On bluchers, the eyelets are stitched on top of the vamp (upper of the front of the shoe). This breaks up the lines of the shoe, and leaves an opening in the leather when the shoe is tied; this results in a more casual shoe. Traditionally, these shoes are too informal to wear with a suit and should instead be worn with a sport jacket or in “business casual” situations. Most Americans ignore this, but now you know better.
Balmorals are the opposite. Their eyelets are “hidden” or stiched undernead of the vamp. The eyelets are also closer together so that the leather touches when tied. This provides the shoe with cleaner lines and therefore a more formal shape. Balmorals are the only option for a suit. When in doubt, get a cap toe.
Never noticed this before? Don’t feel bad; most guys don’t. Like one more than the other? Think it’s stupid that bluchers aren’t considered more formal? Let me know in the comments.