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||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|
|Check Best Price||Check Best Price|
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.
- 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.
- There’s no tongue gusset, which means the tongue can slide to one side, which is a bit annoying.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.