Those ones above are the oldies but goodies of my collection. They are waiting for me right where you see them, just inside the door at Whale Cottage, Prince Edward Island, smeared with PEI beach sand, broken in and loose-fitting. Perfect. My love affair with espadrilles is a long one. Certainly decades. Here are their undeniable virtues:
1. Coverage: They are the perfect summer shoe that still fully covers the foot, which the world needs more of.
2. Polish: They have the ease of sneakers but more polish thanks to their Euro origins (more on that in a minute).
3. Democratic: You can find them at every price point.
4. Versatile: Espadrilles come in so many styles and materials that you could amass an entire wardrobe of them (as I may have) to go with every outfit.
Today I'm indulging my inner fashion history nerd by bringing you the story of espadrilles, plus a bit about my personal collection and then finally my Top 10 Espadrilles on the market today.
A Brief History
Here's the shocker people: they aren't French. Espadrilles began life as alpargatas, rope shoes made in Spain (they are also known as espardenyas)! Spain is the epicentre of alpargatas production and has been for THOUSANDS of years. Yes, thousands.
This sandal version above in the collection of the Archeological Museum in Granada, Spain, is the oldest known pair and are estimated to be 4000 years old. The shoes were originally made from esparto grass, but for more than 100 years jute has been the fibre of choice. Current day production in Spain mixes jute with fibres from recycled clothing for added strength. Of course, as with many things, espadrilles are also now made widely across Asia using different materials and methods.
How Do They Do It: Making Espadrilles
Take a few moments to watch this great video explaining the traditional methods. It's fascinating!
The Rise of Espadrilles (Literal and Figurative)
Originally the shoe of choice for peasants, soldiers and traditional Spanish dancers, the espadrille first gained popularity in North America after Lauren Bacall wore them in the movie Key Largo. That, my friends, is unassailable great style. Other celebs to don them have included Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
Of course it didn't hurt when American royalty adopted them either. Here, a young JFK rocks his espadrilles (I call them manspadrilles). More manspadrille aficionados: Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and...wait for it...Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice. Quite the club.
Those of us who are vertically challenged have Yves Saint Laurent to thank for taking espadrilles to new heights. He designed wedge-heeled versions for a runway show in the '60s and commissioned Spanish makers Castañer to manufacture them. This pair shown above are early YSL shoes that sold at auction recently.
Espadrille Store, Montreal
Here in Canada, the Espadrille Store on Saint-Denis in Montreal (espadrilles.ca) is THE source for authentic espadrilles, still handmade in Spain. I'm really hoping to hit up this place on the way back from PEI, but even if you aren't headed to Montreal, the company offers e-commerce and worldwide shipping. They have every style of espadrille for women, men and kids (kidspadrilles).
Most exciting is their customization option. You can choose your style, your fabric and the style and colour of lacing to create your very own original espadrilles. How amazing right? Here are a few styles I cooked up (try it yourself here):
Personal Espadrille Style
I don't really need any convincing that espadrilles are chic, but if I did, this would be the clincher. Emmanuelle Alt is editor-in-chief of French Vogue and is my personal style icon. She does no wrong on matters of style. She wears espadrilles.
I wear espadrilles. My current favourites are these authentic handmade leather Palomitas by Paloma Barceló, made in Alicante, Spain. I lucked into them for a song at a sample sale last fall.
These ones are at the Tweed House and give me a surrealist-meets-preppy vibe.
Here are a few more in my espadrille wardrobe here in the city. I'm thinking up a DIY hack to bring a little more oomph to those beige wedges so please come back to see the "after".
Top 10 Espadrilles Summer 2016
As you can see , I definitely don't need more, but if I did, any one of these would do. I've assembled my favourites in a ready-to-pin collage. In particular I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket for No. 10, which I spotted recently at Simons (though they aren't on the site).
1. Classic and great for jeans or a navy dress. $15, Kmart.
2. A mashup of 2016's laceup trend + espadrille. $35, H&M.
3. Another classic mashup: MaryJane + Espadrille from Kate Spade's new brand, $145, Frances Valentine.
4. Perfect for with a black shirt dress. €60, Moose in the City.
5. Denim classics to pair with distressed or white denim (or distressed white denim), $24, Joe Fresh.
6. Flirty and fun with a chambray or Breton stripe dress, $39, Joe Fresh.
7. Perforated white leather for your LWD, $158, Anthropologie.
8. Earthy and neutral for your inner minimalista. $130, Rudsak.
9. The black wedges everyone needs. (A must for any garden party or outdoor wedding.), $88, J.Crew.
10. Soludos rose gold beauties to kick absolutely any outfit up a notch. $129, Simons (but not on their site.) See more details here.