Gucci's famous loafers were the subject of a substantial article in the Financial Times. What more evidence does one need that this shoe has achieved iconic status than a profile in an international broadsheet? In the story, Gucci's creative director Ms Frida Giannini said that she "plays with the design each season, updating the shape, materials and details, but the shoe's essential beauty and functionality remain the same". No wonder the world's most discerning gentlemen, from politicians to film directors, have been wearing them for half a century, and that, in 1962, this famous shoe became part of the collection at the Costume Institute at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Combining the comfort of a moccasin with a natty formality, the Gucci loafer has long been the footwear of choice for that group of international travellers once known as the "jet set". The shoes are synonymous with Hollywood's biggest names as well as Europe's more suave males, while remaining notably popular with high-flying Japanese businessmen, who are said to find them convenient in a culture where you have to take your shoes off every time you enter a room.
Mr Aldo Gucci outside the store in Rome, on the
Via Condotti 21, during the 1950s
The horsebit detail on these handsome loafers is a reminder of a key element in Gucci's history. The equestrian-derived hardware was originally inspired by the time, just after WWI, that Mr Guccio Gucci worked in London's famous Savoy hotel. There, he was privy to the comings and goings of the English aristocracy, and overheard their conversations about racing and polo.
Mr Gucci came to understand how much the world of horses meant to this privileged group of men and women, and made a mental note to make equestrian imagery a feature of the brand he wanted to set up. When in 1921, back in his native Florence, he founded Gucci, he immediately started to use elements taken from tack as motifs and decoration - something the brand continues to do 90 years later.
From its inception, Gucci has balanced glamour with a level of quality that's reliant on artisanal production techniques. Meanwhile, at an aesthetic level, Ms Giannini has an unerring ability to update the best of Gucci's heritage in a manner that makes it entirely contemporary, yet pleasingly classic. As a result, these famous loafers are likely to continue to define a certain strand of masculine style for many years to come.
An example of a craftsman staining the leather
All the artisans involved in making these loafers are located in a single workshop in Florence. They wear traditional leather aprons over white lab coats (an outfit that symbolises Gucci's blend of the past with the present) and, suitably attired, use a personalised tool kit to hand-make each shoe.
After nailing the upper of the shoe to a last, the artisan sews the moccasin upper to the sole, before handing over to a colouring specialist, who hand-stains the leather to give the hide a rich tone.
Since the leather is stained entirely by hand, giving it a lightly worn vintage look, the finish of each shoe is unique.
The final step sees the leather lining and the metal and bamboo horsebit hardware attached by hand, before the shoes are wrapped and boxed.
Words by Mr Ben Seidler