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July 27th, 2009

Espadrilles: A Historical Legacy of Natural Elegance

Deerskin Moccassin with grass lining from Arnold Research CaveDid you know that modern espadrilles are related to shoes Native Americans were wearing over 8,000 years ago?  Espadrilles are shoes with cloth uppers and rope soles.  According to the journal Science, some of the 8,000-year-old shoes from the Arnold Research Cave in Missouri resembled espadrilles, in that they were woven from tough, fibrous plants.  Leather was also used in some specimens, including the one shown here.

Typically, such materials would have degraded long ago.  These shoes survived because the Arnold Research Cave provided a dry, protective environment (and because cave looters never stumbled across this shoe stash). Using carbon dating, scientists were able to determine that the shoes are over 8,000 years old.  The scientists found four complete sandals and thirteen nearly-whole slip-on shoes, showing that some styles never go out of vogue.

Expose by Charles David

Expose by Charles David

In fact, the more you read about the Arnold Research Cave discovery, the more you realize that some things never change.  Then, as now, shoe styles varied according to region. Ancient agave-based shoes from west Texas are very different from the woven styles found in Missouri.  Woven shoes found in Colorado were constructed of similar materials as the Arnold Research Cave shoes, but were made in a totally different style.  While they were probably far harder on their shoes than we are, our predecessors were attracted to unique, stylish shoes, just like us.

Pati by Pare

Pati by Pare

If you’re hoping to emulate the styles found at Arnold Research Cave, check out these modern espadrilles from the Shoefly collection.  Espadrilles are perfect summer shoes– they’ll keep your heels lifted and your feet cool and comfy as you frolic in the mid-summer sun.   Happy hunting!

Top photo via Arnold Research Caves.


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2 Responses to “Espadrilles: A Historical Legacy of Natural Elegance”

  1. shoe lover Says:

    wow…8000 year old espadrille! For some reason mine only last like 5 months! Big fan of and espadrilles.

  2. Colleen Says:

    Shoe Lover,

    You have some great suggestions! I just checked out the, and I absolutely love their wedge espadrille– especially since it’s eco-friendly! Thanks for your comment!

    ~Colleen @


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