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Why espadrilles are the ultimate summer shoe

Why espadrilles are the ultimate summer shoe

No shoe has reinvented itself quite like espadrilles. Today, we know them as an elevated summer staple – just take a stroll along a bougie promenade in the French Riviera, and you’ll find pavements punctuated with designer espadrilles. That’s what makes their humble roots as a peasant shoe so surprising. Yes, you read that correctly: 13th century Pyrenees peasants were among the earliest adopters of the footwear we now associate with men of leisure. Their lightweight, flexible design made them the footwear of choice for everyone from priests and miners to the King of Aragon’s infantry. 

It wasn’t until the 19th century that the rest of Europe caught on to their appeal. The turning point? When artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali and world leaders like JFK, began sporting espadrilles, the world took notice. As did one prolific designer. In the 1970s, Yves Saint Lauren teamed up with a Spanish manufacturer to produce a wedge version that became a luxury must-have for trendsetting women. Talk about a social-climbing shoe. 

Photographed: Reiss Pablo Canvas Espadrilles (£35)

Today, espadrilles are a summer footwear essential worn by everyone from your average beach-goer to members of the royal family, and we’d argue they’re one of the most versatile styles available. Sandals may be seasonally on point, but they can quickly veer into cringy tourist territory – and they also require keen attention to foot care. Trainers are another summer must-have, but they get hotter and more cumbersome as temperatures rise. Espadrilles occupy that sweet spot. They provide coverage, while being lightweight, breathable, and evoking carefree nonchalance – the vibe we’re all going for come summer.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of options to choose from, but don’t be tempted by cheap price tags. Inexpensive designs can lead to blisters and overall discomfort, so spare your feet some pain and spring for a higher-quality pair that doesn’t cost a small fortune. Toms is one of many brands that offers reasonably priced designs in a slew of neutral colours, and the easy-to-pair shades mean you can wear them with everything, from your tapered pants and a linen shirt (the jetsetter’s warm-weather uniform) to shirts and shorts. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to go a bit bolder, too. Eye-catching colours or a patterned style, like this classic striped pair by Reiss, are far more interesting. 

While the traditional canvas and jute espadrilles are great for everyday wear, there are takes that are fit more seamlessly into other settings. Mesh styles are even more breathable than your standard pair, making them the perfect addition to your beach holiday rotation. If you’re going on a more active holiday, make sure to invest in a pair with a thicker rubber sole that offers better support and durability. And if your outfit requires more elevated footwear, there are loads of suede styles available that look handsome in swankier settings. We told you these shoes were social climbers. 

Words: Allison Pavlick
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Alexander McCalla
Styling assistant: Toby Standing