Espadrilles (pronounced espa-drills, you’re welcome) are sometimes known as the gentlemen’s alternative to thongs. They’re thongs for when you really shouldn’t wear thongs. And considering their origins as a humble canvas peasant shoe, espadrilles are a surprisingly versatile summer footwear option. You can style them up or down, wear them to the beach or the office, with shorts, jeans or chinos. They’re also light, breathable and super comfy. Basically the perfect summer slip-on.
So let’s dive right in. This is your ultimate guide to men’s espadrilles.
What are espadrilles?
Even if you’ve never worn them, you’ve probably seen espadrilles before. They’re usually wrapped around the feet of European models in linen shirts lounging on yachts, which makes sense, since espadrilles really took off in Spain and the French Riviera. Technically, espadrilles go all the way back to 14th century Catalan, where they were known as espardenyas. They weren’t a fashion item in those days, obviously. People wore them as cheap, lightweight work shoes. They were slip-ons for peasants, laborers and soldiers.
So what are espadrilles? They’re basically a casual, rope-soled slip-on shoe with a canvas or cotton upper. The sole is usually made from esparto rope (in other words, braided rope) and that’s what gives espadrilles their iconic ‘woven’ look.
Espadrilles vs loafers
With loafers becoming a more popular casual shoe, there’s actually a lot of overlap between loafers and espadrilles these days. You can wear them to most of the same occasions (the exception being semi formal and formal events, where espadrilles will probably get you escorted out by the butler). Espadrilles do have a couple of advantages over traditional leather loafers, however. They’re lighter, more breathable, and more casual. Throw some COTTESLOE khaki espadrilles under a pair of navy chino shorts and a white button-up shirt and you’ve got the perfect, breezy summer outfit.
How to wear espadrilles with jeans
Espadrilles with jeans is such an easy summer win. All you have to do is take some off-white COTTESLOE espadrilles and match them with cuffed light-indigo denim. Finish things off with either a simple crew tee, or maybe a linen shirt. Job done. When it comes to espadrilles and jeans, you generally want a lighter wash, and a little more wear and tear on your denim. Stay away from black jeans, pristine formal jeans, bootcut jeans, or painted-on skinny jeans. Your beaten-up weekend slim fits will work perfectly for this look.
How to wear espadrilles with chinos
Espadrilles and a sharp pair of chinos is a quick way to channel those coastal, upmarket vibes. This look will take you from the beachside pub to your mate’s garden party, and everywhere in between. The only rules are: lightweight summer cotton chinos (nothing too heavy in the weave) and you have to cuff appropriately. We recommend a simple double cuff for this look. You want to flash a good four or five inches of ankle. (It probably goes without saying, but ditch the socks when wearing espadrilles.) Light coloured chinos will also pair back well with woven leather styles in tan and brown like the CABO.
How to wear espadrilles with shorts
Espadrilles and shorts are the peaches and cream of summer dressing. They were pretty much made for each other. They’re also a great way to elevate your summer style beyond the traditional thongs-and-boardies combo. Simply take your favourite pair of chinos shorts, denim shorts, or swim shorts, and match them with espadrilles in a similar shade or tone. If you want to dress up this look, go for a linen shirt. Dressing down? A loose crew tee or jersey knit polo is the way to go.
Espadrilles for the beach
With their lightweight sole and breathable cotton upper, espadrilles make great beach slip-ons. You can more or less wear them instead of thongs, although we wouldn’t recommend actually wearing your espadrilles into the ocean. When it comes to styling, take a pair of modern board shorts (that means board shorts that finish above the knee) and pair them with some simple COTTESLOE espadrilles. A fitted tee or open long-sleeve shirt is all you need to finish the beachside look.
Espadrilles for work
Espadrilles with a suit is a very narrow and specific vibe. We certainly wouldn’t recommend it for every office. But if you want to give it a try, here’s how it’s done. Take some navy COTTESLOE espadrilles and pair them with an unstructured, linen two-piece suit. Maybe something in navy, khaki or pastel shades. You want to hem this quite high – linen suit pants should never ‘break’ onto the shoe itself. Go sockless to accentuate that cuffed look, and keep the rest of your outfit fairly breezy: that means ditching the tie and throwing on some vintage sunnies.