The Budapester: Central European elegance and style

Parlamento de Budapest

Budapesters are perhaps the most elegant kind of Bluchers. Their sleek look and detailing with broguing undoubtedly make them a favourite among those looking for the perfect balance of refinement and comfort. But what is the origin of this particular kind of shoe? In this article we will discover the curious story behind these unique shoes.

Vienna and Budapest: A political and artisanal rivalry

To immerse ourselves properly in the history of Budapesters, we need to go back to the 19th century and a part of Europe that dictated the cultural and social future for the whole continent the Austro-Hungarian empire. This singular empire offers an idealised image of the 19th century: courtly and palatial elegance, the loves and heartbreaks of Empress Sisi, opulent carriages and many more almost novelistic delights. However, beneath the somewhat naive and saccharine surface lies an equally curious reality; an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse.

The Austro-Hungarian empire spread far and wide. It included Austria and Hungary, but also Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, as well as part of Serbia, Italy, Croatia, Poland and Ukraine, all part of this diverse and multi-ethnic political organisation. Its expanse also sought to dominate resource-rich lands, such as Slovak and Silesian mines or the Bohemia region (the current Czech Republic) and its remarkable industrial resources.

It was inevitable that dominance of such vast areas of land would lead to clashes between the various nations that fell under the reign of Franz Joseph of Habsburg. Hungary drove the unrest against the Emperor. The Hungarians were a proud people, with ancient history and a past of regional dominance that had left them with a strong sense of their own uniqueness. That led to the 1848 war of independence in which, despite losing, they sent a message to Vienna that Hungarians would be turbulent and problematic people until their demands for autonomy were met.

This happened in 1867 with the so-called Austro-Hungarian Compromise, a political agreement between the Habsburg monarchy and the Hungarian ruling elite that triggered the transition from the Austrian empire to the Austro-Hungarian empire; a dual monarchy in which Hungarians would finally enjoy their longed-for political and tax autonomy. The situation led to another duality, in parallel with the institutional duality: an urban one, in the form of rivalry between Vienna and Budapest. This period, which ended with the collapse of the empire after World War I, was historically one of the region’s most prosperous. Even today, Hungarians remember that time as the ‘happy years’. In fact, it was during this time that the strikingly beautiful Parliament buildings on the shores of the Danube were built, which are a must for any visit to the Hungarian capital.

It gained that reputation with good reason: Budapest developed a large manufacturing industry, especially in the production of textiles, ceramics and footwear. Its rival Vienna was also a power player in the last of those industries. A new type of Blucher had been developed in the Austrian capital, which Hungarians quickly reformulated to create their flagship footwear piece: the Budapester. 

The Budapester: a styling of the traditional Blucher

As we explain in our article about the features of the Blucher, this design of shoe was conceived with a very practical purpose: to provide soldiers with durable and hard-wearing footwear, suitable for long walks and constant and prolonged use. And, as you can discover by reading about the history of the Blucher shoe, they were ordered to be made by the Prussian Field Marshal who gave his name to them: Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher.

This was undoubtedly a comfortable shoe. Its wider than normal last, as well as its exterior seams, provided greater comfort to wearers. As a result, this masculine type of footwear became widely popular, to the extent that women’s Blucher shoes began to appear. However, partly due to its practical and military origin, the Blucher was not considered as elegant and stylish as other shoes, but instead rather dull and dreary.

To make it a little more stylish, shoemakers in Vienna began to work on a Blucher with broguing detailing. Although broguing perforations came about for a very prosaic purpose (to dry quicker), in the 19th century they began to appear as pure decoration. As a result, Viennese artisan shoemakers coined the so-called semi-brogue Blucher. Its defining elements were the same decorative perforations, concentrated mainly on a full brogue toe, upper stitching, quarters and heel counter. The decorative pattern was extraordinary, and different sized broguing could appear on the same shoe, making it utterly refined.

Shoemakers in Budapest soon came up with their own version of the brogued Blucher. It is known as the full brogue Blucher or the Budapester. Its main difference from its Viennese competitor is its wing tip, rather than the straight toe of the semi-brogue Blucher. The wing tip has a slight wave that offers an extra touch of style. The broguing runs along the wave on the upper, up to the heel counter. It also decorates the seams of the quarter and the counter. However, the most defining detail is heart-shaped perforations on the toe.

Budapesters were the most complete attempt to give the Blucher an extra touch of style and elegance. In fact, for a long time, full brogue shoes were most popular in informal and casual settings, although over the years they have acquired the unmistakable touch of refinement to be so suited to formal settings. That elegance undoubtedly remains to this day