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What are espadrilles? Origins, uses and curiosities

Espadrilles are that type of footwear that has been with us forever and that we hardly know anything about. A comfortable and simple shoe for all kinds of daily occasions.

However, the history of the espadrille is very interesting and ancient. In recent years, its use has gone from being simply practical to becoming an element of fashion and trends, maintaining its essence of comfort, but adding a certain touch of glamour in the most modern designs.

In this article we are going to tell you everything you need to know about espadrilles, from their origins to the types of espadrilles that exist today, as well as their different uses and how to treat them in order to preserve them better. 

What is the origin of espadrilles?

Although they were not known as espadrilles at that time, we can say that their origin dates back to Ancient Egypt. At that time, the Egyptians used sandals with a structure very similar to that of the espadrille. It is believed that the Romans, seeing how practical they were, adapted them to their culture.

The legions in Roman times were characterised by forced marches of up to 40 kilometres a day during campaigning. On these marches they would carry up to 20 kilos of weight on their backs. In this context, practical and comfortable footwear was essential, so they adapted Egyptian sandals to create their caligas, leather sandals inspired by Egyptian sandals, the influence of which gave rise to espadrilles. 

These shoes have become so popular that they are part of the traditional costumes in many places in America, the Iberian Peninsula and France.

What are espadrilles?

Espadrilles are a type of lightweight footwear made of canvas or other fabrics, with esparto, fique or hemp rope for the sole. Originally, they were footwear made of cotton, animal fur or other natural fibres, which covered the foot and kept it protected.

They are also known as esparteñas, referring to esparto grass, the material from which they were often made.

Nowadays, materials vary, with synthetic fabrics and rubber soles being used in their manufacture. You probably already have an image in your head of what an espadrille represents for you, it is a very recognisable footwear. At Havaianas we have espadrilles for women and men in many different colours, styles and designs to choose from:

The Havaianas Mule Eco are espadrilles open at the heel and made of recycled cotton. They also have the BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) sustainability label. Available in several colours and with the rubber sole that characterises Havaianas shoes.

And if you’re looking for comfortable espadrilles with a 90’s touch, the Havaianas Fur Light are just for you. Made with denim on the outside and fur on the inside, they’re perfect for cold days!

What types of espadrilles exist?

There is a wide variety of espadrilles for women and men depending on their design and manufacture. The most popular are:

Types of espadrillesDescription
Flat espadrillesTheir flat sole makes them the most classic. They are characterised by having a piece of fabric from the tip of the foot to the instep and by having a completely flat sole. They are often unisex footwear. An example is the Havaianas Mule Resort Eco, unisex and in recycled fabric!
Platform espadrillesThe sole remains straight, but is thicker, which allows you to gain height without curving your foot. An example is the Havaianas Espadrille Classic Flatform Eco.
Wedge espadrillesThe sole is curved to make the toe lower and the heel higher. They are very common in women’s footwear, as they stylise the figure.
Espadrilles with strapsThese shoes include a strap made of fabric, rubber or the same fabric as the espadrille, which holds the ankle or is tied to the leg.
Espadrille MulesThese shoes leave the heel uncovered, so that the fabric only covers from the toe to the instep. One example is the Havaianas Espadrille Mule Loafter Print, with original, eco-friendly patterns.
Espadrilles with covered heelIn these shoes, the fabric covering the foot continues to protect the heel. An example is the Havaianas Espadrille Eco.

Regardless of the style you choose, espadrilles are a type of footwear that is all about comfort, always without compromising on fashion!

What are espadrilles used for?

Traditionally, because of their cheapness and practicality, espadrilles were mostly seen among the lower classes. During the Middle Ages, they were worn mostly by peasants and soldiers. 

Over time, the upper classes began to take notice of these shoes and espadrilles went from being something exclusively reserved for the less wealthy classes to a shoe that was fully integrated into the world of fashion.

Nowadays, their use is widespread throughout the world, especially in Europe and the United States. Many footwear brands include this type of model in their collections, as it is a comfortable and elegant option.

Especially used in summer, espadrilles are a footwear used by both women and men. Although their use is not limited to a specific context, they are perfect for strolling on spring, summer or autumn days. They can also be used as footwear to go to the beach, to parties that do not require excessive etiquette or outdoor events.

Can you wash espadrilles?

Espadrilles can be cleaned, although they shouldn’t be washed in the washing machine. Depending on the material they are made of, water can damage them and humidity can leave a bad smell on them. But then, how can we wash our espadrilles?

The proper way to clean espadrilles in order to avoid risks is as follows:

  • Start by wiping the dust off the surface of the soles. To do this, you can use a cloth, preferably a cotton one. 
  • Then, mix a little water and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. We will use this solution to make a paste and, with the help of a toothbrush, clean the stains that have remained on the sole. Remember to rub gently.
  • In case there are mud stains, wait for them to dry before cleaning them. Using the brush in this state will only make the dirt penetrate further into the fabrics. 
  • As for the canvas or fabric covering the foot, several methods can be used: clean with a little water and neutral soap, water and bicarbonate, or talcum powder to absorb the dirt (especially effective if there are grease stains).
  • After a few hours’ rest, they can be gently cleaned with a brush to remove the traces of talcum powder, bicarbonate or other products used.

How to wear espadrilles: What can I match my espadrilles with?

Espadrilles look great with white or printed dresses, especially with floral patterns. Shirt dresses or ankle-length dresses are also excellent allies to wear with espadrilles, but if you want to wear a more daring look, you can combine them with simple jeans, shorts or a mini skirt.

For men, these shoes can be paired with linen or silk shirts, playing with textures and prints to achieve a casual but attractive look.

Use these winning combinations and enjoy your espadrilles 100%!


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