The Revolutionary History Of Espadrilles

by MR Magazine Staff

When summer rolls around, we face a sticky dilemma when it comes to footwear: Sneakers, all-purpose and eternally cool, tend to quickly turn swampy; and sandals, light and breathable, expose the toes, the ugliest part of the body. (You know it’s true.) For centuries, inhabitants of modern-day Spain, southern France, and now around the world have proudly attired themselves in a shoe that splits the difference: the espadrille, a practical slip-on with a braided jute sole and a canvas upper. Espadrilles first entered written history in 1322 by way of a Catalan text referencing “espardenyas.” Today, though fashion brands have turned them into a high-end style statement, these shoes have humble origins and a complex history fraught with politics and yes, rebellion. Much of this history hasn’t been particularly well-documented, and it’s important to understand why. As political economist Francesc Roca explains, “shoemaking is one of the poor cousins of historical memory.” Unfortunately, this holds true for most garment-making (excluding those of royalty), as well as craftsmanship and folk art, which have been sorely neglected by historians. Espadrilles, it stands to reason, are no exception: they were worn by peasants and infantry, while the wealthy and powerful wore leather boots or silk slippers. Read more at Esquire.