Espadrille vs Plimsoll

Written by Kimberley | 12/06/2013




I hope I haven’t jinxed this dry weather writing this blog – I bet it is raining right now! But I’m going to risk it and say it anyway… The time is now to box away the bulky boots and let your feet breathe with some cotton and pique uppers.

How clued up are you about summer footwear? Do you know the difference between espadrilles and plimsolls? Or are you clueless and just following the trends? If you’re a follower then yes you are doing something right because these shoes are very on-trend, but shouldn’t you know a little bit about what you put on your feet?

I’m going to explore each type of shoe, digging deep into their history, backgrounds and their make-up because I’ll be honest – I didn’t know the difference either before this so hey we all learn something new every day!

Here we go… I’ll break you into this gently (just like you would a new pair of shoes!) Espadrilles and Plimsolls are easily confused as the uppers are both generally constructed from canvas but the definitive difference is the sole – an espadrille is constructed from jute rope and the plimsoll is constructed from rubber.



Espadrilles at Mainline MenswearEspadrilles were once known as peasant footwear but they have grown in popularity, now recognised as flat casual shoes ideal for wear during the spring and summer months. Generally, the espadrille shoe is a flat design and is traditionally constructed of either natural fibre or synthetic fibre rope but can also be constructed of flexible synthetic materials cast to resemble rope. The uppers can be made from nearly any substance and may have open or closed toes and backs in a slip-on design or tied to the ankle with laces.

The major design feature of espadrilles is the natural bright white jute sole – the eco-friendliness of the jute rope is favoured over synthetic substances. The jute soles typically include fully or partially vulcanised rubber beneath the fibre for longer life. The construction of espadrilles is considered to be more complex than that of other summer footwear such as sandals due to the jute rope soles but worth it for the appearance and natural quality, I think.



Plimsolls at Mainline MenswearPlimsolls are a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole. Unlike the espadrilles, plimsolls were originally developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company and known as a ‘sand shoe’, then acquiring the better-known nickname of ‘plimsoll’ in the 1870s. It is quite interesting how this nickname was derived – according to Nicholette Jones’ book The Plimsoll Sensation, the coloured horizontal band joining the upper to the sole resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship’s hull, and because just like the Plimsoll line on a ship, if water got above the line of the rubber sole, the wearer would get wet.

We all probably came into contact with our first pair of plimsolls at school where it was compulsory to wear them for physical education lessons – yes those horrible smelly black slip-on things with elastic instead of laces! The lace-up design is much more desirable nowadays but if you still prefer the elastic slip-on plimsoll you can find plenty of colours in our Flossy collection of plimsolls!

Now that you are more knowledgeable about spring/summer shoes view our extensive collection on Mainline Menswear – to be sure to not get confused between the two styles when searching, you can use our intelligent search bar at the top of the page and search either Espadrille or Plimsoll which will then load plenty of pages of your chosen shoe to browse and perhaps maybe even purchase.

Tip: If you want to search by brand try – Ralph Lauren, Lyle and Scott and Superdry for espadrilles and try – Penguin, Fred Perry and We Are Saints for plimsolls.

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