What Is An Espadrille?
Espadrilles are traditionally sandals with canvas uppers and a sole made from esparto rope. Originally worn by dock workers in Spain and France, the shoes have developed significantly over the years. The canvas upper has been retained and expanded upon (you can now find lace-up espadrilles, for example), and the soles are now made from jute.
Their end use has gone from labor to leisure, too. They’re beach shoes.
Espadrille History, Or “Those Are Men’s Shoes?”
It’s no secret that espadrilles have become ubiquitous in the women’s fashion world. As a good-looking, comfortable alternative to a sneaker, it’s an incredibly popular shoe for women. The ladies can get them in any version imaginable, from wedges to strappy sandals.
Their history, however, puts them on the feet of men. Dating back as early as the 14th century, these shoes were worn by dock workers in the Pyrenees region of France and Spain. In fact, the etymology of the word espadrille is based on the material from which the soles were made: esparto rope. Here’s the briefest foreign language lesson you’ll ever receive:
- French: espadrille
- Spanish: esparteña
- Catalán (language native to the Catalonia region of Spain): espardenya
One of the oldest pair of shoes ever discovered was a pair of flip-flops made from esparto rope.
Though they saw their beginnings as shoes for dock workers and then urban laborers, espadrilles are now considered classic beach wear. Many Spaniards (men and women alike) wear them in the spring and summer months around town, and Tom’s has a version whose popularity has skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent years.
How To Wear An Espadrille
Espadrilles are relatively unstructured and thus should be worn casually. No suits, no dress trousers, and certainly no evening wear. The only exceptions we can think of are two-fold:
- You’re getting married on the beach and are wearing a linen suit with no tie.
- You are Don Johnson playing Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice
Don’t wear socks with espadrilles. This defeats the purpose entirely.
Casual shoes are often best paired with casual outfits. Espadrilles work particularly well with:
- Bathing trunks and other beach wear
- Casual trousers (perhaps for an outdoor brunch outing in the summertime)
As you’ve probably deduced, the espadrille is not a shoe that plays nicely with temperatures that dip below 75 degrees. Here’s our season-by-season breakdown with color suggestions:
- Spring: If it’s a warm enough spring day, try these in a beige, grey, or denim-y blue
- Summer: Try any color available, have some fun
- Autumn: N/A
- Winter: You are pretty much begging the universe for frostbite if you choose to wear espadrilles in the winter
Espadrilles Versus Flip-Flops
These shoes can be a tough sell for some men. When most guys think summer shoes, they think of the flip-flops they’ve owned for years but will simply not get rid of. They’re comfortable and the epitome of easygoing. We understand.
Espadrilles succeed in a place where flip-flops can fail, however: city wear. Many arguments are made against wearing flip-flops in town, not the least of which is a lot of folks’ revulsion at seeing men’s nearly-bare feet in public. Whether or not this revulsion is well-deserved is a discussion for another place and time, but know that it exists and it makes a strong case for espadrilles.
If you have feet that are perhaps a bit unsightly, espadrilles are a lifesaver in the summer months. Lighter than a regular shoe, they’re easier to wear in sweltering heat. Offering more coverage than flip-flops, your toe fungus will go unnoticed.
*Editor’s Note:* Do something about that toe fungus, man. It’s a medical issue.
Who Makes The Best Men’s Espadrilles?
Thankfully, espadrilles are available from a few different makers worldwide, and they tend to be inexpensive relative to other shoes. Here are some of our favorites:
To Own Or Not To Own?
Espadrilles are not a shoe we’d recommend for most guys who are beginning to build their shoe wardrobes. It’s not terribly versatile and can’t be worn to most offices.
Not everyone fits into that mold, however. If you live in a mild or hot climate (the American South or Southwest, southern Europe, southeast Asia, etc.), an espadrille could be a great everyday, knock around shoe. They’re quite inexpensive relative to other shoe styles, and they’ll lend your outfit a smart look when the weather is right.
If it’s your tenth shoe to buy or if you live somewhere that’s warm all the time, you should own an espadrille.