Bluchers: the military origin of an everyday shoe


All shoes have a history: the one they live on our feet, and the one they have due to their origin or the historical situation underpinning their design and popularisation. This is the case of the Blucher, one of the Crown Jewels of modern footwear for men and women. They have become a key part of modern style, which can be seen in the variety of settings in which we choose to wear them. However, they are harbouring a fascinating history, tied to epic battles and military heritage. We will explain it all in this article!

The Prussian origin of an everyman’s shoe

The first thing to clear up before diving into the fascinating history of the Blucher is that this is most certainly not a British shoe. It is a common misconception given that, together with Oxford shoes (undoubtedly British), they are part of so-called English style. 

The reality is that the origin of this shoe is rooted in the powerful, but now extinct, Prussia. In fact, strictly speaking, we should call them Blücher shoes, including the umlaut characteristic of the German language. That name is the surname of the Prussian Field Marshal who ordered them to be made: Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher.

At that time, Prussia covered a huge area that is now spread across several countries: Germany, Poland and the Baltic states. It was a formidable military power and during its two centuries of power it had an influence on all the key events on the continent, from the highest cultural achievements to the most devastating wars.

Despite being popularly understood as the paradigm of a militarised, disciplined and aggressive state, Prussia made some major contributions to the development of style and fashion. Apart from the Blucher, who has not heard of the quintessential ‘Prussian blue’?

Field Marshal Blücher

Von Blücher led an exciting life not only because he took part in some of the most decisive battles of the Napoleonic wars, but because of his fierce and belligerent character. He had a difficult personality, making him infamous among his contemporaries, and spawning plenty of entertaining anecdotes.

Born in 1760, he cut his teeth in the Seven Years’ War, in which Frederick the Great of Prussia clashed with the great powers of the time, such as France and Russia. From the very beginning, Blücher gained a reputation for being a passionate and at times unpleasant man, and made quite a few enemies, including at court.

However, his legend would emerge as a result of his role in the Napoleonic Wars. This was a series of wars spanning the first decade and a half of the 19thcentury and that spread throughout the continent, eventually forming contemporary Europe as we know it.

In the campaigns against France, Blücher experienced everything from humiliating defeats in Jena and Auerstaedt to resounding victories. He began to attract fame in 1813, when he repeatedly defeated the Napoleonic forces in the Silesia campaigns (then a region of Prussia and Austria that is now divided mostly between the Czech Republic and Poland).

His intense hatred of the French, who had captured him twice, led him to the Battle of Waterloo. This victory is often attributed to Wellington’s military genius, but the Prussian forces also played a crucial role.

With the road to Paris now clear, Blücher rode with his troops to the French capital. They say that, ultimately, he was obsessed with capturing and hanging Napoleon, a feat he never accomplished. However, he did manage to burn the Jena Bridge, a construction built on the Seine to mark the French victory that was a traumatic defeat for Blücher.

After Napoleon finally fell, the map of Europe changed dramatically. A new era had begun, and with it, new challenges arose. Blücher barely lived to see them, having died four years later in 1819. He had undertaken a retirement plagued with excess, and had earned his place as one of the most important members of the Prussian military. In fact, he remains one of only two military men to have received the Star of the Iron Cross.

Blücher’s contribution to the history of footwear

Today, Blücher is little known outside of specialist military history circles. However, his best known legacy has nothing to do with his military achievements, but forms part of our footwear: the Blucher.

Blücher ordered this new type of shoe to be made so that his troops could withstand the long treks and different types of terrain they had to traverse. Now, you might wonder why a Field Marshal would be concerned by something so prosaic as footwear.

But it should not be surprising because, at the time, the military were not merely arms wielders but true experts in all kinds of skills. In fact, many of the advances in technology, engineering, optics, architecture (even clothing!) were driven by the military. Winning battles requires not only the best weapons and the smartest strategy, but also troops performing at their best. What better to prepare them than with good footwear?

Blucher’s characteristics respond to the needs of working soldiers. Its practical purpose, focused on the wearer’s comfort, is key to understanding the Blucher. It is designed and made with that in mind. It is reflected in its open flap and more open lasts, to offer greater comfort. 

That extra room makes the foot more comfortable when spending long periods wearing the shoe (such as when Von Blücher’s troops would embark on a long trek). That requires a more robust and durable shoe. Of course, because of the soldiers’ needs and the supplies they would be carrying, they did not have multiple shoes with them (or even a spare pair or replacement uniform). It was therefore vital for the only footwear they had to be extremely resistant and, in some cases, able to last until the end of the war.

Lottusse bluchers

Lottusse was founded at a time when the Blucher was widespread outside the military. It therefore naturally became a part of the range of footwear we offer. You can find all kinds of Bluchers in our range, from the most classic and formal to the more casual. Made with the widest variety of leathers (cow, bull and kid), they strike the perfect balance between quality, style and comfort. You will also find them with a rubber sole or a leather and rubber sole, with suede and details such as a wing tip. We encourage you to discover our men’s Bluchers and women’s Bluchers on our website or in Lottusse stores.