Thursday Vanguard vs Captain: Which Should You Get in 2021?

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by  William Barton | Last Updated: 

The All-American

Thursday Vanguard

VS Feature Image

The Best Value in the Game

Thursday Captain

VS Feature Image

The Thursday Vanguard is 100% USA made, which is rare. It’s worth the extra cost if you want to upgrade your leather to slightly thicker Horween Chromexcel, which has a classier look than most Thursday Rugged & Resilient leathers.

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The Thursday Captain is still my #1 recommendation for anyone looking to get their first pair of boots. If you have wider feet, the Captain is an easy win over the Vanguard. While the leather quality is still high on the Captain, especially for the price, it’s not quite as solid as the Vanguard options.

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Pros:

  • Made in the USA with Horween Chromexcel leather
  • Slightly higher heel and slimmer last
  • Thicker leather (by 0.3mm)
  • The original sub-$200 Goodyear welted boot with a focus on style and comfort
  • A huge variety of leather options, plus EE/EEE wide sizing
  • EVA-comfort strip makes these extremely comfortable boots

Cons:

  • No speedhooks
  • No EE/EEE widths
  • With more synthetic materials in the midsole, you lose a bit of longevity

I can remember the agony trying to choose between the Thursday Vanguard and Captain

They both look really similar, but if I could find someone who actually owns and wears both often and get their honest opinion, that would help clarify my decision. 

If you’re in the same boat I was, you’re in luck. I own two pairs of Captains and a pair of Vanguards, and I’ve dug into all the differences, both major and minor. 

By the end of this comparison, you’ll know exactly which of these two boots you should get.

Thursday Vanguard vs Captain Overview

Thursday Vanguard French Roast Thursday Captain Product image 1
Thursday Vanguard Thursday Captain
Upper Horween leather (mostly Chromexcel) Thursday leather (either Thursday Chrome or Rugged & Resilient)
Sole Poron insole with layered cork Poron insole with cork and EVA-comfort strip
Outsole Studded rubber Studded rubber
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Thursday Vanguard

Thursday Boots Vanguard horween leather detail 1

The Thursday Vanguard is one of the only models Thursday makes at home in the USA. While all of Thursday’s leathers are sourced in the USA (including their own Thursday Chrome and Rugged & Resilient leathers), the majority of Vanguard boots come in Horween Chromexcel—the legendary leather from Chicago. 

The Vanguard costs a little more (about $70 at the time of writing), and that’s mainly for the boost in leather quality and the American made origin. 

The Vanguard features a 360-degree Goodyear welt and a steel shank. It also has triple stitching along the toe cap and upper, and has eight eyelets on a six-inch shaft. 

Pros:

  • Finding a Horween Chromexcel boot under $300 is extremely rare—and as far as I know, the Vanguard is the only made-in-USA boot with Chromexcel at this price point. 
  • The higher heel on the Vanguard and slimmer fit through the arch give it a distinctive look. 
  • They’re very comfortable right out of the box and don’t have much of a break-in period at all.

Cons:

  • There’s no tongue gusset, which means the tongue can slide to one side, which is a bit annoying. 
Thursday Vanguard

The Thursday Vanguard has some subtle design differences that make it more sophisticated than the super-popular Captain. Plus, the materials are next level in comparison, and the value for price is phenomenal for a USA-made boot. Speaking of USA-made, I’ve found that my Thursday’s from their Mexico factory have more attention to detail, rather than my American-made Thursday boots.

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Thursday Captain

closeup Thursday Boots Captain in arizona adobe against concrete 1

Thursday launched their company in 2014 with three boots: the Captain, the President, and the Diplomat

And the Captain has been their most popular the entire time. 

I’ll admit, the Captain was the first good boot I ever bought (over four years ago), and I now own another pair. 

Like the Vanguard, the Captain is a cap toe service boot, and it comes in 12 different leather options at the time of writing. You can also find wider EE/EEE sizes available in Thursday’s most popular leather options.

Pros:

  • At under $200, the Goodyear welted Thursday Captain is one of the best value-for-money options on the market. 
  • I love the variety of leather options available for the Captain.
  • The EVA-comfort strip and Poron midsole make for an extremely comfortable boot, even if you’re on your feet all day.

Cons:

  • The synthetic materials in the midsole, while comfortable, reduce the longevity of the boot somewhat—they still last several years (my first pair is still 4+ years strong), but you’ll lose some arch support along the way.
Thursday Captain

The Thursday Captain is an excellent deal. Made with Thursday's Chrome leather from Le Farc tannery (often compared to Horween Chromexcel), these boots are still holding up well after four years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

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If you want more details on the Thursday Captain, including what my pair looks like today after 4+ years of wearing, check out my YouTube video below: 

Thursday Vanguard vs Captain

Aesthetics

Thursday Boots Vanguard mode with denim shirts 2

From an aesthetics perspective, the Vanguard and the Captain are extremely similar. I’ll discuss the differences in each, but please note that these are super minor in the grand scheme of things (especially when comparing either to a more bulky boot like the Red Wing Iron Ranger). 

The biggest differences between these two boots are the taller heel: the Vanguard’s heel is one centimeter taller than the Captain (I’ll discuss how this affects comfort later). They both are triple stitched along the toe cap and upper.

Thursday Boots Vanguard

The Vanguard doesn’t have any speedhooks like the Captain, which looks a little more classy, but makes them less convenient to put on and take off. 

I like that the Vanguard comes with leather laces, though Thursday also sends a pair of waxed cotton laces in the box so you can swap out if you’d like. 

The Captain is slightly wider through the arch and a bit taller in the instep. This makes it a little chunkier, but I’d never call the Captain a chunky boot—it’s still super slim and narrow, but the Vanguard has more contour (albeit by a thin margin). 

Thursday Boots Captain arizona adobe rugged and resilient leather

The back stay is also significantly wider with the Vanguard at 5.5mm compared to 2.5mm. I don’t believe this makes any difference in terms of fit or construction—it’s purely aesthetic. It’s also not something I think anyone would ever notice, so don’t let it be a deal-breaker for you.

The tongue rises up about 3mm above the shaft on the Vanguard, which isn’t the case for the Captain. Again, this makes very little practical difference, and is purely a matter of looks. 

Thursday Boots Captain storm king top down view in water 1

And the final aesthetic difference is the welt—the Vanguard has a natural leather welt with white stitching, whereas the Captain has a dyed leather welt (usually dark to match the upper leather) and dark stitching. 

So there’s more contrast with the Vanguard. 

tying Thursday Boots Vanguard 1

Between the two, I prefer the looks of the Vanguard to the Captain. The higher heel and slightly more contoured arch and instep make it a bit more distinctive. I also like the addition of the leather laces.

Leather Quality

Thursday Boots Captain arizona adobe on stairs 1

I have Thursday Captains in the Brown Thursday Chrome and the Arizona Adobe Rugged & Resilient. My Vanguards are in French Roast Horween Chromexcel.

All three leather options are sourced in the USA (though the Thursday leathers are tanned in Mexico near the factory). 

Both boots are lined with glove leather, though when I measure each at the top of the boot shaft, my Vanguards measure in at 3.1mm thick, whereas my Captains are about 2.9mm thick. 

Thursday Boots Vanguard on black background top down view 1

This isn’t a huge difference and I doubt it’ll make a difference for longevity’s sake, but the Horween leather is about 0.2-0.3mm thicker.

Thursday’s Chrome leather is actually quite similar to Horween—both have a subtle natural shine to them that makes them a great choice for a dressier looking boot. Thursday’s Rugged & Resilient should be strictly used in casual settings though because it tends to look aged quickly. 

This is by design (can’t you tell from the name?), and while I appreciate the aesthetic, I prefer the versatility of Horween’s Chromexcel. 

Sole Quality

Thursday Boots Vanguard rubber sole detail 1

One of the biggest differences between the Captain and Vanguard is hidden within the insole.

The outsole is the same, and both boots feature a 360-degree Goodyear welt with a steel shank for added arch support. 

But the Captain has an EVA-comfort strip layered on a Poron and cork midsole. The Vanguard doesn’t have the EVA, but has a layered cork and Poron midsole. You’re getting more cork with the Vanguard in place of the EVA-comfort strip. 

Thursday Boots Captain arizona adobe close up

This means that the Vanguard is less comfortable out of the box, but should last longer as the cork condenses and shapes to your foot. 

They’re both very comfortable boots, but the EVA-comfort strip makes the Captain the comfort level of a nice sneaker. It’s one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn. 

I can’t say I prefer one over the other, though I will say that if I’m going on a big walk, I’d choose the Captain over the Vanguard because of the added shock absorption and comfort. 

Fit & Sizing

Thursday Boots Vanguard model with denim shirt

These boots fit pretty much exactly the same, but you may run into issues with the Vanguard if you have wider than average feet (but you’re still a standard D-width). 

The arch tapers in more on the Vanguard than on the Captain, so you may feel extra snugness on the sides of your feet with the Vanguard. 

I recommend wearing your boots inside the house for a few hours before you take them outside. If your feet start to tingly, your boots are too small. If your feet are sliding around, your boots are too big.

Thursday Boots Captain arizona adobe walking down steps 1

For both the Captain and Vanguard, I picked up a half-size smaller than my sneaker and dress shoe size, and I’m happy with the fit for each. 

Break-in Period

Thursday Boots Captain outfit

My Thursday Chrome and Horween Chromexcel boots had virtually no break-in period, but my Arizona Adobe’s had a minor rough period. 

Thursday Boots really aren’t bad in the break-in period, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much either way, but the Rugged & Resilient leathers are more stiff and require a few miles of walking to get them to crease and soften. 

Stand out features

Heel

Thursday Boots Captain rugged and resilient arizona adobe leather

The heel of the Vanguard is one centimeter taller than the Captain, which makes a significant difference in how these feel on your foot and how each affects your posture. 

At first, I found the taller heel uncomfortable, but within a day, I realized that it helped me stand straighter and actually relieved some pressure on my back from standing all day. 

The higher heel also adds more curvature to the bottom of the Vanguard. While the aesthetic difference is minor, I think it makes for a more refined and sophisticated looking boot. 

Eyelets

Thursday Boots Vanguard leather lacing detail

Most Captains and Vanguards have contrasting eyelets. The Vanguard has eight traditional eyelets, while the Captains have five eyelets and two speedhooks.

Speedhooks make a boot significantly easier to put off and take off, and I prefer having them. I end up wearing my Captains more because they’re easier to put on.

But speedhooks aren’t very refined, so the Vanguards have a dressier look to them. 

Another interesting tidbit: the Vanguard’s eyelets have less space in between them compared to the Captain (by about 0.2mm per eyelet). This means there’s more lace in the front. It’s not something anyone would ever notice, but it gives the Vanguard a little more of a subtle rugged boost, which I appreciate. 

Tongue

Thursday Boots Vanguard horween leather detail

The tongue of the Vanguard sticks out about 3mm above the shaft of the boot, whereas the Captain’s tongue is flush with the top of the shaft. 

Neither have a gusset, so there’s no clear winner between the two. The tongue is always underneath my jeans, so it’s not like it shows either way. 

Thursday Vanguard vs Thursday Captain: Which is Best for You?

This is a tough call, as I think the value-for-price of each boot is phenomenal. To me, there’s not a clear winner, but I do think one boot is better than the other depending on what you’re looking for.

If you want a boot that’s built in the USA and you’re willing to spend extra for leather that’s going to look classier for longer, then opt for the Vanguard. Of course, you’re going to need a bit of extra patience with this boot because it takes longer to put on and the insole is slightly less comfortable.

Thursday Vanguard

The Thursday Vanguard has some subtle design differences that make it more sophisticated than the super-popular Captain. Plus, the materials are next level in comparison, and the value for price is phenomenal for a USA-made boot. Speaking of USA-made, I’ve found that my Thursday’s from their Mexico factory have more attention to detail, rather than my American-made Thursday boots.

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If you’re on a tighter budget, or just want more leather options, get the Thursday Captain. The Captain is also a better choice for those who are willing to trade some durability for comfort. 

Thursday Captain

The Thursday Captain is an excellent deal. Made with Thursday's Chrome leather from Le Farc tannery (often compared to Horween Chromexcel), these boots are still holding up well after four years of wear. When (if?) these ever wear out, I’ll be getting them again.

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If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

That said, I’ve owned one pair of Captains for over four years, so I don’t really see any durability issues with either boot. But the Captains are more comfortable than the Vanguard because of that EVA-comfort strip.

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