Summertime is here, and while many of us have already done a little bit of vacationing, there’s a little Made in Spain thing that is made for a truly authentic veraniego: the espadrille (alpargatas). Before I spent a lot of time in Spain, my summer footwear was just about limited to flip-flops and other summer sandals (and let’s face it, they really hurt your feet, and in my case, your tolerance for them stands at zero when your heel cracks for the first time). But then when I walked around major Spanish beach towns, it wasn’t flip-flops that were the main shoe of choice: they were espadrilles.
Now wait, you’re probably thinking: All Spaniards wear the wedge ones everywhere? Nope (except for the woman at my gym who wears them on the exercise bike and to lift weights); there’s actually a lot more variety of them than the ones you normally see in New York, Miami, LA, London, or Palm Beach. You can find them in just about every shoe store around (and even in Zara!), but as a true proponent of finding things that are really authentic and handmade, here are three places where you can get your hands on them in Madrid, some more traditional and others more modern.
1. If you’re looking for something traditional… Casa Hernanz
A few years ago, when I was an alpargata novice, I checked, like any good New Yorker does, The New York Times. I had seen an article about Casa Hernanz, just off Plaza Mayor. And this is without a doubt the most emblematic place to get espadrilles in Madrid, While we often tend to get concerned about a place’s proximity to Plaza Mayor because of the fear of it being a tourist trap, coming here, like going to the rooftop bar at The Hat or eating your way through the Mercado de San Miguel, is absolutely worth it (while an expensive relaxing cup of café con leche is not).
Founded in 1840, and in the fourth generation, you’ll find the wide selection of threads and fabrics the family produces. And of course, the star product- the espadrilles themselves. It’s no wonder you’ll find a line out the door onto the street
Be sure to try everything on! You want them to be snug at first because they stretch out over time!
Calle de Toledo, 18
Tel.: +34 913 66 54 50
Hours: Mondays and Fridays 9:30 to 1:30 PM/4:30-8; Saturday 10-2 Closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
Metro: Tirso de Molina (Line 1), La Latina (Line 5)
2. If you’re looking for a “capricho” (to treat yourself)… Mintandrose
Mintandrose is a fairly new player in the espadrille market, but their 100% handmade models are making a splash not only in the fancier parts of Spain, but also abroad, including in American retailers such as Nordstrom and Anthropologie. With single-soled and double-soled models in a variety of hues (such as all black, white with a black tip, or marine blue with a white tip), this is your go-to for a splurge.
The main way to buy them is online, but in my experience the best thing to do is to try them on. You want them to be SUPER TIGHT because since they’re all made by hand, they’ll gradually grow looser (my first pair is now a little too big for my feet). They also make canvas models and the line has expanded to include sandals and bags.
stockists If you want to try them on go to…
Calle Pelayo, 66
Tel.: +34 626 56 04 82
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:30-2:30 PM, 5 PM-8:30 PM
Metro: Alonso Martínez (Lines 4, 5, and 10), Chueca (Lines 5)
3. If you’re looking to go where the locals go (and for other shoes all year-round, too)… La Alpargatería
They say that Chamberí is one of the city’s most castizo, or authentic, neighborhoods, in this ‘hood (which is my favorite to live in) there’s a hidden gem of a store at La Alpargatería. If you associate García de Paredes with the Extranjería office where your drop off your prórroga paperwork, than just know that this street is so much better than that. A lot of my haunts happen to be on this very street, and when it’s time for my pairs of espadrilles in the summer, this is my spot. I bought my family matching ones for our family vacation last year in Greece; let’s just say that I got them converted (or at least that’s what I’d like to believe).
The most basic model, which comes in a whole plethora of colors, is €7.50. That’s what I call a great quality/price example. My favorite color is crudo (which is a type of off-white) because it’s the perfect neutral tone that goes with most of my wardrobe, and it deals better with urban wonders that would get a white pair very dirty in no time. I’ve also gotten my black wedges there, perfect for those who like the idea of tying the rope up your ankles, but would rather buckle in at the top.
They even have new models, which you can see in the picture above, that have a rubber sole as opposed to the traditional one. This is perfect for city-dwellers who love their espadrilles, but want a little bit more safety in their step.
La Alpargatería isn’t just a place for summertimes espadrilles; they also have Victoria sneakers, ballet flats (aka manoletinas) in a wide plethora of colors and fabrics (suede AND leather), and if you need some zapatillas de casa (because going barefoot in your piso compartido really isn’t going to fly), they’ve got you covered.La Alpagatería Web Calle de García de Paredes, 74 28010 MADRID
Tel.: +34 913 08 32 11
Hours: Monday-Friday 10 AM-2 PM/5 PM-8 PM; Saturdays 10 AM-2 PM
Metro: Gregorio Marañón (Lines 7 and 10)