Clathrin-based systems are responsible for a large portion of vesicular traffic originating from the plasma membrane and the trans-Golgi network that reaches the endosomal compartment. The assembly of cytosolic clathrin forms the scaffold required for the local deformation of the membrane and for the formation of coated pits and vesicles. In this process, clathrin interacts in a coordinated fashion with a large number of protein partners. A subset designated clathrin adaptors links integral membrane proteins to the clathrin coat, a process that results in the recruitment of specific cargo proteins to the budding vesicle. This review focuses on the most recent advances dealing with the molecular basis for sorting by clathrin adaptors.