The Accessories Director of Marie Claire US (and the comedy genius behind Kermit-themed Instagram account Fashion Week Frog), Julia Gall, on the eternal appeal of the ultimate summer shoe.
Known for its simplicity and lightweight ease, the espadrille embodies the attitude of its Spanish countryside roots. Breathable, easy to slip on, and seamless to pair with just about anything, it’s the siesta of shoes. Democratically worn by soldiers, dancers (with the innovation of wrap around laces) and your average country folk since the 13th century, how has the espadrille stood the test of time to become such a footwear icon?
In the early 20th century, Spanish artists Dali and Picasso were committed to the easy shoe of their heritage. Shortly after, Ernest Hemingway, JFK and Grace Kelly brought the espadrille’s simplistic chicness into the global spotlight as the quintessential shoe for warm-weather casual dressing. I mean, tan legs in crisp little shorts with an espadrille wrapped around the ankle? Yes please! Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo were among the first houses to adapt this style into a women’s wedge in the 1970s, developing the modern silhouette of the dressed-up espadrille – or should that be dress-padrille? (Sorry, not sorry, this is the first of many ‘drille puns…)
A classic espadrille is made of a closed-toe canvas upper, sewn to a sole made of jute (or originally, esparto grass – hence the name) and finished with rubberized bottoms. They’re a sustainable and vegan shoe without intending to be one. Pretty cool. And as an easy to wear, easy to maintain summer destination shoe? Nothing is better. They’re more durable than a sandal, not nearly as awkward as a sneaker on the sand and perfect for a nightly bike ride for ice cream.
As an accessories editor, I have seen countless examples of how the modern-day espadrille has been “reinvented”: a kind of Frankenstein approach, taking one type of shoe and fastening an espadrille bottom to it. However, I’m not one to knock innovation, so here are a few hybrids that deserve some recognition, in my book:
-the sneakerdrille, an athletic sneaker on top, espadrille bottom. (Practical!)
-the stilettodrille, a high-heeled espadrille with a skinny heel instead of a wedge, the most brilliant example being the collaboration between iconic espadrille maker Castañer and Manolo Blahnik a couple of years ago. (Chic!)
-the discodrille, an ankle strapped sandal with a super stacked espadrille heel and platform footbed. (Fun!)
-the bootiedrille, it sounds like a workout, but it’s actually a shearling lined suede bootie with an espadrille bottom. Joseph Altuzurra made these a few seasons ago, with a nod to his Basque heritage. (Classic!)
One of the most iconic espadrille moments in recent fashion history was Prada’s Spring 2011 collection, where Miuccia Prada melded bold stripes, monkey and banana graphics and (of course) espadrille details on platform wedge Mary Janes and brogues. I had to have a pair – and they’re still some of my favorite shoes ever made. With all of these modern interpretations, the concept of espadrille as a soft-soled easy summer shoe has been flipped on its head (or rather, feet). Are they now for more than just hot-weather relaxed dressing? Personally, I’ve never understood the appeal of wearing espadrilles on a metropolitan city sidewalk. Wearing them on grubby pavements amongst bags of garbage out for collection makes me want to quote Carrie Bradshaw on baby talk during sex: “Stop, stop! You’re ruining it!?” Let them exist as a nostalgic summer shoe, period. Like a rosé-induced nap on the grass with a sunny breeze, but in shoe form. Something not to be mucked up with city street ickiness. With a big question mark hanging over this summer, the city streets may be the only place any of us are wearing summer shoes for a while. But hopefully we can return to the simplistic, long days of espadrille-clad summers. No matter your personal style and wherever you’d like to rock them (vacation or otherwise) there are enough espadrilles in the fashion sea for you to find your sole-mate.