reputable shoe store and try on both Oxford and Monk strap shoes to determine which provides the best fit and comfort for your feet.

Price and Value

Price and value are important considerations. Oxford shoes, particularly high-end brands, tend to be pricier due to their craftsmanship and reputation. Monk strap shoes, while still offering quality and style, can often be found at a more affordable price point without compromising on elegance.

How to Wear Oxfords and Monk Straps

Here are some tips on how to style Oxfords and Monk Straps for different occasions:

  • For business: Choose a pair of black or dark brown leather Oxfords or Monk Straps with a plain or cap toe. Pair them with a navy or charcoal suit, a white or light blue shirt, and a matching tie. You can also add a pocket square or a watch for some extra polish.
  • For casual: Choose a pair of tan or burgundy leather or suede Oxfords or Monk Straps with a brogue or wingtip toe. Pair them with a pair of dark jeans or chinos, a casual shirt or sweater, and a leather jacket or blazer. You can also add some accessories like a belt or a hat for some extra personality.


In conclusion, both Oxford and Monk strap shoes are excellent choices for the fashion-conscious man. Oxford shoes exude timeless elegance, while Monk strap shoes add a touch of individuality. Consider your personal style, occasion, foot comfort, and budget when making your decision. Whichever style you choose, these classic shoe options are sure to elevate your overall look and make a statement.


  1. Are Oxford shoes suitable for casual occasions? Yes, Oxford shoes can be suitable for casual occasions, especially if you opt for a more casual variation such as a plain-toe or brogue Oxford. Pair them with jeans, chinos, or dress trousers for a polished yet relaxed look.
  2. Can monk strap shoes be worn with a suit?

Yes, monk strap shoes can be worn with a suit, particularly if you’re aiming for a smart-casual or fashion-forward ensemble. Opt for a single monk strap or a sleek double monk strap design, and pair them with a well-tailored suit for a stylish and sophisticated look.

  1. Are Oxford shoes more popular than monk strap shoes?

Oxford shoes have been a classic staple in men’s footwear for a long time and are generally considered more popular and versatile. However, monk strap shoes have gained popularity in recent years due to their unique and eye-catching design. The choice between the two ultimately depends on personal preference and style.

  1. What materials are commonly used for Oxford and monk strap shoes?

Both Oxford and monk strap shoes are commonly crafted from high-quality leather. Calfskin leather is a popular choice for its durability, smooth texture, and ability to age gracefully. Suede and exotic leathers like crocodile or lizard skin are also used for more luxurious options.

  1. Can I find Oxford and monk strap shoes in different colors and patterns?

Yes, you can find Oxford and monk strap shoes in a variety of colors and patterns to suit your style preferences. While black and brown are the most traditional and versatile options, you can also find them in shades like burgundy, navy, or tan. Additionally, patterns such as broguing, wingtips, or plain designs are available to add more character to your footwear collection.

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