La Manual Alpargatera is something of a Barcelona institution, it has been stocking handmade espadrilles since 1910. Located in Calle Avinyó in the heart of the old town, the shop has been visited by the likes of Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson and the Pope; all left the store with a pair of classic rope soled canvas shoes under their arm. But this is a shoe humble in design and price, a basic espadrille will only set you back €8.20.
At this price once can afford to wear them to destruction all summer long and buy yourself a new pair next year, though they also make excellent house shoes for the winter months.
The jute rope sole is the defining characteristic of an espadrille; the uppers vary widely in style and colour. They are worn by men and women, and are great for lazy summer days; especially since the back of the upper can be pushed flat and worn under the heal of the foot.
One of the beauties of this shop is the attractive array of different colours stacked neatly into slots in the antique wooden shelving. They also offer a wedge heeled number with long ties that wrap around the lower leg for ladies as well as the basic espadrille, and numerous other shoes and sandlas made from an assortment of natural materials.
Espadrilles have been made in Pyrennean Occitania and Catalonia at least since the 14th century. Here in Catalunya they are known as Espardenyes (and in Spain Alpargatas). Espadrille is their name in French, it derives from the Occitan & Catalan word for the shoes, espardenya (this derives from the word espart, the Occitan/Catalan name for esparto – halfah grass, a tough Mediterranean grass often used in making rope).
If you are in Barcelona be sure to swing by and pick up a few pairs.
Carrer Avinyó 7, Barcelona