Interchangeably referred to as either Bluchers or Derby shoes, this shoe style is often considered to be the opposite of the Oxford shoe. This is largely due to its signature open-lacing system, as you’ll learn below. In this guide, you will also be able to read about the best derbies to buy as well as how to wear them well.

Overall, this guide to Derby or Blucher shoes will touch on the following talking points:

Use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read more.

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What Are The Best Blucher Shoes For Men?

The following section will present you with our recommendations of the best derby shoes to buy online. You can use the menu below to jump ahead or scroll down to keep reading.

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1. Beckett Simonon Dunham [Classic Blucher Shoe]

Beckett Simonon Dunham Pebbled Leather Derby Shoe
  • Color: Brown, Bordeaux, Tan
  • Material: Italian Calfskin Leather
  • Pricing: $168* [Buy From Beckett Simonon]
    • With Code “BU20”
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A casual and rugged derby shoe that’s perfect for smart casual occasions, we’re very fond of Beckett Simonon’s Dunham. Produced in the brand’s own Bogotá workshop in Colombia, they’re ethically handcrafted using a Blake stitch construction and gold-rated Italian calfskin leather.

You can also enjoy a 20% discount off the full price using our exclusive code “BU20” during checkout, bringing the total to $167.20!

Read More: Beckett Simonon Brand Guide

2. Amberjack The Original [Hybrid Dress/Athletic Blucher]

Amberjack Shoe Review
  • Colors: Varied
  • Material: Smooth Full Grain, Italian Suede
  • Pricing: $189 [Buy From Amberjack]
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As you’ll learn later in this guide, bluchers were historically a style of boot. However, Amberjack has been able to take the classic elements of the derby and married them with modern materials. The result is a hybrid dress/athletic shoe that boasts the best of both worlds: the comfort of a cushy sneaker and the refined look of a traditional dress shoe.

3. Tricker’s Bourton [Premium Wingtip Blucher]

Trickers Bourton Derby Blucher Shoe In C-Tan Leather
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There are few shoe brands in the world regarded as highly as Tricker’s, and when it comes to the blucher shoe, they’re in a league of their own. A derivative of the brand’s renowned Country Boot, the Bourton simply exudes class and elegance thanks to its design, premium materials, and handmade (in England) construction. If you’re looking for the best pair of derbies that money can buy, you can now stop looking.

4. Wolverine 1000 Mile Original [Traditional Boot]

Wolverine Original 1000 Mile Cordovan Boot
  • Color: Brown, Black, Cordovan, Rust
  • Material: Leather
  • Pricing: $385 [Buy From Wolverine]
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If you prefer more traditional shoemaking, then the Wolverine 1,000 Mile Original merits your attention. A boot design that hasn’t changed since 1914, it’s crafted with a Goodyear welt with materials supplied by Chicago’s Horween Leather Company.

Read More: Wolverine 1,000 Mile Boot Review

5. Vince Camuto Lyre [Classic Derby]

Vince Camuto Lyre Classic Derby Shoes
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Unbelievably, we actually struggled to find a plain derby shoe without any ornamentation that was worth recommending. Finally, we stumbled onto the Vince Camuto Lyre, which is just about as classic as you can get! A great shoe that offers subtle and understated elegance.

What Are Derby & Blucher Shoes?

Top Down And Side View Of Blucher

Though it was originally a boot, a derby or blucher is a low-cut lace-up shoe with an open lacing system. The blucher is considered less formal than an oxford shoe (which has a closed lacing system) but more formal than most loafers.

Few men’s shoe styles are so ubiquitous yet so misidentified than the derby (or blucher, depending on what you prefer to call it). It has a place in all of our wardrobes and is incredibly versatile, but there’s confusion around what it really is.

Thankfully, that confusion can be cleared up with three quick lessons: one on terminology, one on history, and one on anatomy.

Terminology: Derby Or Blucher?

Though some sources on the Internet will tell you otherwise, the terms blucher and derby are totally interchangeable. We will use them interchangeably in this article.

Though certain boots use open-throat lacing systems, they are not referred to as bluchers. If anything, they are referred to as “blucher boots” when appropriate. Fun fact: chukka boots are technically bluchers.

Derby Anatomy: Open Throat Lacing Versus Closed Throat Lacing

Closed throat lacing is pictured on the left, and open throat lacing is pictured on the right. The style on the right is a blucher, and the style on the left is not (it’s an oxford).

SHoes With Open And Closed Throat Lacing

To understand open-throat lacing, it’s necessary to understand closed-throat lacing, the other lacing system that’s used for shoes. Both deal with the shoe’s quarters, which are the pieces of leather where you find the lace holes (technically known as eyelets).

The area of the shoe where the two quarters, tongue, and laces meet is referred to as the throat.

Allen Edmonds Derby and Oxford

  • In a closed throat lacing system, the quarters are sewn to the rest of the shoe at their bottom, creating a sort of thin “V” shape where the laces criss-cross. These shoes, regardless of ornamentation like the broguing you see above, are known as “oxfords” or “balmorals.”
  • In an open-throat lacing system, the quarters are not sewn down to the rest of the shoe. The throat is thus “open.” The tongue and vamp are one piece of leather.
  • Both derby shoes and oxfords can feature broguing, which are the various “holes” punched into the leather to create decorative patterns.

Bluchers tend to be more physically forgiving of a larger foot. If you have difficulty finding dress shoes because you have a very high instep, you should definitely look into a derby.

You can read more about open-throat and closed-throat lacing here.

Blucher History: Inspired By Military Footwear

The blucher shoes’ history lies, like so many menswear items, in the military tradition.

“Blucher” is taken from General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, a Prussian general who was one of the commanders of the army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. He found his army’s footwear lacking and had a boot commissioned to replace it. This boot had side pieces that joined in the front with laces, much like the blucher shoes of today.

This blucher shoe was later adopted by armies across Europe and became a trendy sporting shoe by the 1850s. By the turn of the century, it became appropriate to wear with tailored clothing.

How Formal Is A Plain Derby Shoe?

Beckett Simonon Dunham Derby Shoes

Bluchers are less formal than oxfords but more formal than most loafers. Derby shoes, by nature of using open-throat lacing, have a bit more bulk to them and thus aren’t as well-suited to formal occasions. This is not to say that they can’t be worn with a suit; in fact, they often are, at least in the U.S.

If you insist on wearing a pair of these with a suit, we suggest doing so in the spring and summer with a cotton suit, which has a bit more of a casual vibe in the first place.

However, they go better with slightly more casual items such as:

  • Odd jackets and trousers
  • Chinos
  • Jeans

A Note On Derby Shoes And Formal Wear

If possible, avoid wearing derby shoes with a tuxedo. Even in a plain black leather with the highest shine you can imagine, bluchers are just a bit too bulky for the otherwise mega-clean lines of dinner clothes.

Black patent leather derbies are available for sale on the market, even from otherwise reputable brands. We suggest you don’t buy them, as they represent a sartorial oxymoron.

When Can I Wear A Derby / Blucher Shoe?

One of the biggest benefits of the blucher is that it can be worn year-round! Derby shoes can also be worn to most formal occasions like weddings (not black-tie), job interviews, and the like.

We have some suggestions below but know that there are plenty more situations where a blucher shoe will still look great. We’d love to hear about what you’ve worn in the comments!

  • Spring: light-to-medium brown leather with cap toe detail, navy blue suede
  • Summer: beige suede plain toe, white bucks with broguing
  • Autumn: tobacco suede plain toe, burgundy leather boots
  • Winter: Black leather brogue, chocolate brown dress boot with pointed-toe cap

They can be worn in the evening, but not with evening wear.

Different Types Of Bluchers

Brown Plain Toe Blucher

The different styles of bluchers available are seemingly endless. They can be found ready to wear in countless types of leather and colors. There is no standard set number of eyelets for the laces, and they are available with all manner of materials for the soles.

Wolf & Shepherd Breakaway Boots Crossed Legs

Note that bluchers can have cap toes, a heel cap, wingtips, and all manner of other aesthetic details. These would be referred to as cap-toe bluchers and wingtip bluchers, respectively, as those details are describing a structural concept (open-throat lacing).

  • Leather: By far the most common material for a derby. You can find this in a place as cheap as Macy’s or from a bespoke maker like GJ Cleverley.
  • Suede: Suede is also quite common for bluchers. They will be a bit more casual than their leather counterparts, but this is perfect for a less stuffy outfit like an odd jacket and trousers.
  • Boots: Again, the original blucher was, in fact, a boot. This is a great option for those of us who live in parts of the world where the temperature dips significantly every year.
  • Custom/Exotic: Any custom shoemaker will be able to craft a blucher for you out of any material you choose, including exotic skins like ostrich, alligator, stingray, and more. Be prepared to pay handsomely for such an investment.

A Final Thought On The Derby Shoe

Beckett Simonon Dunham Derby Shoe In Box

In terms of wardrobe building, the blucher is an absolute must. Depending on how you dress most of the time, there’s a good argument to make a pair of derbies the first good pair of shoes you invest in. There are so many available that they can be the 15th and 37th shoe you buy, too!

The blucher shoe is comfortable, versatile, and smart. Do yourself a favor and start your collection with one of these.

What Next?

Now that you have learned about bluchers or derby shoes, check out some our related footwear guides for men:

"I always wondered if there was a difference. I was corrected when referring to Derby shoes as Bluchers. Now that I can tell them that I was right all along!"
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