Herring Shoes

The history of the horsebit loafer

3 August 2023

Think horsebit loafer and, if you are a shoe fan, you will think Gucci. It is an iconic shoe worn by both men and women. It is an enduring look that originated in the 1950s after Aldo Gucci noticed American men wearing slip-on shoes during a trip to New York. Gucci was not content with just re-producing another slip-on shoe, he added a bit of flair with the horsebit.

It was Aldo’s father Guccio who first used the horsebit to set his leather goods apart from the competition. He had been inspired by the racing set he encountered during his time as a bellhop at The Savoy hotel in London. The horsebit is now as synonymous with the Gucci brand as their interlocked Gs and red and green ribbon detail.

By adding this distinctive metal trim across the saddle of the loafer in place of the usual diamond-shaped cut-out on the traditional penny loafer, Gucci achieved an immediate upgrade and an iconic shoe that is still being reimagined today. They also began making loafers out of black leather to elevate their status from a casual shoe to footwear that could be worn in the office.

Famous Gucci horsebit wearers have included President George HW Bush, Francis Ford Coppola, Wiz Khalifa, Bruno Mars, Madonna, Jane Birkin, Jodie Foster, Zoe Kravitz, Gigi Hadid and so many more. They have also featured on the silver screen on the feet of Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, Dustin Hoffman in Kramer Vs Kramer, Brad Pitt in Fight Club, and Matt Damon in The Talented Mr Ripley.

The horsebit loafer’s popularity is enduring and we have not shied away from creating our own versions. If it’s good enough for Gucci, then we would be mad to miss out! 

Our Harlington style is very much reminiscent of the Gucci style with a decadent gold-coloured snaffle. The Dillon has a more modern flair with a silver-coloured horsebit that bridges the vamp, therefore doing away with the traditional saddle. While the Istria is also minimalist but has an elasticated top for a little more comfort and ease when slipping them on and off.

For a bit of suede, our new Saimaa loafers have a brass trim while the Snaffle style is a low-profile, sleek affair made from deerskin, which has a lovely grain to it.

These are all beautifully crafted shoes that are meant to shout aspiration and style. They can be worn with almost anything. They smarten up shorts, look great with chinos and jeans, and don’t look out of place with a suit either. If you are searching for an iconic look, then the horsebit loafer is a great place to start.

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