History of Espadrilles

    Our Espadrilles are traditional handmade in La Rioja, Spain

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    The espadrilles! These shoes with their characteristic rope sole are nowadays mostly known as women’s shoes but has its roots in mens shoes.

    The history of the espadrille goes back for centuries. The oldest form of espadrilles dates as far back as 4000 years ago. These primitive version of today’s espadrilles can be seen in the The Archaeological Museum of Granada.

    In the 13th century the sandals, made with jute rope or braided hemp and with linen fabric, were already used as footwear for the King of Aragon‘s footsoldiers.



    The term espadrille is French and derives from the word in the Occitan language, which comes from espardenya, in Catalan or alpargata in Spanish. In Catalan it meant a type of shoes made with espart, the Catalan name for esparto, the species of plant that originally was burned then braided by alpargatero’s (the espadrille maker) to create its iconic sole.
    In the 19th century the production of the espadrille really took off. In Mauléon, a city in the French Pyrenees, the espadrilles were produced in large quantities. The espadrilles were worn by mine workers and soldiers, but they were also exported to South America. These espadrilles were produced in fall and winter by young girls, the hirondelles, in the espadrille factories.



    Every region in Spain had their own version of the espadrille, usually in black or white. The black espadrilles were worn through the week and the white espadrilles were worn on Sundays. The Original Espadrilles by Viva Las Bellas with the ribbons over the top of the shoe are originally from Emporda.

    Until the 20th century espadrilles were mostly worn by more workers and peasants. The shoe was both comfortable and practical with its natural sole that molds itself to the shape of the foot and allows the skin to breathe.



    Espadrilles became popular as a fashion shoe when it was seen on Lauren Bacall in the movie 1948 “Key Largo”. When Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth started wearing espadrilles as well, they became really popular by women in both Europe and the US. Around the 1960’s Yves Saint Laurent designed an espadrille with a wedge heel. This was a revolutionary design for the espadrille. For that point the espadrille went from the peasant shoe to a runway show star.

    Since that
     time espadrilles have never been out of style. Every season new designs, colors and materials are made. The Original Espadrilles by Viva Las Bellas stays true to the original design and are being handmade in Spain.