A hard-working, reliable high-achiever, consistently at the top of the Norrington table, Merton is the archetypal Oxford college and so in shoes would be the classic Oxford lace-up brogue. Traditional well-made English high performer with a dash of fancy decoration, elegant and good-looking with a timeless touch of class, the staying power of both Merton and the brogue maintains their peerless reputations as top players in their field.
The indie monarch of Oxford, Wadham would be a pair of Doc Marten boots. Unisex, extremely popular and now universally acknowledged as the right-on footwear of choice for the cool kids, Wadham and Docs are possibly now in danger of looking so self-consciously trendy they could be verging on passé.
Popular, casual vans in monochrome chequerboard reflect the distinctive brickwork of Keble and its sporty, fun-loving nature, yet are still attractive and adaptable enough to match the glamour of formal in the splendid dining hall, the resident artworks in the chapel or the rigours of a night in the space-age college bar.
A little bit preppy yet endearingly straightforward, eclectic and welcoming, St Hugh’s would be a pair of loafers. Down-to-earth and practical, everyone feels at home here but patent leather in navy, bottle-green or maroon and pony-skin uppers topped with tassels give these stylish classics a quirky twist to match the off-beat and definitely over-the-top nature of this college.
Out on a limb, slightly odd, a bit of a pastiche and they shouldn’t work but actually they do, cork wedges epitomise Worcester which has a modest frontage belying a sunken quad and its own lake for goodness’ sake. Objectively they sound wrong and they might be a bit impractical on some occasions but they do look great, and it’s all about the visual at Worcester.
Final bastion of male privilege and supremacy as the last college to admit women, Oriel’s reputation for stern masculinity could only be matched by a thigh-high dominatrix or military riding boot in shiny black with metal-tipped heels for that irresistible reproachful click-clacking sound.
Free and easy, open and airy, St Hilda’s coveted position by the river, its generous lawns and its reputation for relaxed inclusiveness evoke the light touch of the flip-flop, and in turn reflect the open nature and sunshine connotations of everyone’s favourite summer slip-on.
The Scandinavians love their clogs. Versatile and hard-wearing, they appear at the beach, in the garden, to and from the sauna. Eco-friendly credentials and their quirky organic design endear them to wearers, not least for the ease in which they slip on and off. Quietly cheeky but secure in their own identify and confident of their ability, Scandi clogs are surely the podiatric embodiment of St Catz and its iconic Danish design.
The Christ Church shoe would reflect its fundamentally conservative nature, but also the stunning glamour of its architecture and setting; so it would be a high-heeled court, but with the racy undercurrent of a distinctive Louboutin red sole and maybe a peep-toe or sparkling embellishments to add even more panache.
Genuinely egalitarian, relaxed and a little bit earnest, Balliol is well-known for accommodating and encouraging serious political high-flyers. The desert boot equally appeals to a broad spectrum of personalities and views, and serves them well for most eventualities with its no-nonsense flat sole, neutral colours, and versatility from army wear through casual weekend staple with jeans to a smarter look with chinos and a jacket.