Espadrilles , a popular, casual shoe usually worn by women in warmer areas of the United States, have their origins in peasant shoes. These shoes have been worn since the 1300s in the mountains that separate France and Spain. Named after an indigenous plant used to make rope in the region, espadrilles are defined by their soles. Modern espadrilles may replace this rope with rubber molded to achieve a similar look as a way of increasing durability and allowing more variants in the shoe styling, including higher, wedge-shaped heels.
For a peasant shoe, the espadrille has come a long way. Today’s top designers such as Donna Karan produce espadrilles and they can also be readily found in lower-end shoe shops and clothing stores. Espadrilles were particularly popular in the United States in the 1970s and do see a periodic resurgence. Because of the non-leather materials, espadrilles are not costly, allowing many women to own multiple pairs in multiple styles. These includes the previously mentioned varying heel-heights and those with laces that generally attach at the back of the shoe that can then be wrapped around the ankle for support and shoe security.
The top of an espadrille is usually made of canvas and in a closed-toe style, but current variations also reveal the toes or feature cut-out heels for summer wear. Additionally, while the modern espadrille is usually only worn by women, the shoe has historically been for both genders, and men’s styles are seen in warmer climates and periodically as a trend.
While espadrilles originated in Europe, 90 percent of these shoes are now produced in Bangladesh because of the popularity of using jute to make the shoes. Jute is a strong and cheap, natural fiber, that has a naturally bright white color, making it easy to dye or present as is. Like most modern shoes, a process that was once entirely done by hand is now largely done by machine. To increase durability of the shoes, rubber, foam or wooden heels are often added to the espadrille, improving on the simple concept from which they originated.
While production has largely moved, small espadrille producers still exist in the Catalonia region of Spain.