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Blucher Vs Derby, Oxford, And Balmoral Shoes [Compared]

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A pair of blucher shoes has the potential to become one of the most versatile pairs of shoes you could end up owning. 

But it’s important to know why they’re different from other common types of dress shoes. 

Why? 

Because there’s a good chance that there may be occasions where a different style of dress shoe may be more appropriate. 

In these instances, being able to tell them apart becomes all the more important.

After reading this, you’ll know exactly what blucher shoes really are, as well as how they’re different from derby shoes, Oxfords, and balmorals. 

In addition, you’ll know how to choose between them if you ever needed to. 

Let’s get to it. 

What Are Blucher Shoes? 

A blucher shoe is a style of dress shoe with an open lacing system, a “one cut” vamp made of a single piece of leather, and shoelace eyelet tabs sewn on top. 

Let me break that down.

Notice how there are no large quarters sewn onto the vamp. Just small leather strips for the eyelets

Bluchers, much like any other shoe in existence, have uppers. The upper is any part of the shoe above the sole – in other words, any part of the shoe that covers the foot. 

With blucher shoes, the upper is made of a single piece of leather – “one cut”. This makes them pretty simple to describe. 

The defining features of blucher shoes are the small pieces of leather attached to the sides. These contain the shoelace eyelets (i.e holes). 

These “eyelet tabs” being sewn on top create an open lacing system

It’s what you get when the part of the shoe containing the eyelets (the facings) is sewn on top of the vamp as opposed to underneath. 

What’s So Great About Bluchers? 

They’re known for their versatility. 

They fall somewhere in between Oxfords and monk straps when it comes to formality – not quite as formal as Oxfords but generally considered more formal than monk straps. 

I honestly think that a brown pair of leather bluchers is one of the most versatile pairs of dress shoes in existence. 

Some may say the same about leather penny loafers, but I disagree. Yes, loafers are versatile, but they’ll always lean toward the more casual end of the spectrum for me. 

The beautiful thing about bluchers (and Derby shoes) is that they often fit seamlessly into so many different settings ranging from formal to casual. 

Sure, you won’t be able to rock a pair of bluchers to a super formal black-tie event – the black cap-toe Oxfords would be more appropriate. 

But for most other settings, you can’t really go wrong with bluchers. 

Blucher Vs Derby: What’s The Difference? 

Blucher shoes have small leather strips containing the shoelace eyelets sewn onto the sides to create the lacing system. Unlike blucher shoes, derby shoes have two large quarters containing the eyelets that are sewn onto the sides and wrap all the way around the heel.

These two terms are often used interchangeably and in many ways, this is absolutely fine. They’re so similar that it’s just not worth sweating the small stuff. 

But if you wanted to know the subtle differences between blucher shoes and derby shoes in more detail, read on. 

The upper of blucher shoes is often made of a single piece of leather (i.e “one cut”). 

Here’s a pair of blucher shoes on Amazon

As you can see, they don’t have large “quarters” on the sides. In other words, you don’t have large pieces of leather sewn onto the sides that wrap all the way around the heel. 

Instead, you’ve got small strips of leather sewn onto the sides – these contain the shoelace eyelets (holes). 

Derby shoes, on the other hand, do have large quarters sewn onto the sides. These contain the shoelace eyelets too, but they’re much larger than the small strips of leather you’d have with bluchers. 

Here’s a pair of Derby shoes on Amazon

As you can see, the eyelets are on large quarters – much larger than the small leather strips you’d find on bluchers. They wrap all the way around the sides and the heel before meeting the vamp at the front. 

Both the large quarters of derby shoes and the small leather strips of blucher shoes are sewn on top of the vamp instead of under it. 

This leads to an open lacing system in both blucher shoes and derby shoes, where the lacing system looks like flaps, essentially. They can be separated with ease and have complete freedom of movement, unlike a closed lacing system. 

This makes both bluchers and derby shoes comfortable to wear as you have plenty of room to adjust them and account for the shape of the foot. 

How To Choose

Derby shoes and blucher shoes are so similar to each other in structure that choosing between them shouldn’t ever be a cause of stress. 

They’re both equally as versatile as each other, suiting a range of scenarios and settings ranging from casual to formal. 

The open lacing system does make them more “casual” than a pair of Oxfords, for example. However, they’re both perfectly suitable to wear with suits, just as they are with chinos and jeans. 

If you’re a minimalist when it comes to shoes (and style in general) like I am, there isn’t a huge need to own a pair of both bluchers and Derbys. 

I’d go for one or the other. But if you’re a maximalist or a collector, owning a pair of each is a pretty good way to go. 

The style and structure of these two shoes are too similar to make one of them more “formal” than the other. 

Instead of focusing on the style, consider other crucial rules that play a role in determining how “formal” a pair of dress shoes looks. 

These factors are equally important for both blucher shoes and derby shoes: 

  • Black is more formal than brown (and any other color). 
  • Detailing such as brogue patterns are a more casual feature
  • Cap toes are more formal than plain toes, whole cuts, and wingtips. 
  • Leather is more formal than suede 

Blucher Vs Oxford: What’s The Difference? 

Oxford shoes have a closed lacing system where the quarters are sewn underneath the vamp. In contrast, blucher shoes have small leather strips containing the eyelets that are sewn onto the sides creating an open lacing system. Oxford shoes are considered more formal than bluchers. 

The differences between bluchers and Oxfords may be subtle, but they can make a significant difference to the overall aesthetic of the shoe.

The upper of the Oxford shoe consists of the vamp (front) and the quarters (sides), much like the derby. 

Take a look at this example of Oxford shoes on Amazon

Famously, the quarters are sewn underneath the vamp with the Oxford shoe. This leads to the closed lacing system where there are no flaps. 

It leads to a very clean, tight, and precise look. The closed lacing system gives Oxfords a very formal aesthetic. 

Unlike Oxford shoes, blucher shoes usually have an upper constructed from a single piece of leather (“one cut”) without separate quarters. 

Instead, small strips of leather containing the shoelace eyelets (holes) are sewn onto the sides. Here’s another example of blucher shoes on Amazon

As these leather strips for the eyelets are sewn on top of the vamp and not underneath the vamp like with Oxford shoes, it leads to an open lacing system much like what you’d find with derby shoes. 

But unlike derby shoes, there aren’t separate large quarters that wrap all the way around the heel. Instead, all you’ve got are small strips of leather on the sides. 

Both bluchers and Oxfords can come in a huge variety of colors these days. They can also both come with detailing such as brogue patterns. 

In addition, they both come in a variety of different materials, with leather and suede being the most common. 

How To Choose 

Consider these factors when choosing between bluchers and Oxfords: 

1. Formality

It’s hard to beat a pair of Oxford shoes when it comes to formal occasions. Black cap-toe Oxfords are considered the standard of formality. 

Although blucher shoes would also be entirely appropriate for formal occasions (especially black ones), they will always be considered a peg lower than Oxford shoes when it comes to formality. 

If you’re attending an ultra-formal, black-tie event, strongly consider going for a pair of Oxfords instead of bluchers. 

Having said this, color and detailing are more important than the style when it comes to choosing between bluchers and Oxfords. 

Here’s what I mean by that. 

A pair of black leather bluchers with no patterning will still look more formal than a pair of tan brown wingtip Oxford shoes. 

Color is the most important factor when it comes to formality. Black will always look more formal than brown no matter what the style of shoe is. 

2. Versatility 

If you’re looking for a pair of shoes that would suit a wider range of settings and occasions, bluchers are just more versatile than Oxfords. 

While bluchers would be just as appropriate to wear with a suit as they would with chinos, Oxfords may look a little awkward when paired with more casual attire. 

In my opinion, it’s hard to beat a pair of leather brown bluchers when it comes to versatility. 

3. Comfort 

This one is down to the lacing system. An open lacing system gives you freedom of movement at the throat. That’s what’s great about having what are essentially “flaps” you can adjust to fit the shape of your foot. 

Bluchers have open lacing systems and so are great for men with larger or wider feet where comfort needs to be considered. 

Although a fitting pair of Oxford shoes can still be comfortable, the closed lacing system doesn’t allow for as much freedom as a pair of bluchers would. 

Blucher Vs Balmoral: What’s The Difference? 

Balmoral shoes are a specific type of Oxford shoe where there is a horizontal seam running all the way along the sides. Unlike Balmorals, Blucher shoes have an open lacing system and no horizontal seam running along the sides. 

The horizontal seams of Balmoral shoes are considered very aesthetically pleasing. 

They tend to draw the eyes lengthwise and make them look longer than they otherwise would. It adds a very distinctive visual element to what is otherwise essentially a standard Oxford shoe. 

Here’s a pair of Balmorals on Amazon to review as an example: 

Sure, bluchers don’t have these horizontal seams. But ultimately, the main difference between bluchers and Balmorals lies in the laces. 

Balmorals, just like any Oxford shoe, have a closed lacing system due to the facings (containing the eyelets) being sewn underneath the vamp. 

This leads to a closed throat. Put simply, there are no flaps for the laces as you’d find with bluchers. 

Bluchers have an open lacing system due to the fact that there are small leather strips containing the shoelace eyelets (holes) sewn directly onto the sides and on top of the vamp. 

The open lacing system of my blucher shoes

This leads to an open throat, with “flaps” at the lacing system. 

How To Choose  

If you’re choosing between bluchers and Balmorals, consider the following factors: 

1. Formality

This one has got to top the list of points you need to consider when making your decision.

A pair of Balmorals is arguably one of the more formal Oxford shoes. They’re exceptionally sleek and precise thanks to the horizontal seams and the closed lacing system. 

This does make them more suitable than a pair of bluchers for very formal events. However, it does also make them less versatile. 

Bluchers are a lot more versatile than Balmorals and suit a wider variety of settings and scenarios. 

2. Visual Appeal 

Balmorals are exceptionally eye-catching due to the beautiful horizontal seams and the sleek closed lacing system. 

While bluchers can also look dapper and attention-grabbing, it’s really hard to beat a classic pair of Balmorals when it comes to aesthetics. 

If you’re looking to really turn heads, Balmorals would be the way to go when we’re talking about formal events. 

Conclusion 

Blucher shoes would make a fine addition to any aspiring shoe aficionado’s wardrobe. 

However, given their subtle defining features it’s easy to get confused by what bluchers really are and how they differ from other common dress shoes. 

Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding and can go forth on your style journey with newfound confidence.  

Enjoy. 

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