Style / November 2015

No Strings Attached: The Gucci Horsebit Loafer

The immortally elegant Gucci horsebit loafer still won’t tie itself down to any age group, demographic or dress code.

What an important coronation year 1953 was in Europe. Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in England, while a new king was crowned in Italy: Gucci's horsebit loafer. Both have ruled ever since. Few fashion items have the stature or symbolism to warrant their own diamond-anniversary festivities, but the Gucci loafer sums up the essence of Italian luxury and has kept in step with the worlds of fashion and celebrity since Guccio Gucci's son Aldo first introduced the footwear to the family business.

Indeed, like Louis Vuitton's monogram luggage or an Hermès scarf, the Gucci horsebit loafer defines its category. Sixty years on, it comes in all kinds of variation, without losing sight of its roots. It has a legacy most modern shoe brands can only dream of.

'The Gucci loafer was really the first men's shoe you could clock from a distance,' says Robert Johnston, a member of the London Collections: Men committee. 'It's very clever, understated branding. You don't need to have a logo all over them, but you can tell exactly what they are from a mile off. There aren't many shoes you can say that about - not tasteful ones, anyway.'

The fact that men have worn them for six decades and in so many different ways shows how successful and long-serving the loafer has been. 'It's iconic because it's never gone out of style, has ceaselessly hinted at casual elegance, and has been worn by some of modern history's most dashing gentlemen: everyone from Fred Astaire to Clark Gable and Alain Delon,' says Jeremy Langmead, Brand & Content Director of luxury e-tailer Mr Porter.

The loafer has featured in many movies over the years. Dustin Hoffman wore a pair in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), then there was Matt Dillon in Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Shia LaBeouf in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010). This footwear even formed the basis for an entire scene, symbolising a watershed moment in the life of a former president, in Ron Howard's 2008 historical drama Frost/Nixon.

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