Espadrilles are sandals made of canvas, with soles of varying heights decorated with rope. The sandals were first made over 600 years ago in Catalonia, but the name itself is French. It can get confusing, though, if you look for espadrilles in Canada, since this is the normal Quebec term for running or jogging shoes. The French name for the sandal comes from the Catalan word, espardenya, which referred to a tough grass used for weaving the ropes that form the bottom of the shoes. Today’s espadrilles may no longer use espardenya, and rope styling on the bottom may be glued to wooden, plastic, or rubber soles.
The early espadrilles were peasant made and worn by peasants. A small amount of canvas combined with a rope-work bottom was much cheaper than leather. Many featured a lace up component to keep the sandals firmly attached to the feet.
If we jump forward to modern days, espadrilles are popular summer sandals, mostly made for women in many countries. They’re particularly associated with casual summer wear, clothing for cruise ships, and for women who want a dressier but still comfortable sandal look in hot weather. Designers make a number of styles, which can get uncomfortable if the heel is very high, but there are many non-brand name espadrilles that are cheaply made and purchased.
The soles of modern espadrilles are usually wedges, with a gradual incline of the heel. You can find flat espadrilles or platform styles, too. Many are slip on or slide versions, but still others may feature ankle straps to keep the foot more secure. Though many of the variants, especially of less expensive brands, feature synthetic roping around the heels, a popular feature is the use of jute, a natural fiber, to make the roping. Jute espadrilles with cotton canvas tops are made in great number in Bangladesh where they may be exported to Europe and the US.
When jute is used, gluing the jute rope to the shoe sole can actually be a laborious process. They may be not only glued but also stitched, and many feature extra designs in the rope weave to provide a fancier shoe. Despite the more labor-intensive work required in the manufacture of espadrilles, they are often less expensive than other summer sandals, unless you want espadrilles with a designer name. Then, expense is approximately equal to other designer sandals.