Just how radical are Pope Francis’s black shoes?

Any fashionista worth her salt knows the importance of shoes, so perhaps it’s not surprising that speculation has already surfaced about what Pope Francis’s choice of footwear could mean for his papacy. The New York Times reports: [Francis] wore simple black shoes and an ordinary wristwatch with a thick black band to his first Mass ...

Matt Cardy/AFP/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/AFP/Getty Images

Any fashionista worth her salt knows the importance of shoes, so perhaps it's not surprising that speculation has already surfaced about what Pope Francis's choice of footwear could mean for his papacy. The New York Times reports:

[Francis] wore simple black shoes and an ordinary wristwatch with a thick black band to his first Mass as pontiff.... In an ancient institution where style often translates into substance, Francis, in his first 24 hours as pope, has dramatically shifted the tone of the papacy. Whereas Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, was a theologian who favored red loafers, ermine-lined cloaks and erudite homilies, reviving papal fashions from centuries past, Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, appeared Thursday to be sending a message of radical humility.

But just how radical are black shoes? (After all, the innovations of new popes are often overstated.) While red shoes have historically been the papal footwear of choice, stretching back centuries (see the image on left of Pope Pius VII's slippers from 1808), they haven't always been as extravagant as Benedict's beloved red shoes.

Any fashionista worth her salt knows the importance of shoes, so perhaps it’s not surprising that speculation has already surfaced about what Pope Francis’s choice of footwear could mean for his papacy. The New York Times reports:

[Francis] wore simple black shoes and an ordinary wristwatch with a thick black band to his first Mass as pontiff…. In an ancient institution where style often translates into substance, Francis, in his first 24 hours as pope, has dramatically shifted the tone of the papacy. Whereas Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, was a theologian who favored red loafers, ermine-lined cloaks and erudite homilies, reviving papal fashions from centuries past, Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, appeared Thursday to be sending a message of radical humility.

But just how radical are black shoes? (After all, the innovations of new popes are often overstated.) While red shoes have historically been the papal footwear of choice, stretching back centuries (see the image on left of Pope Pius VII’s slippers from 1808), they haven’t always been as extravagant as Benedict’s beloved red shoes.

In 1969, for instance, Pope Paul VI abolished the ornate shoe buckles favored by cardinals and past pontiffs. And John Paul I, who was fond of the motto “humilitas,” continued to don plain red-leather shoes.

John Paul II, meanwhile, opted for a pair of ordinary brown shoes. But Pope Benedict XVI, a fan of tradition, restored the red leather. It remains to be seen whether the new precedent-setting pope — the first Francis, Latin American, and Jesuit — will also be the first pope in recent history to regularly wear black shoes. If he does, it may say more about the changes in store for the Catholic Church than you might think.

Wikipedia

Marya Hannun is a Ph.D. student in Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter at: @mrhannun.

More from Foreign Policy

Bill Clinton and Joe Biden  at a meeting of the U.S. Congressional delegation to the NATO summit in Spain on July 7, 1998.

Liberal Illusions Caused the Ukraine Crisis

The greatest tragedy about Russia’s potential invasion is how easily it could have been avoided.

A report card is superimposed over U.S. President Joe Biden.

Is Biden’s Foreign Policy Grade A Material?

More than 30 experts grade the U.S. president’s first year of foreign policy.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan gives a press briefing.

Defining the Biden Doctrine

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan sat down with FP to talk about Russia, China, relations with Europe, and year one of the Biden presidency.

Ukrainian servicemen taking part in the armed conflict with Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk region of the country attend the handover ceremony of military heavy weapons and equipment in Kiev on November 15, 2018.

The West’s Weapons Won’t Make Any Difference to Ukraine

U.S. military equipment wouldn’t realistically help Ukrainians—or intimidate Putin.