Top Tips on styling espadrilles for the summer season.
By Frankie Graddon, Fashion Journalist
While summer is undoubtedly the season for sandals, there’s another shoe equally worthy of a spot in your warm weather wardrobe. Delivering on comfort and style-factor, if you haven’t already, now’s the time to think about espadrilles.
My first pair of espadrilles were bought many years ago from a little Spanish town during a family holiday. They were red canvas with ankle ties that I wore in bows, and the chicest thing to have ever gone near my 10-year old feet. I sobbed when I outgrew them, but have remained a devotee of the style since, always having at least one pair to hand when the sun starts to shine.
The appeal of espadrilles is longstanding. First worn in the 14th century, they were initially favoured by soldiers and workers, being both practical and cheaper than leather alternatives. In the 1940’s the style was given a sprinkle of Hollywood dazzle after movie sirens Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly and Lauren Bacall wore them on screen. The latter teamed a flat, ankle-tie style with a white shirt, waist belt and midi skirt in the 1947 film, Key Largo – an iconic summer look that is still referenced today. When Yves Saint Laurent designed a wedged heel version in the 1970s, the espadrille’s style credentials were confirmed and have remained so ever since.
Although the espadrille has humble beginnings (’espadrille’ comes from the word ‘esparto’, the grass traditionally used to make the braided soles) it’s well worth investing in a beautifully made pair that have been crafted from premium materials. After all, this is an enduring style you’ll be wearing for plenty of summers to come, so you won’t want them unravelling on your first trip to the beach. Look for soles made from sturdy woven jute with non-slip rubber bases that can withstand pavement pounding. Padded insoles provide extra comfort. Upgrade from canvas to soft suede which looks luxe worn day or night, and will last well.
Twenty four years after my beloved red pair, espadrilles are still my go-to holiday shoe. Slipped on with a sundress and basket bag they can take you from a morning of sightseeing to an afternoon spent perusing the local market. Or, add them to a swimsuit and linen shirt when heading to the pool. A bold, versatile print – such as leopard spot – will even work for holiday evenings. Stick to flats, such as the Monaco Flat (all the better for navigating those cobbled piazzas) and team with palazzo pants and a woven clutch for balmy al fresco dinners.
Espadrilles are also a smart choice for summer occasions, especially those taking place on grass, sand or any other surface which renders stilettos useless. A wedged heel looks suitably smart and creates an elegant line under jumpsuits, cocktail trousers and dresses of every length. I’ve worn mine with a tea dress to watch the polo and found a wedge sole the perfect dimension for divot stomping. Open toes, such as the Valencia Wedge, work for relaxed dress codes (don’t forget your pedicure) while more formal parties and weddings call for an elegant closed-toe style, such as the Monaco Wedge. Choose the ivory colourway and brides-to-be could even walk down the aisle in them.
However, espadrilles are not just high days and holidays; the true beauty of this summer shoe is that they can be worn in the city, too. Wear classic tan or navy in place of loafers with lightweight linen trouser suits, wide chinos and crisp shirt dresses to the office. A flatform style, such as the Saint Tropez, provides a little elevation while remaining comfortable enough for 9-5 wear, plus suede lining means feet won’t rub on the commute. Come the weekend, switch to off-duty denim and easy dresses for relaxed brunches, park picnics and afternoons in the pub garden – just add your favourite summer spritz.