If ‘Tom Ford-era Gucci’ is one of your saved Vestiaire or eBay searches, you’re not alone. Blame it on the Y2K renaissance or the fact that those velvet suits and slinky shirts never seem to date; the designer’s early-aughts creations are in high demand. Top of our wish lists? Gucci’s Horsebit Chain bag. Ornamented by an XL version of the house’s bridle-inspired ‘horsebit’, it looks just as good as it did 20 years ago, when it made its first appearance at Gucci’s autumn/winter 2003 show.
Though the bag is an icon of the aughts, its namesake hardware dates back to the 1950s. The horsebit (a miniature version of the metal rings on a horse’s bridle) was created in 1953 by Guccio Gucci’s sons, Aldo, Rodolfo and Vasco, as an homage to their late father’s love of equestrian motifs. They applied it to the now-iconic loafer – a shoe that was enshrined as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in 1985, and revived in its original guise (and christened the Horsebit 1953 loafer) in 2013.
Guccio Gucci’s fondness for horse riding-inspired style is reported to have been sparked while he was working as a luggage porter at The Savoy Hotel in London. There, he got a glimpse into the lives and styles of the elite, many of whom favoured an equestrian aesthetic – on and off the racecourse. The shape of the iconic Bamboo bag, for example, is said to have been modelled after a saddle.
The Gucci brothers first applied the horsebit to a bag in 1955 – a demure, structured, top-handle style that we now know as the Horsebit 1955, as christened by the house’s former creative director Alessandro Michele when he reissued it in 2020. It wasn’t the last, with a whole host of subsequent Gucci bags bearing the dainty, bridle-like hardware.
It was Tom Ford who transformed the horsebit from dainty to daring. For Gucci’s AW03 show, and again for SS04 (his antepenultimate and penultimate collections as creative director for the house), the designer supersized the emblem and made it the crowning feature of the Horsebit Chain bag. This generously proportioned clutch was released in liberally studded exotic leathers, as well as Gucci’s GG monogram canvas, and carried alongside slinky skirts and knee boots – outfits that wouldn’t look amiss in 2023.
As Y2K style fell out of favour, so too did this larger-than-life bag – that is, until around 2019, when the Noughties’ aesthetic started re-budding and Kendall Jenner was spotted with a pre-loved Horsebit Chain bag from spring/summer 2004, in monogram canvas and lime-green leather with a bamboo-inspired chain strap.
If you are lucky enough to have invested in the original bag the first time around, or indeed, before the surge in demand, clutch it close. If you missed out, fear not – Gucci has reissued the equestrian-tinged, 20-year-old bag for autumn/winter 2023 in all sorts of wildly covetable iterations, with a David Sims-photographed campaign to celebrate. Think padded leather in traffic-light red or matte metallic, fuzzy yellow shearling, and crystal, all featuring a maxi version of the 70-year-old horsebit. Previously, you had to choose between a chain or leather strap; the new iterations come with both.
Dua Lipa’s a fan – she wore the new bag in quilted silver with a mesh Gucci bra, bolero and cargo pants in the summer – while Mytheresa’s Buying Director Tiffany Hsu and influencer Aimee Song have been spotted with monogrammed, striped styles. Meanwhile, Rihanna makes a strong case for investing in a pre-loved bag; earlier this year, she was snapped with an original Horsebit Chain (in red GG canvas, for your Vestiaire saved search purposes).
Combining a Y2K shape with mid-century hardware shouldn’t work, but it just does. We’ll be wearing ours all winter long, with leather boots and satin eveningwear – as Tom Ford intended.
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