A brief history of espadrilles
In the age of modern menswear, classy suede loafers, white tennis shoes and throwback sneakers are all perfectly viable summer footwear options. However, if you want a truly summery option and are a respectable human who won’t wear flip flops in public, classic espadrilles are by far your best choice.
Originating in Basque country in France and Spain, espadrilles were first a peasant shoe, and later a workwear shoe. Today they are a staple of fashionable beach-goers channeling French Riviera vibes on vacation.
As far as construction goes, espadrilles are a simple shoe. The defining characteristics are a one-piece canvas upper that is stitched to a coiled rope sole called a ‘Jute Sole.’ In fact, the shoe takes its name from the ‘esparto’ grass originally used by manufacturers to spin into the tough braided rope. Often, in order to increase durability, the jute sole is finished in vulcanized rubber, or occasionally a crepe outsole.
Most often in a slip-on form, you’ll occasionally see lace-up options as well, and higher heels or platforms for women’s styles. The soles are lightweight, and the canvas breathable and durable, making them perfect for scuffing up on hot summer days.
While dozens of brands make their own versions, there are two classic brands that still make the majority of espadrilles that you’ll find today. Rivieras clock in with some higher-priced, if not quite inaccessible options, while Soludos still churn out dependable and affordable styles, often in collaboration with menswear mainstreams like J.Crew or more cutting-edge retailers like Opening Ceremony. As espadrilles have seen a recent resurgence in popularity, many high end designers have taken their own stab as well.
Stylistically, espadrilles are surprisingly versatile. A safe route is to wear them casually as a more grown-up, European alternative to the American prep style of boat shoes. Slightly more daring gentleman can be found rocking them with their favorite summer suits, although you probably won’t quite pull off business casual with canvas footwear. Even cutting edge fashionistas can be seen wearing simple white Espadrilles with their wide-legged Yohji trousers and Comme Des Garcons outfits.
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He Spoke Style