What Are Blucher Shoes?

Douglas Bonderud

Blucher shoes are a specific style of men’s footwear; in most cases they’re a low boot or dress shoe with a body made from a single piece of leather that wraps around the foot to form a flap on either side. Once the foot is snug inside, laces running through eyelets on each flap hold the shoe closed and keep the foot and ankle secure. This style of shoe is often most distinguishable for its lack of a tongue. The flaps themselves close completely over the top of the foot, which makes the opening wider and easier to access. This can be desirable in rushed situations or circumstances in which quickly getting in and out of shoes is very important. Prussian army officer Gebhard von Blucher designed the first prototype of this shoe during the Napoleonic Wars. He created it in response to concern from his men about difficulties they were having getting their boots on and off, and the shoe is known today simply as the “Blucher shoe” in his honor They’re still made in many parts of the world, though the addition of a tongue is common. Many shoe scholars also credit the Blucher as being the precursor for many modern types of shoes, including the Derby and the Balmoral.

Blucher shoes have leather flaps on either side of the ankle.
Blucher shoes have leather flaps on either side of the ankle.

Style Features

The shoe’s core is a contoured piece of leather that wraps around the back of the foot to form two distinct flaps in front. Each flap comes below the ankle and across the vamp, which is the portion of the shoe directly on top of the foot. They don’t meet at the bottom but are held secure with the laces, which normally cross from side to side in an alternating fashion. The traditional Blucher style has the lace eyelets arranged in parallel lines along the flaps.

Many styles of men's dress shoes have characteristics of Blucher shoes, which date back to Napoleon's time.
Many styles of men's dress shoes have characteristics of Blucher shoes, which date back to Napoleon's time.

Specifics of its Creation

Gebhard von Blucher was a Prussian-born prince who eventually rose to the rank of field marshall during the Napoleonic Wars. Blucher was said to be an extremely energetic and creative man, and some historians have written that, toward the end of his life, he suffered a severe mental breakdown. He was a patriotic and passionate man, and was removed from various posts over his tenure with the army for speaking out of turn or ignoring the orders of his superiors. Blucher was instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon, and his own troops stormed Leipzig on the final day of the conflict there.

It is no surprise, therefore, that this man was responsible for an ingenious new design for his troops' combat boots. While other commanders, such as Wellington and Napoleon, also designed footwear, neither of those styles has had the lasting impact that Blucher shoes have had. Today many men own a pair, likely without being aware of their battlefield origin.

Adoptions and Popularity

These became the blueprint for the modern men's dress shoe. Many of today's models still have the classic leather flaps on each side of the ankle, although they often feature the addition of a leather shoe tongue. These are also known as derby shoes in Great Britain.

Other Comparable Styles

This is different from a Balmoral style of shoe, in which the lace eyelets are parallel but the flaps touch at the bottom, forming a “V” shape. The Balmoral style is less accommodating for those with wide or narrow feet, since the laces cannot be loosened at the bottom. Blucher shoes, in contrast, can be adjusted to be loose toward the toe, to allow for a very large or very small foot.

It’s also common today to find Blucher-style shoes made from more than just a single piece of leather, as well as with additional eyelets. These sorts of considerations and changes are often aesthetic, and can help this shoe once designed for combat and military operations adapt to modern dress situations. At one point most European militaries wore this sort of shoe, or a variation of it. While it’s still popular amongst armed forces, it’s also an important part of dressy footwear more generally. Models can be made of leather, suede, or even certain linens or other fabrics.

Modern Blucher shoes still feature the classic leather flaps with the addition of a leather shoe tongue.
Modern Blucher shoes still feature the classic leather flaps with the addition of a leather shoe tongue.

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Discussion Comments


I have always loved the Blucher moc. I think that it has such a great mix of practicality and style, and many Blucher moccasins are so much better designed than other kinds of tassel shoes.

Whenever I need anything with a little bit of casual flare, the Blucher moc is definitely my first bet.

And to think that the whole concept was actually developed for an army boot -- I guess that necessity really is the mother of invention.


How would you say that the Blucher shoe differs from other eyelet shoes like the Cordovan shoe or the Allen shoe?

Was the Blucher just the predecessor to these types of shoes, and they are merely modifications on the original Blucher boot, or did the Cordovan and Allen types of shoes develop alongside the Blucher shoe?

They all look pretty much the same to me, so I'm kind of stuck trying to figure out why there's three different names for essentially the same shoe.

Can you help me figure it out?


How interesting -- I had actually heard that term before, actually, but I always thought that it applies to wingtips shoes, for some reason.

The way I heard the term was when a shoe maker asked me if I wanted a shoe with a Blucher toe -- I had no idea what he was talking about, so I just said yes just to see what it was.

He told me a little about the style of the Blucher shoe and boot, but not the history behind it. I'm glad I know now, especially since the design has such an interesting origin!

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