1953 was a jam-packed year for the ultra famous design house Gucci. Not long before the death of its founder, Gucci decided to introduce, of all things, horse bits as adornment on the men’s version of their moccasins.
Why horse bits? This equestrian accessory, which helps guide the horse, joins the label’s three other symbols (the GG logo, the stripe pattern and the bamboo). Since their initial release, the brand made horsebits an incontestable icon, present in their jewelry, baggage, and leather goods collections. The Italian brand was highly popular in the cinema popular with many a celebrity at the time (John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Fred Astaire, to name a few), both from Hollywood and its own hometown in Cinecitta.
Women, green with envy, had to wait another 18 years before being able to get their hands on the design. Finally, in 1968, Gucci created the first female version of its horse bit moccasin. Fine-tuned especially for Lauren Bacall silhouettes, this piece would go on to be a great success, all the more so because its flat heel was actually comfortable for the woman wearing it! At the exact moment in history when women began to reclaim their rights and borrow from their male counterparts’ wardrobe (remember Yves Saint Laurent’s female tux in 1966), Gucci was able to materialize a way for women to perfectly assimilate with a style normally reserved for men.
Today, the legacy of the horse bit moccasin is undeniable. In 1962, one of the world’s largest museums entered them into its permanent collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art today houses 4 men’s paris and 3 women’s pairs. More than ever, the horse bit moccasin is a trendy item!
Gucci’s horsebit loafers: Key dates
1953 : Gucci launches the legendary horsebit loafers. In the leather and in the horsebit there are clear references to the equestrian tradition which inspired Gucci since its origins.
1950s – 1960s : The horsebit loafers immediately become a must have: celebrities from all over the world want that object of desire. Among the others Fred Astaire, Clark Gable and Cary Grant.
1959 : Alain Delon poses for an intimate picture with Romy Schneider while wearing the horsebit loafers.
1960 : John Wayne is photographed into a Gucci boutique while trying some horsebit loafers.
1967 : It’s the turn of Brigitte Bardot to wear the horsebit loafers.
1969 : The legendary icon Jane Birkin poses with a pair of horsebit loafers that already became a must have for women too.
1970 : Peter Sellers wears the horsebit loafers.
1974 : Roger Moore as James bond wears the horsebit loafers in “The man with the golden gun”
1976 – 1977 : During and after the shooting of “Taxi Driver” Jodie Foster becomes passionate for the horsebit loafers. The loafers-mania spreads out.
1979 : For the second time, Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer, brings the horsebit loafers in the movies. And in the same years Francis Ford Coppola is photographed while wearing the iconic footwear.
1984 : The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York acquires and permanently exposes a pair of Gucci Horsebit loafers as an iconic symbol of art and fashion design of the XX century.
1989 : Matt Dillon brings again on the screen the horsebit loafers with Drugstore Cowboy.
1999 : Despite the expected revolution Tom Ford gives to the new horsebit loafers just some few key modern touches: new leathers, materials or a disruptive design.
1990s – 2000s : The Gucci horsebit loafer is protagonist in the movies: from The talented Mr. Ripley and Fight Club, to Wall Street, the Wolf of Wall street and Frost/Nixon.
2010s : New millennium, new celebrities. But the Gucci horsebit loafers are still there. Celebrities go crazy for them. Just to name a few, James Franco, who’s also Gucci testimonial, and Bruno Mars.
2011 : For the 90th anniversary of Gucci Frida Giannini launches the “Firenze 1921” collection which includes a limited edition of the Gucci horsebit loafers.
2013 : To celebrate the 60th anniversary of these iconic shoes Frida Giannini gives new life to the horsebit loafer by launching the “1953” collection, in a range of exotic skins and bright colours.
2013 : For the ad campaign Forever Now Charlotte Casiraghi wears a pair of Gucci horsebit loafers.
2015 – 2016 : The expected revolution comes with Alessandro Michele. The horsebit loafers meet the streetwear trends and the shoes start to display tigers, snake leathers, works of embroidery, fur, or to look like slippers.