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Espadrilles: A French Summer Wardrobe Essential

Espadrilles: A French Summer Wardrobe Essential

french shoe style espadrilles

Espadrilles are definitely a French summer wardrobe staple! They may seem a French fashion cliché, but these shoes are literally on the feet of nearly every French woman during the spring/summer season. Indeed, despite being Spanish in origin, espadrilles are beloved by French women almost as much as ballet pumps. For the French, espadrilles are the quintessential summer shoe —they are one of the summer shoe styles French women wear on repeat—.

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 straight-leg white jeans to summer dresses—. And what makes espadrilles so versatile is that they can be dressed up or dressed down. Indeed, 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. These light shoes can carry you over from day to evening with no issues, with a French Riviera flare.

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 to wear this summer.

What Are Espadrilles?

Espadrilles in French, alpargatas or esparteña in Spanish and espardenya in Catalan are a type of shoes made with esparto, 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, or 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 the modern and trendy appearance of espadrilles, 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.

It was the stars of 1940’s Hollywood that 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. As with many trends from this era, once the public saw espadrilles being worn by famous actors in the movies, everyone wanted a pair.

In the 1970s, the wedge-shaped espadrilles were first popularized by the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. 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. Once Saint Laurent created the first high-heeled espadrille, the style became an instant success. The shoe was a highlight of 1970’s footwear- the sturdy heel and bohemian vibe fit right in with the trends of the era.

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french style summer shoes

8 Espadrilles For Chic French Style This Summer

You can choose from two types of espadrilles: the ones with 2-inch heels give you a little extra leg length, while the flat ones are perfect to walk all day across uneven cobblestones in Paris or South of France this summer.

How To Wear Espadrilles Like A French Woman

Espadrilles are an essential piece of footwear for anyone wanting to add style to their spring and summer wardrobe. Essentially, any accessory with a natural boho-chic look —like a straw bag or market basket— will leave you looking stylish. Here are below some French summer outfit ideas on how to pair your outfit with espadrilles.

With White Jeans

With A Jumpsuit

With Straight-Leg Jeans

With A Midi Skirt

With A Sundress

Disclosure Policy: All products featured on Leonce Chenal are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

View Comments (2)
  • How would you pair them with petite legs? It feels like the laces on the ankle would considerably reduce perceived leg length 🙁

    • Bonjour Floriane! Thank you for your question 🙂 Yes, I have to admit espadrilles do run the risk of making your legs look shorter if the wedge and the laces around your ankle are too thick. For petite ladies I would recommend opting for espadrilles of nude colors; since they blend in with your skin color, the heavier wedge and ankle laces are less noticeable. Also, prefer espadrilles with pointed toes as they can also create the illusion of extra height. Finally, prefer espadrilles designed with thinner wedges (not necessarily lower) which will reduce some of that heaviness for your feet. I hope that helps! xoxo

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