How did derby shoes appear?
Some experts associate the rise of derby shoes with the 12th Earl of Derby (lived from 1752 until 1834); others suppose that they appeared under the 14th Earl of Derby (1799-1869), who was a corpulent person, had big feet and experienced certain difficulties putting on classic shoes of that time. The first documented mentioning of the term «derby» as a type of footwear was registered in 1862, and that as a type of dress shoes — in 1872. However, it is worth noticing that boots of derby type were invented by the Prussian field marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher as early as in the XVIII century — it is not accidental that derbys are sometimes called bluchers.
Derby shoes — timeless classics
Derby shoes are one of the most popular types of men’s footwear. They can be easily placed among classics, and multiple various subtypes that are distinguished let every person pick out the style that fits them best.
As Michael Anton remarks, derbys «are practical due to their high instep that makes a miniature foot look more solid, and they are a good match for baggy clothing; however, if you have big feet, you’d better avoid this type of footwear». It’s also worth mentioning the comment on derbys with six or four eyelets by Berhard Roetzel: «they make the foot visually longer as there’s an accent on the tongue of the vamp». In other words, you should choose your shoes very carefully and only purchase the styles that highlight your feet in a good way. If you have big feet, you don’t need to refuse wearing derbys at all, but you’d rather pay attention to the styles with thin soles and few perforations. Comparing derbys with oxfords, Berhard Roetzel noticed that feet «look more dressed» in oxfords. However, further he states that black derbys with no broguing «look formal enough to fit in the dress code» and that «plain toe dark-brown derby shoes are often chosen to wear with a business suit as well». Still, derbys most certainly cannot be combined with a tux, a tail-coat or a morning coat.
Brown, tan and burgundy derby shoes can be worn with chinos, corduroy or tweed trousers, jeans. The more decorative perforations there are on derbys, and the thicker the sole is, the less formal they are. Cap toe derbys are considered a bit less formal than plain toe styles (without a cross seam). Besides, the styles made of smooth leather look stricter than those of suede or grain leather under otherwise equal conditions.