Think of high summer footwear and you might first imagine sliders, or better, sandals; shoes that are easy to slip on and off around the pool, beach or bar. There is a third option though, and one that is arguably more stylish and versatile than its competition.
Espadrilles are a summer classic, humble in design and as easy to wear with swim shorts as they are rolled up chinos or tailored trousers. But what exactly are they, when should you wear them and what are the best espadrille brands out there today? Here’s all you need to know.
What Are Espadrilles?
The classic espadrille design has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Early forms of the shoe date back to around 2000 BC, with the Catalan region of Spain and the Basque Country believed to have been the first places in the world to produce them.
Indeed, the word ‘espadrille’ is derived from the Catalan word ‘espardenya’, meaning esparto grass, which is traditionally used to create its signature soles. They were originally a shoe worn by peasants and manual workers, but fast forward to today and espadrilles are a sophisticated summertime wardrobe staple beloved the world over.
This change in perception was no doubt helped by some of the world’s most stylish people adopting them over the decades, from Pablo Picasso to John F Kennedy to Yves Saint Laurent, as well as a large number of luxury brands appropriating the silhouette for their warm-weather collections. The recipe is a simple one: combine a canvas upper with a flat bottomed, esparto rope sole and you’ve got an easy slip-on shoe that’s perfect for hot climates.
When Should You Wear Espadrilles?
The obvious answer is: to the beach or pool. Espadrilles are a natural pairing for swim shorts, and are arguably the most stylish alternative to sandals or flip flops. Their rugged design is durable and able to take a beating, whether that means traversing over rocks and pebbles to find the perfect beach spot or getting wet by the sea’s edge.
Yet because they’re more stable and supportive than other beach shoes, they’re just as at home walking around town, or when bar hopping on holiday. Try wearing yours with tailored swimwear or chino shorts, a Cuban collar or terry towelling shirt and a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses for a look inspired by one of the espadrille’s most iconic wearers, Picasso.
The Best Men’s Espadrille Brands
Aurelien is a master at elevating humble everyday pieces into luxurious wardrobe staples. And its range of espadrilles is a case in point: using the classic esparto rope sole as a base, it offers takes ranging from sleek Belgian-style loafers to one-piece slip-ons, as well as leather woven sandals.
Crafted from the finest materials and built to last, its elegant designs will take you from pool to bar in style.
The Resort Co
The Resort Co specialises in sleek suede espadrilles, which it positions as the ultimate summer shoe. We’d be inclined to agree, especially considering its one-piece suede uppers and hand-stitched jute soles are finished in Basque Country, giving them a heritage and authenticity that its competitors often lack.
Available in a range of refined colourways, from sand to olive green, this is arguably the brand to beat when it comes to easy to wear, smart casual design.
Mulo began life in 2012 with the simple goal of reinventing the humble espadrille, a shoe the brand’s co-founder wore when sailing around the world. It’s safe to say it’s achieved that goal, with its signature espadrilles durable enough for the beach yet sophisticated enough to team with lightweight summer tailoring.
The classic canvas upper has been upgraded with Italian suede, and while the linen braid sidewall mimics the traditional esparto rope sole, an additional layer of rubber completes the design, giving it extra grip and making it more shoe-like than ever before.
Specialising in its unique mesh espadrilles, Rivieras classic French designs look as good by the pool as they do on days trips away from it.
Inspired by mid-century resortwear, they feature two-piece uppers in a breathable cotton mesh fabric, which feels surprisingly soft against the skin. Meanwhile, leather-lined insoles ensure all-day comfort.
For authentic espadrilles made the way they used to be, look no further than Castaner. Its workshop was founded back in 1927, and since then its worked with local artisans to produce traditionally constructed espadrilles complete with esparto rope soles.
The brand even collaborated on a pair with Yves Saint Laurent in the 70s, such is its expertise in the matter. Look to its classic ‘Pablo’ model for a timeless, two-piece canvas design, or opt for its more contemporary-looking Jaime T model with its seamless upper and distinctive pull tab.
Not content with a single design, Italian brand Scarosso has created a number of spins on the espadrille, ranging from driving shoes to penny loafers. All made in Italy from luxurious suede, they are equal parts classic and versatile, able to be worn with swim shorts or tailored trousers.
The colour palette includes shades ranging from tobacco and beige to olive green and camo, so whether you’re after something reserved or want to make a statement, you’ll be well covered.
Anderson & Sheppard
Anderson & Sheppard is not strictly an espadrille brand; rather, it’s one of the world’s finest tailoring houses and a bastion of elegance. Its haberdashery store on London’s Clifford Street has long been recognised as the place for beautifully-made shoes and accessories, of which its espadrilles are a regular fixture throughout the spring and summer months.
Made in Spain and featuring soft suede uppers fixed onto a traditional rope sole, they are classic, timeless and built to last a lifetime.