May 22, 2013


Category: Footwear

Judging by the increased sightings of people wearing Espadrilles in the recent days around Bangkok, I’m guessing that the demand for such footwear is now the “in” thing.

Just seeing it being worn by one of my younger clients the other day  (above picture) brought me back into my teenage years in the early 90s. At that time, Espadrilles were the rage – they were not too expensive and it was the coolest shoes to own once-upon-a-fad. I remember that Esprit was the only shop that had sold them, and they were pretty much out of stock for several weeks on end.

I also remember owning several pairs in different colours. Unfortunately, one of the reasons why I had a few pairs was because, each pair did not last very long. They get soaked really quickly if you stepped into a puddle or get caught in the rain, smelled really bad if you don’t wash them, and when washed too often, they fell apart. When you are a teenager going to school, and you take every opportunity to wear just that one pair of shoes when you are not in uniform, then it would be quite hard to keep such shoes in a wearable condition for long. I fondly recall owning a peach-coloured wedged Espadrilles that comes with what looked like a ballerina-shoes strings which was used to tie around my ankles.

As it comes to light, Espadrilles were once the shoes worn by peasants (source: wiki), but has since gained popularity. The shoes are made of cloth and have flexible soles made of jute rope – the defining characteristics of Espadrilles.

Funnily enough, the older folks who don’t quite agree with our fashion sense at that time called it the silly karang-guni shoes. I guess they were not too wrong about it as the jute rope seems like the kind of material they used to make a gunny-sack, and, in Singapore, we used to havekarang guni men.

To explain a little, karang gunis are essentially rag-and-bone-men, who went door-to-door to collect old newspapers and unwanted items to resell for recycling or reused. They would bring along a karang-guni (aka gunny sack) to hold the newspapers in, haul them on their backs and continue their rounds to do the collection of old newspapers or unwanted items.  That’s the long and short of it.

Karang-guni or not, the shoes are back in fashion. I don’t think they appeal to me anymore at this day and age, but, I don’t necessarily think they look bad.

If, however, I could find me a nice wedged espadrilles, that would be a very different story!

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