Espadrilles are an extraordinary shoe that dates back to the 1300s. They've played political roles, set fashion trends throughout the world, and have become a staple piece of footwear in warm-weather climates. But what are espadrilles exactly?
In this guide, we'll show you how the popular but so often misunderstood espadrille is made, how to wear espadrilles, and how to pair them with accessories. You're bound to fall in love with their comfort and how easy it is to take care of them. Plus, with so many designs and shoe styles, you'll have endless options for mixing and matching espadrilles with your wardrobe.
What are Espadrilles?
No doubt, you've seen people wearing espadrilles and may even unknowingly have a pair yourself. But if you're not a fashionista, you're probably wondering—what are espadrilles?
Espadrilles are a simple, stylish shoe that is nowadays made of jute fabric. Jute is a vegetable fiber from the Corchorus plant that grows in countries such as India and Bangladesh. It's a versatile material used to make twine, sacks, curtains, and, of course, Espadrilles.
A Jute sole is the iconic feature of espadrilles. The style of jute on espadrilles ranges from a simple rope to an intricate design with braids. The jute can either be left in its natural tan state or bleached white. Most commonly, jute is attached to a rubber or rope sole using glue and stitches.
A pair of espadrilles will last for many years, as durability is a wonderfully high-quality design of this shoe. Most modern-day espadrilles are reinforced with vulcanized rubber and secured to the jute sole.
A single piece of canvas wraps over the top of espadrilles and is stitched to the jute sole. Canvas uppers come in various colors and styles, making for a versatile shoe that can be worn in a variety of settings. The soft nature of jute fabric, natural support in the sole, and rubber finishing makes espadrilles a shoe your feet will love.
Types of Espadrilles
Espadrilles are ideal for summer and tropical climates because of their stylish jute rope and the fact that many espadrilles are open-toed, but they can be closed-toe and airy as well. They are also commonly thought of as a woman's shoe, but this is an unfair presumption; many stylish espadrilles shoe options are available for men.
Below are some common types of espadrilles:
- Flats or ballet flats
Of these shoe styles, espadrilles wedges tend to be the most popular style—and for a good reason. A jute sole makes espadrilles wedges have unparalleled support and a natural arch compared to regular heels. Another advantage of espadrilles wedges is that they show more of the jute braiding design than flats, mules, and slip-ons.
Regardless of the style of shoe you choose, generally speaking, classic espadrilles are used in casual environments. But thanks to the diversity of fabric and straps that can be sown to the jute, it's easy to dress up skirts, dresses, and jumpsuits by swapping flip-flops for espadrilles. For example, an espadrilles sandal with silver-colored straps would pair beautifully with a summer dress for a beach wedding.
Some espadrilles have leather or suede coverings instead of fabric, offering a slightly more formal look that may be appropriate for certain office settings.
When it comes to men's espadrilles, shoe options most commonly come in slip-on varieties. Like with women's espadrilles, they're also usually worn in the summer. Men most commonly wear espadrilles with shorts, although they can also get away with wearing them with summer suits.
Espadrilles and Wedges Difference
You might be wondering—is there a difference between espadrilles and wedges? Yes, in the sense that wedges are a style of shoe known for its thick sole and elevated platform.
For a shoe to be classified as an espadrille, the composition of its sole must be jute fiber. Therefore, espadrilles can be wedges, but not all wedges are espadrilles.
Nonetheless, over the years, people have synonymized espadrilles with wedges. The culprit in this confusion is a 1970 trade fair in Paris when a man named Yves Saint Laurent found a Spanish espadrille maker and requested a wedge espadrille. People fell in love with espadrilles wedges, and it became the primary type of espadrille shoe produced.
History of Espadrilles
On your quest to understand what are espadrilles, you'll be amazed to learn about the rich history of this shoe. Although espadrilles wedges didn't become popular until the 1970s, their origin is rooted in fourteenth-century France and Spain.
The jury is still out on exactly where the word "Espadrilles" originated from, but there are a few solid theories. Esparto is a type of grass grown in the Mediterranean and is a tough fiber initially used to make espadrilles instead of jute. In Catalan, Esparto translates to Espardenya. It's easy to see how this could have contributed to the name espadrille.
But there's another option. Espardenya is a marine animal commonly found in dishes in Ibiza, Spain. A quick look at an espardenya dish reveals the resemblance of espardenya to the fibrous esparto grass. Finally, there's the possibility that espadrilles' name originated from Espartinas, which is a city in Spain.
Regardless of the name, original esparto espadrilles were similar to modern-day espadrilles. However, they were primarily used by male and female peasants. Over time, laborers began wearing espadrilles, turning them into a trend that spanned across the Mediterranean. Eventually, espadrilles found popularity in the United States when the 1940s film, Key Largo, was released.
After that point, big names in the film and fashion industry shaped the evolution of espadrilles shoes on the market. Fashion designer Laurent developed the espadrille wedge in the 70s. In the 80s, espadrilles received another public boost when Don Johnson wore them in Miami Vice.
The Political Espadrille Movement
The history of espadrille is part of a broader political movement. When Spain and France first developed espadrilles, they were only worn by peasants because of how cheap they were to produce. Laborers and wealthier classes, on the other hand, would wear leather or silk shoes.
In the 19th century, espadrilles became a symbol representing specific regions of Spain during the times of the Catalan independence and Spanish Civil War. Nationalists would proudly wear their espadrilles, which helped break the class barrier.
Once espadrilles became footwear people were proud of, word soon spread about their importance in European movements and wars. It was then that Espadrilles became trendy and underwent some changes. For example, the espadrille today is designed with more fabric sewn onto its top instead of relying solely on natural fibers to hold the shoe together.
Like espadrilles had an impact on social change, at Ubuntu we are dedicated to breaking class barriers and empowering women. Our Kenya based company employs over eighty women, many of whom are mothers of children with special needs. We pay our staff salaries above the minimum wage and provide health insurance, which currently only 19% of Kenyans have.
We are a proud life partner of Project RED, which is an organization fighting to end AIDS. Your purchase of red espadrilles supports our partnership with RED, with 20% of each sale donated to the fight against HIV and AIDS. With your help, we can offer up to 16,000 days of much-needed medicine.
Espadrilles Today: Style and How To Wear Them
Now that you have an understanding of their history, you may be wondering how to wear espadrilles. What makes espadrilles so versatile is that they can be dressed up or dressed down. They're an essential piece of footwear for anyone wanting to add style to their spring and summer wardrobe.
Espadrilles are comfortable shoes that will allow you to spend the day exploring a beach town or dance the night away at a wedding while offering your feet constant support. Express your fashion style by pairing your espadrilles with casual spring and summer clothes like shorts, dresses, skirts, capris, and jeans.
Here are some ideas on how to pair your outfit with espadrilles:
- Wedge espadrilles are an excellent choice for summer dresses.
- Mule espadrilles are a perfect option for denim jeans.
- For an office setting, try flat espadrilles that have a fancier finish, such as leather.
- Espadrilles flats also pair beautifully with skirts and shorts.
- For a quirky or playful look, choose any style of espadrilles that has bold, fun colors and designs.
These are just some ideas, of course. The beauty of espadrilles is that there are nearly unlimited ways to mix and match. Blend in with traditional espadrilles fashion trends or make a bold statement—the choice is yours!
The world fashion trend of espadrilles goes beyond the shoe itself. The natural braided fibers pair beautifully with several warm-weather accessories. These include:
- Jewelry with a natural look
- Straw hats
- Rattan bags
- Bags with natural colors
Essentially, any accessory with a natural, boho-chic look will leave you and your espadrilles looking stylish.
When it comes to warm-weather shoes, espadrilles are unmatched. Whether you're looking for beach shoes, travel shoes for your tropical getaway, casual shoes for a trip to the farmer's market, or fun-wear shoes for a concert, espadrilles will leave you feeling confident and comfortable.
How To Care For Espadrilles
Espadrilles aren't too hard to care for, but it's essential to know how to clean your espadrilles so that you don't unintentionally damage them.
Unlike canvas shoes, espadrilles are made of natural materials, meaning they shouldn't be put in a washing machine. Instead, put some soap on a damp towel and wipe the dirt off. Take care when working around the jute because, like what can happen with machine washed espadrilles, vigorous scrubbing can fray the jute.
Don't worry if you find yourself in a rain shower or if a wave rushes over your shoe on the beach; maintaining espadrilles is easy if they get wet. Because of the rubber sole beneath the jute, they won't crumble beneath your foot.
Instead, set them in a dry place and stick rolled up cloth inside them until they dry. The cloth will help with both the drying process and ensure that the upper fabric doesn't shrink.
What are espadrilles? A comfortable, versatile, and fashionable shoe that's a classic addition to any wardrobe. The beauty of espadrilles is in their flexibility. How to wear espadrilles is up to you, whether you're looking for a casual summer shoe or a shoe for a beach wedding or laidback office environment.
Explore our Afridrilles Collection to discover the variety of espadrilles colors and styles we offer. The perfect espadrilles shoes are waiting for you, and we're excited to be a part of your journey.