How espadrilles dropped their mumsy image and got cool – and the best ones to buy now

·3-min read
espadrilles cynthia nixton queen maxima Leila Ali - Getty Images
espadrilles cynthia nixton queen maxima Leila Ali - Getty Images

If you’d have told me five years ago that 30-year-old me would be pairing a lilac linen midi dress with wedge espadrilles for a friend’s wedding, I’d have laughed. At 25, I thought I was way too cool to be sporting a) midi dresses, but also b) such a drab style of shoes. Lo and behold last Friday, I attended a wedding in said outfit, but in an interesting turn of events, I felt very chic.

Much like my fickleness, the mood towards espadrilles appears to have changed: Gen Z (those younger than 24 years old) have deemed the so-so shoe a must-have this season, making the once mumsy fashion choice seem rather current.

It’s easy to see how they got there. With a ‘doable’ and comfortable wedge heel, they quickly became the preserve of those who wanted to look fairly dressy, but still needed a practical shoe. And let’s face it, it’s rare that anything practical ever feels ‘cool’.

The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex have long made Castaner espadrilles their summer signatures, wearing them with everything from wrap dresses to chinos and Bretons. With alternatives like strappy block heels and spindly but low heeled mules available, those looking for something less dowdy were well catered for.

Duchess of Sussex and Duchess of Cambridge - Getty Images
Duchess of Sussex and Duchess of Cambridge - Getty Images

But that all changed when J.Lo - leader of the camp redefining what midlife style looks like - posted a birthday bikini shot to Instagram earlier this week. In it, the 52-year-old sported a printed Valentino bikini, a glamorous maxi kimono and - shock, horror - fuchsia wedge espadrilles.

Even prior to her birthday selfie, the heatwave in the UK had sparked a rise in espadrille sales. Klarna, the buy now pay later service, reported that Gen Z shoppers (aged 16-24) were behind the 52% increase in espadrille sales, further increasing by another 53% after J.Lo’s fuchsia pair were posted.

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J.Lo is as synonymous with crop tops and low-rise jeans as she is with gold jewellery and tracksuit bottoms, so has long been something of an icon for Gen Z who see these items as their staples. It seems with J.Lo deeming the humble espadrille cool enough to make it into her luxe sphere, Gen Z are happy to follow in her footsteps.

While they do work well with any summer outfit, if you’re keen to modernise yours, your outfit requires some thought. Those keen on wedges but who also want to avoid the mumsy image, should keep hemlines maxi or mini. If you are going for that Duchess-approved midi length, go sleek: avoid florals or pastels, and pair yours with block-coloured dress, dark sunglasses and jewellery for balance.

Wedges aside, sneaker-style designs are having a moment too. Two members of our fashion team swear by the platform Superga espadrilles below which look great with wide-leg trousers and denim jackets. Espadrille sandals feel fresh with midi dresses, and are a must-have for city break holidays. If you’re after the classic shoe-style, look for a leather design which is much slicker than canvas and works well with jeans.

Five of the best to buy now and wear all summer

manebi mint velvet see by chloe superga imm
manebi mint velvet see by chloe superga imm

Hamptons wedges, £105, Manebi; Tan sandals, £109, Mint Velvet; Denim and leather espadrilles, £190, See by Chloe; platform espadrilles, £65, Superga; Silk canvas espadrilles, £123, IMM

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