Tuesday, 5 July 2016
Castañer - Las Alpargatas
People often assume that the espadrille (or la alpargata) is part of the modern trend for dressing down, but they actually have a long history in Spain, as do some of the firms that make them. As beach footwear they take some beating when you want something to slip on and step over hot sand for a cold beer and a cigar at a chiringuito. And they're also useful for wafting away wasps as you're trying to take a nap on your hammock.
John Wayne liked to match them with excruciatingly tight shorts, a cowboy hat and an open shirt. the man had verve. Humphrey Bogart more successfully matches them with some kind of loose and cool-looking safari shirt suit for the tropics. I imagine he's smoking a Spanish brand cigarette, something like a Ducados.
Sonny Crockett wore espadrilles with everything — baggy pastel-coloured suits in the main — the man adored them. I think he appreciated the lightness of foot when chasing dealers along Ocean Drive. I also think he went too far. I don't actually like seeing them in city locations. For me, they're strictly for the beach.
My good friend Paco swears by 'drilles from Castañer. We spoke about them briefly last year after I returned from my summer hols, though I was in no mood to write about summer footwear until this year's summer hols appeared on the horizon.
From what I recall of the conversation, he believes that Castañer's Pablo model (shown below, and available in various colours) is a Spanish summer classic.
This type of shoe originated in the hills of Northern Spain — away from the southern beaches that they are usually associated with — as labourer's footwear (the equivalent of the wooden clogs of muddy Northern Europe). In a classic espadrille, the sole of the shoe is made from coiled jute rope and vertical stitches connect it to the (typically) canvas upper.
Here at The Tweed Pig we concentrate on things that haven't changed and have earned the right to be respected. The Castañer family have been alpagateros since 1776, since that time producing pretty much the same kind of footwear they are known for today. The brand was actually established in 1927, then the company was briefly nationalised during the Spanish Civil War to make footwear for soldiers. The business grew in the 1960s when the espadrille consolidated its position as a classic shoe for lounging in the sun. Yves Saint Laurent was a big fan. he convinced Castañer to produce a wedged espadrille with the classic jute sole for one of his collections, and the style has appeared on catwalks with regularity.
Paco believes, though he couldn't check, that Castañer make white label espadrilles for many famous brands. If you're thinking of getting hold of some for your hols, you may as well head to the source.