Don’t ask me why, but somewhere along the line, the once ordinary espadrille has become not only a fashion shoe, but in some cases, a luxury designer one. Considering its humble beginnings, this is quite the turn of events; no longer solely the flimsy summer slip-on you pick up for a few Euros at the French supermarket, you can now find high end leather espadrilles on the pages of glossy magazines and in the holiday section on Net-A-Porter.
“The French invented espadrilles in the Pyrenees (with a bit of help from the Spanish – the word espadrille is derived from the Catalan esparto, the tough Mediterranean grass used for making the rope soles.”
extract from En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels. (£10, waterstones.com)
While I still think it’s great to see some espadrilles as a cheap summer shoe option (we’ve all been caught in the rain and experienced the soles disintegrate, right?!), do be aware that unless they have a rubber sole (which many of the French supermarket versions don’t), you will have to throw them away at the end of the summer. You’ll also get more wear out of your espadrilles if they are made from a sturdier fabric such as leather or suede (this is what also makes them more expensive), although the fabric ones are a great option if you are vegan.
A new espadrilles brand that came into my life last week is Alice X, who very kindly sent me a pair to try out. Not only do them come in signature En Brogue colours (see the picture of them on my yellow and grey tiles, top – swoon!), but they are robust, with a woven toe cap as well as a rubber sole. Available in six block colour options, they are also hand finished to a beautiful quality. Of course, all of these means they don’t come at supermarche prices, but they’re designed to last much longer and look much more chic. I wore them during the heatwave and they were really comfy, and offered a lot more support than many shoes of this style.
10. Massimo Dutti red suede espadrilles, £69.95 (massimodutti.com); 11. Prism dalmatian print espadrilles, £156 (prismlondon.com); 12. Seasalt Cornwall lace-up espadrilles, £50 (seasaltcornwall.co.uk)
The high street also has a good offering at the moment, but I can’t vouch for how well they will stand up to a British summertime! It goes without saying that you should try avoiding wearing espadrilles in the rain at all costs! But I really like that there are loads of designs that aren’t classic, like Free People’s lace-ups (15) and Zara’s suede sling-backs (8). At the designer end, I am a fan of Penelope Chilvers espadrilles – I have two pairs of espadrille booties that I’ve had for years, so they do last (she has a new Breton stripe pair dropping in a couple of weeks) and I love the colourful ballet-ribbon styles, too.
One of the charms of espadrilles is their rustic feel, and I love the fact that you can buy make-your-own kits from the fantastic brand, Juta, as well as its own ready-made environmentally friendly espadrilles (they use off-cuts and biodegradable products only). If you’re not making your own pair, your shoes will be handmade in Shoreditch, London, by local people who would otherwise find it hard to find well-paid, flexible employment (you can read more about the brand’s mission here). The shoes I’ve featured here (6) are a Juta limited edition collaboration with Secrets of Green and the lovely style blogger, Julia from Stylonylon.