Sandals with soul – and custom fit – from St Tropez

K Jacques’ handmade footwear has heritage appeal

When it comes to sandals, few make them better than K Jacques of St Tropez, a brand that dates back to 1933, when Armenian refugee Jacques Keklikian and his wife Elise settled in the Côte d’Azur fishing village. Intrigued by the strappy leather sandals worn by the local fishermen – five straps on the uppers, with a toe thong and ankle strap that secured them to the wearer’s foot – the Keklikians began crafting their own version and the cult-classic gladiator sandal (aka Tropézienne) was born.

The enterprise is now run by second and third generations of the Keklikian family and was awarded the Entreprise du Patrmoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company) label by the French state in 2011. I have a pair of the classic five-strap sandals (Homère, €210, first picture) – eminently sexy and flattering to both men and women – but there are literally hundreds of styles available today, including the elegant lace-up Janus (€300) and the bolder Caravelle (€240), with its substantial ankle strap.

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The straps themselves are available in over 250 hides – from calfskin and goatskin to alligator and python, in a staggering range of colours and finishes. The metallic, patterned and fluorescent leathers are chic, but it is the classic version in natural tan that I find the most flattering. And all of them can be customised and tailored to each foot. The double-layered leather sole, stitched together with imported Irish linen thread, is the basis for the perfect fit; a size 38 sole, for example, can be combined with size 40 uppers, or vice versa.

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I asked the vendeuse on a trip earlier this summer for a style recommendation for those who don’t dare to bare. “La Frégate [€295, second picture],” she replied, referring to the fringed version, with a sympathetic smile. I was sold: Frégates, then, for post-winter feet, and my Homères for when they’re sand-buffed and tanned.

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