What makes an icon, an icon? In the case of items that fall within fashion’s purview, qualifying is quite a feat. For starters, there’s the to-ing and fro-ing of trends to contend with, which all but ensures few pieces of clothing are truly worthy of the term. Still, a select number of blockbusters remain deserving of the designation. When they do, they’re often the sort of things that fulfil that mythic “timeless” criterion; think 501 jeans; Ray-Ban Wayfarers; Common Projects Achilles sneakers. Age, it seems, is clearly just a number in this litmus test: Levi’s might have been around for over a century and a half, but the Achilles low-top only turned up in 2004.
In the case of Gucci’s horsebit loafers, a shoe whose status is well-established, we’ve witnessed the birth of an icon twice. Once in 1953, when it made its first appearance on the feet of well-heeled Italians and then again, after Mr Alessandro Michele was installed at the house’s helm back in 2015. True, the style already boasted a spot in the Met’s permanent collection when the creative director arrived, but his intervention (and reinvention) has heralded the gilded slip-on’s renaissance.
Mr Michele’s first order of business was redesigning the toe of the shoes; elongating and sculpting it into an elegant almond-shape. Dubbed the Jordaan, it was an overnight success. Then came the backless version and, after that, a fur-lined iteration that drove Instagram into a predictable fevered frenzy. Since then, countless varieties in myriad fabric and colour combinations have appeared. And now, it seems Mr Michele is at it again.