The story of Pope Benedict’s controversial red shoes, which he will give up

February 26, 2013

Shoemaker Antonio Arellano poses with a red shoe he made for Pope Benedict XVI. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI will give up his Swiss Guard protection, his Twitter account and even the name “Benedict” when he officially abdicates Wednesday.

But judging by the Twitter chatter, the greatest loss of all may be his shoes.

The pope’s red leather loafers became something of a trademark during his time in office, landing Benedict in a few unexpected places — including the style pages of Esquire magazine, who named the pontiff “accessorizer of the year” in 2007. Several pairs were handmade by an artisan in the north of Italy who has also cobbled for John Paul II, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, writes Italy’s ANSA news; Antonio Arellano, a Roman cobbler, has also made shoes for the pope. While each pontiff has had his own style, red shoes are a papal tradition that goes back centuries.

The Vatican announced today, however, that Benedict would give up the shoes when he becomes “Pope Emeritus.”

 

 

 

The shoes made Benedict a reluctant and controversial fashion icon in 2005, when rumors spread that the shoes were Prada — an expensive and, many said, decadent brand for a religious leader. At the time, AP theorized that he was "compensating" for his lack of "natural charisma," so beloved in his predecessor, John Paul II.

Faithful need not worry that Benedict will go barefoot now. The Vatican said today that he planned to switch to a pair of less flashy brown leather loafers — the better to match his less flashy new life.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Max Fisher | February 26, 2013