Espadrilles or espardenyes, the flat rope-soled footwear is one trendy style that we must have in our closet. Dating to the 13th century, they were handmade, using the soles of esparto or other grass rope. From being comfortable regular wear shoes, espadrilles have become fashion essentials today. Be it on wedges or on a pair of high heels, it has become a chic style. Let’s trace the evolution of the espadrille from being just flat espadrilles to designer ones.
Espadrilles came from Spain. The name originated from the word esparto, which means a kind of plant that burned. Then, it’s beaded to make the soles. They were worn around the XIII century by the foot soldiers of the King of Aragon. By the 18th century, the town of Mauleon became the manufacturing centre for espadrilles. In the 1880s, these shoes were worn by mine workers. As they only lasted a few weeks, demand was high. There were about 30 factories in the old viscounty of Soule. By then, manufacturers started to export them to South America.
Made with braided hemp and linen fabric the uppers were of fabric woven from flax. Pitch was used to protect the undersides of the soles. The person who makes espadrille is known as alpargatero. His job was to make the rope soles. The person to sew the fabric and the band was called seamstress.
Espadrille was black, or it was left in its natural coloured fabric. On Sundays people would wear natural coloured one and the darker ones during the weekdays. Both men and women used to wear them. As an easy-to-wear shoe, they were preferred by clergymen, workers and dancers. They soon became the traditional footwear in the Basque country. Over the years, the way dressing style changed in Europe, so is the design of the espadrille.
In the 1950s, espadrilles evolved into classy footwear suitable for any season. During the 1960s, Yves St-Laurent made a particular order of shoes for the festivities in Paris. At the time, he asked for a pair of espadrilles with a heel. Soon the designer espadrilles became a fashion statement. From Hollywood actresses to ramp models, a pair of espadrilles with heels and ribbons that can be tied around their ankles, is a fashion staple in every fashionista’s wardrobe.