Derby Shoe

Loake Dovedale

Loake Dovedale

Loake Cornwall - a classic Derby shoe

Loake Cornwall – a classic Derby shoe

The Derby, Blücher or Gibson, is a lace-up shoe where the vamp continues all the way up to the ankle and forms the tongue of the shoe. Two eyelet tabs, often extensions of the shoe’s quarters, take the laces. Legend holds that the shoe was first worn by the 12th Earl of Derby in the mid 1800s, who he had problems slipping on closed (eg Oxford) shoes, due to his very wide feet!

The Cornwall and Dovedale Loakes shown here are shown laced with a straight row of parallel lines of lace, rather like a ladder. The Derby can, however, be “criss-cross” laced. It tends to look less smart-and-formal than an Oxford, but has more leeway for tighter or looser lacing to accommodate a range of widths and/or an expanded foot after a long hot day. The Derby’s name seems to have come from its origins as a shoe developed for sporting use and especially for horse-racing, rather than directly from the town of Derby. It is occasionally called a Blücher, after the 18th century Prussian General von Blücher (who clearly liked them). I looked in June Swann’s authoritative “Shoes” book and the “Gibson” name for Derby shoes seems to have come from The Gibson Girl ( She got her name from an early 1900s American illustrator – Charles Gibson. He drew for many popular magazines and was so successful that he donated his name to the archetypical American man and woman – the Gibson Girl and the Gibson Man. The Gibson Girl wore a shoe ( that then took on her name – basically a high-heeled Derby with big flat laces.