From foot soldiers to fashionistas: how Spanish espadrilles became a global style classic

From foot soldiers to fashionistas: how Spanish espadrilles became a global style classic

Classic, comfortable and good for the planet - these are the three qualities that have made our espadrilles a “must have” item to add a little glamour to your shoe collection. They are also the reasons these beautiful and stylish shoes from Barcelona have been around in the Mediterranean region for more than 800 years.

Mediterranean vibes in espadrilles

Over that time, the humble espadrille has become globally famous as the perfect summer shoe. Whether you’re strolling along a beautiful beach or strutting your stuff on a busy dancefloor, these versatile classics are the ones for you. And if Spanish strolling isn't your thing, you can even wear them to the office or step out to a sophisticated summer soiree. 

Viscata - Formiga Canvas Black Espadrilles

 

But what do you really know about these classic Spanish shoes and why have they become so famous worldwide?

 

The story of espadrilles

The simple espadrille first appeared as early as the 13th century, where records depict them being worn by Spanish infantry soldiers. But they’ve come a long way since then.

Spanish soldiers wearing espadrilles

 

These classic shoes were originally made by hand, using local materials, in villages and towns in the shade of the Pyrenees mountains (specifically in the regions of Catalunya and Occitania).

Fast forward 800 years and they have now become a true fashion classic. You can see them helping models glide down the runways and catwalks of New York and LA, all the way to Barcelona’s relaxed beaches and busy, cosmopolitan avenues like the world famous Las Ramblas.

Espadrilles on the runway

Viscata was born out of this ancient tradition and we share the same values as those traditional artisans who have hand made espadrilles with love and pride over the centuries. We’ve built on this extraordinary Mediterranan heritage but we’ve given our shoes a modern twist that brings them right up to date for the 21st century. We’re obviously proud of the skilled artisans who make our shoes by hand in the traditional manner in the hills of Catalunya. They know quality when they see it.

Artisan Handcrafting Viscata espadrilles

Respecting a proud history

Our heritage is who we are, so we respect it by (amongst other things) using eco-friendly materials including all-natural jute which keep your feet cool and comfortable at any time of year. But we’ve also given these traditional shoes a snappy 21st century makeover and now we’re proud to have the largest online selection of espadrilles anywhere in the world (and a vast array of fun colors and sexy styles).

Estartit Canvas Cherry espadrilles

Our clever cobblers have improved the original designs by adding modern touches and clever twists including the introduction of softer, more comfortable fabrics, stretchy elastic side panels to fit feet of all shapes and sizes, and modern manufacturing techniques to ensure every pair of our espadrilles are supremely comfortable right out of the box.

So, now you know - espadrilles have come a long way since their humble beginnings as an easy to make and comfortable shoe for peasants and soldiers. These days, they are lightweight, durable and easy to wear - the perfect shoe if you’re planning on spending long hours on your feet. 

Viscata - Cavall Canvas Black espadrilles

Apart from all this,  they still play a major role in the culture of Catalunya, one of Spain’s most beautiful regions, blessed with gorgeous countryside, great weather, stunning beaches, rugged mountains and one of the healthiest climates anywhere on the planet. No wonder the Spanish have the highest life expectancy of any nation on earth.

Catalunya’s regional dance is known as the Sardana. It is a symbol of Catalan unity and community pride. And guess what type of shoes the Sardanistes wear for this iconic cultural dance? That’s right - espadrilles!

 Sardana-catalana-Barcelona - alpargatas

The modern era

In the 19th century, espadrilles continued to grow in popularity and began to be manufactured and exported all around the world from their Catalan home. By the early 20th century, the process of product evolution continued as the innovators added practical touches such as stronger rubber soles to make them more durable and weather resistant. 

As often happens, celebrity use drives sales. Espadrilles became fashionable in the USA in the 1940s and the 1950s. Famous people such as screen star Grace Kelly, US president John F Kennedy, author Ernest Hemingway and artist Pablo Picasso turned this type of footwear a wardrobe summer essential.

Celebrities wearing espadrilles

By 1948 espadrilles got their first big international break when Lauren Bacall wore them in the movie Key Largo. US fashionistas were fascinated by these stylish and elegant Mediterranean shoes. Bacall’s wardrobe was tropical, carefree, and stylish - qualities that would soon become synonymous with the espadrille, so she became the ultimate ambassador for these gorgeous shoes. 

Lauren Bacall wearing espadrilles in Kay Largo

Then, in the 1960s the world renowned designer Yves St-Laurent ordered espadrilles with two-inch heels for a fashion show and, in an instant, these humble working-class shoes had become a beautiful, flattering fashion statement.

Later on, in the 80s, they became even more fashionable when other movie stars appeared in films and TV shows wearing them. Take Don Johnson, for example, who used to wear them while filming the popular show "Miami Vice".

Miami Vice - Don Johnson -espadrilles

At present time, both celebrities and royals love walking in style wearing all types of espadrilles: lace up wedges, closed toe pumps, slingback sandals... HRH the Duchess of Cambridge or Megan Markle and Spanish Queen Letizia have become the perfect ambassadors of this type of versatile footwear. In fact, Queen Letizia, for example, has recently accompanied the King in a tour around Spain visiting all the different areas affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our Queen Letizia has wonderfully matched all her different outfits with lovely espadrille lace-up and ankle strap wedges.

Queen Letizia wearing espadrilles
 
Thanks to all this, the march of the espadrille is relentless. They are hugely popular all around the world due to their infinite styles, elegant good looks and casual comfort. This has led to the outsourcing of espadrille manufacturing around the world with a wide variety of prices and quality. Many suppliers now have their shoes made in factories in countries as diverse as China and Bangladesh. But at Viscata, we won’t trust anybody except the very best. 
 
That’s why all our Viscata shoes are still handmade with love in Spain, by craftsmen who are using skills and techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. You can actually see their pride in every pair of Viscata’s that you try on.

Traditional tools - Handcrafting

 

This is what makes us unique - a total commitment to traditional methods, the highest quality craftsmanship, the best customer service possible and the widest range of designs and vibrant colors to fit your own personal style.

So, whether you’re on a beach in Barcelona or at a bar in New York - we have a beautiful pair of espadrilles that are just right for you.

The future

Are espadrilles becoming out of style? This time the answer is actually super easy: NO WAY! In fact, we can be 100% positive when we say that the future for the espadrille appears to be very bright.

But what's really in store for this comfortable yet stylish type of footwear? What can't be denied is that, exactly the same as the rest of the fashion apparel, the handcrafting of espadrilles is developing into an even more sustainable approach.

Sustainability - help environment

We all know that our planet is facing an unprecedented environmental crisis. For this reason, all footwear brands around the world are very willing to help our planet by diminishing their carbon footprint and that's why the use of vegan and other eco-friendly materials, like recycled marine plastic waste, is becoming extremely common in new espadrille designs.

marine recycled bottles

 

Because, at the end of the day, we all know that espadrilles are definitely good for your feet but we'd all agree that they can also be really beneficial for our environment.

So, in the near future, we are more than convinced that the espadrille will still keep the traditional handcrafting ways that skilled artisans have passed down generation after generation but new modern twists and more sustainable materials will be added to refresh and update the designs.

Will you still love them? We have no doubt. 

How to choose the perfect espadrille

You have probably ask yourself this question many times. Well, here you have some suggestion that might help to make this task a bit easier.

  1. Mold

When you find that perfect shape for your feet it feels like finding the Holy Grail, doesn’t it? Remember that, even though it is always useful to read other people’s reviews, the truth is that what fits well to an individual doesn’t have to work well for everyone.

Your espadrille must comfortably adapt to your foot’s shape, without feeling tight on either the toes or the instep but, at the same time, not being too loose to make the foot slip off.

Viscata - Golfet Canvas Espadrilles

  1. Insole

The insoles are in charge of distributing weight in a balanced way and provide arch support. Viscata’s cushioned inner soles provide with that extra comfort you need for long hour walking.

Palomera Suede Leather Cushioned insoles

  1. Materials

Being in direct contact with your skin, it’s crucial to pay attention to the materials used to make the shoe.

Viscata espadrilles are all naturally sourced and the best quality materials are always used. All these materials are selected for their ability to stretch and easily adapt to your feet.

The main material of the bottom soles is the jute, a 100% natural fiber, recyclable and biodegradable, very well known for its benefits for your feet.

Jute rope

 

Cotton canvas and linen offer great breathability, making your feet feel fresh and cool all day long. On the other hand, our premium leathers and suedes provide a super nice feeling of softness for even very sensitive skins.

All the above mentioned will allow flexibility and will perfectly mold to your feet, keeping it dry and avoiding those terrible blisters and skin rubbings.

  1. Outer Sole

A good outer sole must give your feet the right shock-absorption so that your foot soles don’t get hurt when walking. For espadrilles, the vulcanized rubber outer sole also serves as a long-lasting protector in case the shoes get wet.

Viscata - Calella Canvas Bicolor Jute Red

  1. Flexibility

Your espadrille must always allow for freedom of movement. A rigid shape will make walking far more difficult and will also make you feel tired more quickly. When you try on your new espadrilles, attempt to bend your feet forward and confirm the instep doesn’t hurt.

Viscata - Fito Canvas Black espadrilles

  1. Weight

To reduce tiredness and muscle pain you must always opt for footwear that is not heavy. Viscata espadrilles are very lightweight, thanks to the materials used for their handcrafting.

Viscata - Estartit Canvas Red Espadrilles

  1. Height

According to podiatrists, the ideal is to avoid totally flat shoes or very high heels and wear a wedge heel and never go higher than 2.75 inches but it also depends on your personal taste.

Viscata - Fosca Suede Laceup wedges Tangerine

Viscata offers a great variety of flat and wedged styles that could be the perfect answer to any type of need.

  1. Support

This is actually a key point to take into account when picking your espadrilles. An ankle strap is normally reported to be the most secure types but lace-up espadrilles or slip-ons can also be equally recommendable if the size and mold are also chosen right.

  1. Size

It could seem too obvious but we have all made the wrong choice in sizing at least once in our lives. Finding the right size in a brand is crucial to be able to enjoy the espadrilles you love.

Even though, our espadrilles are true to size and will stretch out a bit and adapt to your feet after a few wears, depending on the mold used to design them the size could slightly vary from one style to another. Other factors can also make you size up or down in some cases: narrower or wider styles for example. Finally, since the espadrille is mainly a type of shoe mostly worn in warmer weather months, we have to keep in mind that feet get easily swollen with higher temperatures and if the shoe feels too tight out of the box it might be uncomfortable later on.

We are aware of the difficulty of finding the right size when shopping online. For this reason, Viscata firstly provides with useful information regarding the length and width measurements of its styles and they can be easily found on the online store’s size charts.

Secondly, we facilitate the process of return and exchange for our customers as it is hassle-free and with no extra charge. You order your shoes, try them at home to see if they fit and if they sadly don’t, you can send them back and try other size or style without problems. As easy as that 😊

  1. Design

This is totally up to your personal taste and choice. Flat or wedges, closed or open toed, lace-up or ankle strap... We don't get tired of saying that the key, as ever, is to stick to what makes you look and feel good

It's true that we all seek that effect of elongating our legs and a espadrille can do the same great job as other popular styles like pumps or stilettos and with the added advantage to make you feel comfortable 24/7.

Do you wanna hear some style tips on how to pick a good design to give your legs those desired extra centimetres? Well, our Queen Letizia, like many other Royals, follow these easy guidelines:

  • V-cut styles are perfect to slenderize your figure, highlighting the visual effect of verticality and that extra length that you want.

 

Viscata - Pubol Canvas Leopard wedges

  • Nude / neutral tones are sometimes a better color palette to help visually elongate your legs, rather than darker colors, especially if you are wearing dresses and skirts that show the natural skin of your legs.

 

Viscata Roses Suede Cream Pumps

  • Opt for a clear instep, avoiding any extra ornaments, especially for ankle strap espadrilles. 

 Viscata - Estartit Canvas Jacquard bicolor red

Maybe you are already in love with espadrilles or perhaps after reading this article you will become a brand-new fan.

Either way, welcome to our Viscata family of espadrille lovers and thank you for your trust.

Thank you - Viscata Barcelona

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    Handcrafted
    by Artisans

    Handcrafted
    by Artisans

    100% Made
    in Spain

    100% Made
    in Spain

    MADE WITH NATURAL MATERIALS

    MADE WITH NATURAL MATERIALS

    Mediterranean
    Comfort & Style

    Mediterranean
    Comfort & Style