Originally Posted by Ianiceman
I reject the entire notion that a derby is in any way inferior in formality, appearance or comfort to an Oxford. I realize this view is not in accordance with SF consensus, but don't care. Who decided this anyway? I understand that the evolution of each style occurred more or less concurrently so it comes down to personal taste.
Formality, unlike style, does have hard and fast rules. The decision that Oxfords are more formal may well have been arbitrary, but it was agreed upon at one point. Without rules, it ceases to be formal, I.e. having a consistent form.
Of course, this does open the argument that black tie has evolved with significant latitude, and therefore it's footwear should be no different. I would argue that there is already quite a lot of latitude in what is considered correct black tie footwear. Cap and plain toe Oxfords are acceptable, as well as opera pumps, formal loafers, and whole cuts, and each of these is acceptable in either high polished calf skin, or patent leather. I would agree that a plain toe Oxford is preferable to a cap toe, as less detail is always better than more. Bluchers' details, I think, are more noticeable, even if there is not actually more detail, because they sit atop the vamp, like a patch. So, in the same way that patch pockets are the least formal option for a jacket, bluchers are the least formal option for a dress shoe.
In the end, I would say it comes down to how formal an event you are attending. I think that, at a relatively informal black tie event, a blucher is not altogether inappropriate. I would, however, wear calf skin rather than patent leather. This would be my hierarchy of shoes, from most formal to least formal, with material being a personal preference:
Formal loafer (patent only) or whole cut
Plain toe Oxford
Cap to Oxford
Plain toe blucher
Cap toe blucher
Black and white Spectators
All black custom chucks
Black and white standard chucks (if it's good enough for the doctor...)
Sorry, the post seemed so serious it needed some levity. Please do not blame me for sideways glances you receive when going with anything below cap toe oxford on my list. :P