All About Espadrilles

Written by antonia blyth
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All About Espadrilles
A wedge with a paten leather top adds glamour to the everyday espadrille. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

I think espadrilles are always popular because they remind us of vacation.

— Estee Stanley, celebrity fashion stylist

Espadrilles: They're the beach shoe of your childhood, the wedge you wear with your favourite faded summer jeans and the comfy slipper you slide into when kicking back at home. Cute with jeans, dresses, skirts and pretty much everything else, espadrilles come in a variety of fun colours and styles. Estee Stanley, stylist to stars like Jessica Biel and Penelope Cruz, loves her espadrilles. "Every spring season we start to see espadrilles again as the weather warms up," Stanley said. "I think espadrilles are always popular because they remind us of vacation. Who hasn't packed their favourite pair of espadrilles when they're flying off to their exotic beach vacation in the summer, or even just to their local beach for a little bit of sun?" Year after year this classic rope-soled shoe stays strong in the fashion world. Fashionistas often wore them in the '50s with pedal pushers and nautical-striped tops à la Audrey Hepburn. Then, in the '70s, the shoe once again became a mainstay of street style. The beauty of the espadrille is its ability to combine comfort with style.

The Essential Espadrille

While the classic flat-bottom espadrille rules at the beach, the seasonal favourite also comes in a wedge -- a style that really came into its own in the '60s and '70s, when it was paired with flared jeans, flowing dresses and huge hoop earrings. Though the wedge version is a little less comfortable than the beloved flats, it can make them just a little less casual, too, showing range in the form.

"Espadrilles are typically thought of as pretty casual," Stanley said. "But I like what designers have been doing with the super-high wedge version. I like the idea of dressing down a long jersey dress by wearing a more casual shoe like the espadrille, but still in that super-high heel to keep it glamorous."

Even though wedge espadrilles lose comfort points to flats, they're still more comfortable than typical heeled shoes. The comfort of a slip-on with the style of a heel begs to be part of your evening wardrobe on a beach vacation. Even at home, it can give your daytime look a little zing.

Regardless of which style you go with, espadrilles are an essential. Many women even have both a wedge and flat version of the shoe.

"Who doesn't own a pair?" Stanley said with a laugh. "I don't even know when I started wearing them, but they're definitely a staple in my summer wardrobe."

High or Low Heel?

Los Angeles boutique owner Lisa Kline is a huge fan of the heeled espadrille.

Calling espadrilles a "sexy day shoe," Kline says the shoe can give a facelift to any ensemble. When she bought a pair of camo-print espadrilles with light beige ankle ties, they elevated her basic denim shorts and floral-print shirt to create a more dramatic, eye-catching outfit.

"If I didn't wear the wedges it wouldn't have been a cute outfit," she insisted. "All of a sudden people were saying, 'Oh, you look so cute,' but it was really the wedges. They just change your look."

Working with shorts, skirts and jeans, the espadrille's key to longevity is its versatility. It not only works with just about any item of clothing, it also comes in any colour or pattern you might want.

Kline particularly likes the neutral shade of the raffia bottom because it brings a classic, finished look to your outfit, while making a brighter top colour pop even more.

Not to be outdone by the wedge, the traditional flat espadrille is also more prevalent than ever. This is mostly due to the popularity of TOMS shoes, which launched an espadrille alongside its signature rubber-soled shoe. (TOMS gives a pair of shoes to an impoverished child for every pair sold.)

The flat espadrille's appeal is endless with faded summer jeans or a pretty dress. This is a go-to, comfortable shoe that adds a laid-back casual cool to your daytime look.

While they may not be as classy as the wedge, flats still have their place.

"I'm not a flats person," Kline said. "But I see a ton of people wearing flat ones because of the popularity of TOMS shoes. I do think they're stylish and comfortable."

Espadrille Origins

These rope-soled shoes originally came from the Pyrenees region in Europe. They are generally canvas and often come in a variety of bright patterns and summer colours. Popular with villagers working in the fields, with their study soles and protective tough canvas uppers, the espadrille also was affordable.

The word "espadrille" is French and comes from the Catalan word "espart," which is a kind of grass used for making rope. The soles originally were made with the grass before the cheaper jute fibre took its place.

The majority of espadrilles now come from Bangladesh because the country is a large producer of jute. While some of the shoes are still made in Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela and Bolivia, most are no longer manufactured in Europe.

Despite its humble origins, the espadrille is also a high-end shoe in its modern incarnation. Designer Christian Louboutin offers an espadrille wedge that's popular with celebrities and fashionistas alike.

After all, if Jennifer Aniston, Blake Lively, Megan Fox, Kim Kardashian, Kate Bosworth, Jennifer Garner and Leighton Meester wear espadrilles, how can they be bad?

"They really enhance any outfit to make you look like you are put together during the day," Kline said.

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