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During the summer vacation season, we're looking at the origin, history and evolution of iconic seasonal apparel that men and/or women will packing into their suitcases before heading off to seaside destinations. The espadrille has been a summer footwear staple for many years. Sometime shunned, before being lauded as a seasonal classic, the espadrille has made its mark on the history of fashion, becoming a summer must-have for men and women.

 

Origins

 

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Is the espadrille a French or Spanish creation? That's the million-dollar question. Legend has it that this kind of shoe was discovered on the feet of a skeleton in Granada, and history suggests that espadrilles were already being worn by soldiers of the King of Aragon in the 12th and 13th centuries. In any case, the shoe -- which traditionally has a sole made from braided jute or hemp rope -- is also strongly linked to the Basque Country. In fact, a family in Mauléon-Licharre -- a town in Southwestern France today intrinsically linked with the iconic shoe -- was responsible for developing the shoe's artisanal manufacture on a larger scale, ramping up the quantities produced and sold from the 19th century. If one thing's sure, it's that the espadrille was born somewhere around the Pyrenees. It then became popular among certain wearers, notably for its practical and lightweight design.

 

Success

 

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Soldiers, country folk, workers and miners from Northern France were among the first mass espadrille wearers, favoring the shoe for its practical qualities long before it was considered a leisure shoe, let alone fashionable footwear. The espadrille gained considerable popularity in the early 20th century, but its design, characteristics and use progressively evolved. First of all, the legendary jute rope sole was switched for a rubber sole, then major fashion designers -- such as Yves Saint Laurent -- made it their own with reworked and reinterpreted designs, boosting its popularity.

 

The espadrille today

 

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The espadrille is a 21st-century fashion accessory. Although previously shunned, the espadrille is now once again a popular choice for men, women and children from spring through fall. Many brands now offer models in rope, rubber and cotton canvas, manufactured by artisans in France or Spain. Espadrilles are now available in a multitude of colors and materials (synthetic, leather, lace, etc.), with flat or platform soles, and with various details and embellishments.

 

As worn by ...

 

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Italian blogger and designer Chiara Ferragni is a big fan of the espadrille, showing off a multitude of models on Instagram. She has even designed her own espadrilles, available to buy via her brand's online store. For several seasons, various celebrities from the world of fashion have been spotted stepping out in espadrilles on vacation or about town, such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jessica Alba, Gigi Hadid and Kristen Stewart.

 

Article first published on AFP RelaxNews.