The derby wingtip is a classic relaxed style which, depending on the color and materials, can be worn with a summer shirt + short pants combo to a black tie event. Unlike oxfords, derby lacing is generally considered to be more casual and is often seen on casual style shoes such as creepers, sneakers, and “work boots”. As mentioned in our previous entries, the open lacing system is generally considered to be less formal than the closed lace system which is an oxford.
A derby wingtip is a combination of the two most casual elements of a formal shoe. A wingtip is generally considered to be less formal than plain toe or a captoe. This is due to the fact that as a general rule in formal wear, less is more; and the wingtip has a lot going on. A full brogue wingtip is generally considered to be the least formal and most playful because of the detailing that goes into the pair. On some instances, a full brogue derby wingtip is even less formal than a dress loafer. This is why I advise against wearing brogue wingtips wing Barong Tagalog, there is just too much detail in the shoes. But this doesn’t mean that the derby wingtip is an informal shoe. There are certain criteria which has to be met before a derby wingtip can be considered casual or formal.
Generally, a derby wingtip is considered formal if a glossy/polished leather is used and is in the usual shades of black and browns. Darker colors are considered to be more formal so it will help to chose a dark brown, oxblood or classic black for a formal derby wingtip. The rule of less is more also applies so the cleaner the look of the derby wingtip is, the more formal it is. It is also worth noting that certain styles of derby/blucher longwings, when made with patent leather, is a classic pairing for a very formal tuxedo.
Casual derby wingtips are generally made using rough leathers such as suede and nubuck. These leathers are less refined and cannot be polished to a high shine hence is generally not suited for black tie events but can be worn on a more relaxed setting such as a garden occasion or an al fresco setting. Suede derby wingtips with rubber EVA or PU soles, are generally considered as casual wear and can even be worn with short pants. The more details and frills, the more casual the shoe becomes. This is why this is a preferred style by fashion brands since it can be most playful with colors and details. Take for example the Cole Haan Lunargrands which have become an instant success and has cemented itself as a classic style hybrid.
It should also be noted that it is easier to fit into a derby wingtip because of the open lace system which should be a factor for those looking to buy wingtips in a retail setting. This is why if you have a high arch or wide feet, it is generally more advisable to look for derby wingtips instead oxfords to get a better fitting shoe. I have seen many times when people are forced to wear ill fitting oxfords which they got retail because of their foot profile. It is generally better to get a less formal style with a good fit rather than a proper formal shoe but with a bad fit.
So in summary, derby wingtips can be considered formal or casual depending on a number of factors from details to materials. Patent leather being the highest in making the shoes formal and suede being the most commonly used material to make it casual. The general rule of less is more also applies so the less details and brogueing on the derby wingtip, the more formal it is. Lastly, a good fitting derby for those with wider feet is better as a formal shoe than an ill fitting oxford shoe which on should really consider getting custom made to get a proper fit.