Why the Gucci Horsebit Loafer is Still a Menswear Staple

Seventy years on, the snaffle-embellished slip-on is still as influential as it was in 1953
Published: 28 March 2024

Who can say they’ve had a reign that lasted over seventy years? The late Queen Elizabeth II comes to mind, and then there’s the King of Rock and Roll, who has not only influenced the pop culture landscape for decades but also the accent of a So-Cal actor to a surprisingly lasting extent.

But within fashion, the Gucci Horsebit loafer has managed to maintain the same level of influence since it was introduced in 1953. With a design so recognisably "Gucci", the appeal stretches far and wide, from A-listers to your most fashionable friends. Seventy years on, that equestrian tool on the tongue will still place you in the upper echelons of style royalty.

The story as to why a snaffle became a signifier for the luxury fashion house starts with its founder. Guccio Gucci worked as a luggage porter at The Savoy, London, when his fascination with the equestrian world started, seeing it as the sport of the rich and famous people who took up residence at the hotel.

But it didn’t come into form as a loafer until his son Aldo Gucci took over the business (along with his brothers Rodolfo and Vasco). So it goes, Aldo designed a pair of dressy loafers as a response to the moccasins that Bass Weejuns were producing, having noticed that the sleek designs were popular with American prepsters. Gucci stamped it with the horsebit detail in honour of his father, and in doing so created a staple shoe that is both discreet and distinguishable.


The shoe quickly became a hit on home soil, but it didn’t take long for its influence to reach Stateside and beyond. Despite its dressier history—with thanks to Cary Grant—Gucci loafers, in particular, became a popular casual shoe among the younger generation. By the Seventies, plenty of women had a pair—perhaps most famously Jodie Foster, who was pictured aged 15 sporting the style while skateboarding—as well as dapper male stars like Kirk Douglas, Francis Ford Coppola and Roger Moore.

The style is just as popular on screen as it is on the streets, too. In 1979, Dustin Hoffman wore a pair in Kramer vs. Kramer, then there was Matt Dillon in Drugstore Cowboy ten years later. Matt Damon wore them in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), a film that’s repeatedly called upon for its perennial influence on men’s summer wardrobes in Europe and beyond.

Paul Mescal in Gucci Horsebit Loafers.

Different creative directors of the luxury fashion house have all had their own take on the design. Tom Ford famously revitalised Gucci in 1994, and did so with classic signifiers of the brand like the horsebit. Alessandro Michele continued to use the motif throughout his tenure, incorporating his maximalist and print-heavy aesthetic, while Gucci’s latest recruit, Sabato De Sarno, has (literally) elevated it even more with a platform sole.

In today’s age, you can see the likes of Paul Mescal, Mark Ronson and Kingsley Ben-Adir (who also stars in the new campaign for the shoe) all donning a pair while on and off the red carpet, further cementing their smart-casual appeal. Rest assured, their reign is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Originally published on Esquire UK

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