We’ve had a love affair with espadrilles since we were barely walking. The classic Basque shoe has long been inextricably associated with summers by the sea, and it’s no wonder, since that’s where they were born.
What started as footwear for laborers on the coasts of France and Spain suddenly became oh-so-chic when worn by bohemians and the fashion jet set.
Salvador Dalí favored the traditional espadrille with ankle straps, and they became his signature in countless photos throughout his life. In the 1940’s espadrilles were sported by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, Cary Grant, and Grace Kelly.
At top, a Catalan volunteer in the War of Africa, 1859. Below, jet-setters in St. Tropez, circa 1960.
From the French Riviera to villages along the coast of Spain, it’s de rigeur to start the season with a brand-new pair which are subsequently worn non-stop into August.
Our Fonfrège espadrilles are made in the Basque village of Mauléon, the historic capital of espadrille manufacturing.
The surprisingly comfortable shoe may seem simple in design and materials, but it’s the méthode traditionelle that matters in discerning the best espadrille. Point of fact, there have been major efforts to legally protect French espadrilles from being threatened by cheaper, inferior ones from Asia.
We take our espadrilles very seriously. Because it’s seriously important to be comfortable all summer long.
Our espadrilles are made entirely by hand. The craftsperson begins with braided jute–a vegetable fiber used to make everything from rugs to balls of twine to burlap bags–in this case, it is quite literally the sole of the shoe. The jute is wound in coil-fashion within a simple mold. With each winding the jute must be pulled tighter and tighter so that it becomes a nearly solid form.
Then, the cotton canvas is sewn to the sole by hand. While some companies use a sewing machine, theirs tend to be not nearly as sturdy.
Follow our tips for how to buy and wear espadrilles: We recommend purchasing espadrilles in your exact size. For the first two weeks wear them as mules–without stretching the back over the heel. Then gradually begin forcing the heel part on. At first they will be almost unbearably tight but eventually, they will stretch and take on the form of your foot.