By Michelle Crowe
We’re on a bit of a humble classics kick here at SE. Following up our ode to the indispensible canvas tote is a love letter to the Spanish peasant shoe, which over time has also been a must-have for Salvador Dali, and elevated to icon status by no less a sartorial luminary than The Duke of Windsor.
Humphrey Bogart, an unlikely fan.
Originally crafted in the Occitania and Catalonia regions of France and Spain, its name derives from ‘esparto’, the species of plant that was braided to create its iconic sole. Designed as an easy-to-wear utility shoe in canvas with a jute rope sole, it was worn not only by the King of Aragon’s infantry in 13th century but also by mine workers and priests, proving that the simple style has always had an appeal that transcends income level.
Rita Hayworth in a scene from The Lady from Shanghai
The shoe became synonymous with the Catalan national dance, Sardana, where dancers wore espadrilles with ribbon ties around the shin, known as ‘Espardenya’.
The method of making espadrilles has changed little in centuries. The sole is formed by coiling the plaited rope into shape, stitching it transversally (tough work when done by hand) and using an implement that looks like a straight-side rolling pin to flatten it. Traditionally, a thin linen upper is then stitched to the sole.
YSL shoes shown in Marie Claire, 1970s
Since Yves Saint Laurent gave the shape an elevated spin in the 70s, though, traditional linen exists alongside leather, lace, even velvet.
Snap them all up, there’s no such thing as too many pairs of espadrilles. They’re ideal for summer—just try to think of a summer staple that a pair won’t complement. Jeans, shorts, long skirts, wide-leg pants, all of them look great with espadrilles. Plus, they are comfortable enough to stroll the farmer’s market or a field full of antiques, while still looking sleek and stylish, which is why they are also a great choice for dashing through airports in the warmer months. Slip on a favorite pair and feel as though vacation has already begun.