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

Paul Mescal proving that the Gucci Horsebit loafers are still as stylish as there were 70 years ago.

When the Horsebit loafer was first conceived by Gucci—specifically by Aldo Gucci, the eldest son of founder Guccio Gucci—it was said to be a response to loafers popularised by preppy Americans. Gucci was to open its first New York City boutique in 1953. The Horsebit loafer was the perfect design to kickstart an American expansion. It was a familiar silhouette with the addition of an Italian flair—very Gucci.

The use of the snaffle bit within Gucci predates the Horsebit loafer. The House had already incorporated it since the 1950s when it began drawing inspiration from the equestrian world. The metallic double ring connected by a bar was taken from the bit on a horse’s bridle, and was used across different facets of the Gucci universe both as a decorative motif as well as a functional element.

A catalogue of Gucci Horsebit loafers from 1972.
Gucci Horsebit loafers circa 1990.
A thoroughly timeless design
The shoes are still made in-house.
The craft behind the Gucci Horsebit loafers remained unchanged.

One could even say that the creation of the Horsebit loafer was destined to happen. But its arrival at a time when dress codes were changing in favour of more liberal sensibilities, helped propel its popularity. Not only was the Horsebit loafer instantly recognisable, its make and comfort was a mark of Italian craftsmanship. The leather used is supple, and coupled with a construction that lacks an insole, makes the Horsebit loafer lightweight and flexible. One could easily run around in a pair and get it beaten down. Or like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, fight in one.

Gucci has seen numerous creative directors over the decades since, but the Horsebit loafers have been a mainstay. Various interpretations have been brought to the fore recently and will most likely continue to do so under the creative directorship of Sabato De Sarno. Yet, 70 years hasn’t changed the way the Horsebit loafers are crafted. To this day, they’re still produced in Italy, in house, by skilled cobblers. The soles of the Horsebit loafers are also still attached to the uppers with Blake stitching that affords the shoes’ their renowned lightweight and flexible attributes.

The GG monogram and green-red-green webbing may be synonymous with Gucci. But when it comes to a singular design, the Horsebit loafer is one that doesn’t need to be loud to be noticed.