Espadrilles are definitely a French summer wardrobe staple. Despite being Spanish in origin, these shoes are literally on the feet of every French woman in the summer season. They are the quintessential summer shoe! Keep reading below to learn more about the history of espadrilles, how to wear them the French way, and shop my selection of the best espadrilles for chic French style this summer.
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What are Espadrilles?
“Espadrilles” in French, “alpargatas” or esparteña in Spanish, and “espardenya” in Catalan are a type of shoes made with braids of dried esparto grass, a tough, wiry Mediterranean grass used in making rope. The esparto rope sole is the defining characteristic of an espadrille; the uppers vary widely in style.
Espadrilles can take the form of casual slip-on, platforms, wedges, and even slides. Due to the cost and material availability, the soles of espadrilles are now commonly made with jute rope or braid. The natural bright white color of jute is a major design feature of modern espadrilles.
A Brief History of Espadrilles
Despite espadrilles’ modern and trendy appearance, this shoe style has been around since the 13th century. Its origins can be traced to the Occitania and Catalonia areas of the Pyrenees on the Spanish and French border.
This particular style of footwear was created to be simple and functional. Originally peasant footwear, they were popularised throughout the 20th century by many cultural figures, including Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and later John F. Kennedy or Yves Saint Laurent.
The stars of 1940s Hollywood really brought espadrilles into mainstream fashion. A few iconic examples include Rita Hayworth, who sported a white pair in her 1947 film The Lady From Shanghai, and Lauren Bacall, who wore them for the 1948 feature Key Largo.
In the 1970s, French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent first popularized the wedge-shaped espadrilles. Saint Laurent met with Spanish manufacturer Castañer at a trade show in Paris and subsequently commissioned an espadrille with a unique new design feature: a wedged heel.
This style became an instant success! The shoe was a highlight of 1970s footwear —the sturdy heel and bohemian vibe fit right in with the trends of the era. Castañer, a label founded in the city of Bañolas in 1927, continues to make this design.
8 Chic Espadrilles You Need This Summer
- Roger Vivier strass buckle babies espadrilles
- Chanel Cotton tweed & grosgrain espadrilles
- Marie Marot x J.Crew limited-edition espadrilles
- Castaner Kenda canvas espadrilles
- Castaner Chiara 80 metallic canvas wedge espadrilles
- Tod’s Kate suede espadrilles
- Castaner Chiara 80 canvas wedge espadrilles
- Prada hemp espadrilles
How to Wear Espadrilles The French Way
When it comes to warm-weather shoes, espadrilles are unmatched. They 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.
Also, these summer shoes go with just about everything you can think of, from white straight-leg jeans to summer dresses. And what makes espadrilles so versatile is that they can be dressed up or dressed down. They can be an ultra-casual yet chic option for every day, but they can also work perfectly for daytime semi-formal events and evening smart casual occasions. With a French Riviera flare, these light shoes can carry you over from day to evening with no issues.
In terms of how to pair your outfit with espadrilles, essentially, any summer essentials —like white jeans, wide-leg pants, a linen jumpsuit, a midi skirt, or a sundress— will leave you looking stylish. Then, in terms of accessories, I’ll recommend pairing your favorite pair of espadrilles with a straw bag or a canvas tote bag. C’est aussi simple que cela! (It’s that simple).
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