Whether you're looking for the best horsebit loafers available or an affordable Gucci alternative, there's something for everyone on this list.
There’s an art to whittling your shoe collection to the bare minimum, but who said art was any fun?
Sometimes you want to break out and add a little flair to your outfit with the perfect pair of shoes.
That’s where the horsebit loafer comes in. It’s a classic style with what the Italians call gusto—a little extra personality.
In this article, we’re going to break down what horsebit loafers are, how to wear them like a champion and our favorite versions of the style.
Table of Contents
What Are Horsebit Loafers?
Horsebit loafers were first created in the ‘50s by Aldo Gucci after a trip to New York. Back in postwar America, everyone was rocking loafers like they couldn’t get enough of them.
The only problem, Gucci thought, was that they didn’t have any flair. They just looked like Norwegian fisherman shoes—not something a proud Italian could wear.
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He added a gold bit to replace the strap of leather that made the classic penny-loafer style.
Gucci was well known at that time, but the horsebit loafer put the brand over the top. It was an international success.
In fact, the horsebit loafer is so closely associated with the Gucci brand, oftentimes people refer to them as Gucci loafers, even when they’re made by another company.
Everything comes full circle, as now you can see dozens of horsebit loafers on display anytime you go to a bar near the Manhattan financial district.
It started in New York, went to Florence for a while, and has landed back in NYC.
3 Things to Consider When Buying Horsebit Loafers
You don’t have to be an investment banker to pull off a pair of horsebit loafers.
These shoes bridge the gap between formal and casual, so you have a variety of options when wearing them. Here are the three main things to consider when you’re looking for a pair of new horsebits.
1. Setting – Where do you work and play?
So maybe you are an investment banker. Hours of yelling ‘buy, buy, sell’ must make you exhausted. But if you’ve got a stunner pair of shoes, no one will be the wiser.
Think about where you’ll be wearing your loafers. Do you plan on having them as your main pair of shoes for work? Do you want them for the rare night out at a fancy restaurant?
Knowing when you intend on wearing your new shoes will determine how much you should spend and what kind of quality you’re looking for.
2. Cost – What's your budget?
The horsebit loafer is awesome, no doubt, but it’s not an essential shoe. You’ll likely have fewer chances to wear this, so factor that into your budget.
With horsebit loafers, don’t go cheap. The purpose is to show off a bit, and going with something poorly made is going to show.
You don’t have to go crazy and spend your whole paycheck, but make sure you’re getting high-quality shoes that will look great for years to come.
3. Practicality – How often will you wear them?
This goes hand-in-hand with items one and two, but if you’re going to wear them often, invest more into a great pair. If you only plan on wearing them with a specific outfit meant for a special occasion, then you can get away with something less durable.
Then again, we only recommend dropping money on shoes that will last several years. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and hard-earned cash.
Tips for Wearing Horsebit Loafers
Horsebit loafers look best with slacks and wool trousers. Since horsebit loafers have worked their way up into more conservative attire, they don’t quite work with jeans.
In the spring and summer, do as the Italians do and go sockless. If you’re worried your shoes will start getting too funky, wear no-show socks.
In the fall and winter, horsebit loafers look great with thick socks.
We recommend staying away from excessive patterns like polka-dots when it comes to pairing socks and horsebit loafers. The contrasting styles don’t work in this case.
The 5 Best Horsebit Loafers for Men
Here are some of our go-to's…
1. Jay Butler Millbank Bit Loafer
Jay Butler makes the top of our list because of the value they bring with every shoe. The Millbank loafer is fully lined with leather and extremely comfortable.
The Blake stitching keeps the profile slim and sleek, and the upper is hand-stitched in the traditional moccasin style.
We were able to try their olive suede, though Jay Butler has brown, tan, and black leather available as well. During the holiday season, the olive suede is going to be a must for the house-party circuit (though the burgundy suede was tempting).
The leather horsebit loafers use soft full-grain leather, and while we haven’t tried one of their leather loafers, our experience with Jay Butler tells us they aren’t skimping on the details.
This brand is one of the best values you can get, especially when you’re looking to branch into a less common, higher-echelon shoe like a horsebit loafer.
2. Beckett Simonon Beaumont Horsebit Loafer
Beckett Simonon is another one of our favorites here at The Modest Man. They handcraft each shoe to order, so while it takes a little longer to get your shoe, it’s well worth the wait.
These horsebit loafers feature a solid brass bit for a more subdued look than standard gold or silver. They come in five different colorways, all top grain leather with Vachetta interiors for extra breathability.
The Beaumont is a great choice when going sockless through spring and summer and the handmade quality is extraordinary.
3. Rancourt & Co Horsebit Loafer
Rancourt gets most of their leather from the famous Horween tannery in Chicago, but for their horsebit loafer, they bring calfskin leather straight from Italy.
These have a water-tight leather outsole and are treated with oil for scratch and moisture resistance. The Rancourt & Co Horsebit loafer features a Goodyear welt rather than a Blake stitch, so the profile is a little taller.
This shoe is a great blend between the classic American loafer and the Italian fashion icon.
4. Gucci 1953 Horsebit Loafer
Thinking about going with the original? Gucci invented the style after all.
These cost a pretty penny, but they definitely carry a certain status along with them. They feature soft leather—likely calfskin, though the site has little information on it—and Blake stitching.
We recommend Gucci only if you want to cash in on the name. In terms of build quality and general craftsmanship, you can find something similar in Jay Butler and Beckett Simonon at a fraction of the cost.
But there’s only one Gucci, so if that’s important to you, we’re happy to point you to the classic.
5. Aldo Baysien
We wanted to add a budget shoe on our list and the Aldo Baysien is squeezing right in.
Aldo has been upping the quality of their shoes recently, though they haven’t always been trustworthy.
So there are our five favorite bit loafers—this style of shoe really stands out in a crowd and shows you know style.
Whether you want to go with the original in Gucci, or you want to try a trusted company like Jay Butler, you’re sure to find the right shoe for you here.