Before Pope Francis introduced the simple and functional attire for popes, the papacy was famous for extravagant accessories and bold-colored papal attire.
This fashion sense of the papacy has influenced secular fashion. In fact, in 2018, the Metropolitan Museum and Costume Institute’s exhibit was anchored on religion and “pope style”! The theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” highlighted the relationship between fashion and religion. And though it had mixed reviews, it was without question that religion and the Catholic tradition has influenced the world of fashion and art! (Read: For These Four Filipino Artists, Faith Can Be Fine Art)
So, here are 5 of the most iconic papal fashion–jaunty headwear, flamboyant footwear, and designer eyewear included– that the world have witnessed throughout the years!
Papal Fashion: Pope John Paul II’s Rainbow Vestments
In 1997, French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac convinced Pope John Paul II and several thousand priests to wear multicolored vestments for a World Youth Day state visit. In the Bible, the rainbow represented God’s promise of peace to Noah.
Papal Fashion: Pope Pius XI’s personalized cameo ring
Popes are famous for their statement rings. In fact, upon his election, a pope gets his own customized gold ring, known as The Fisherman’s Ring, and each ring is unique only to the pope. Pope Pius IX took customization to a whole new level when he donned a cameo ring of himself made of tiny diamonds!
Papal Fashion: Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI’s Designer Sunnies
It’s rare to see a pope in sunglasses because according to this article, doing so outside the papal grounds is prohibited. But two popes have been spotted with their shades on. In 1999, U2 frontman Bono gave Pope John Paul II a pair of his legendary tinted sunglasses in exchange for a rosary. And as a gesture, the former pope tried them on in front of cameras, though he never wore them in public. Pope Benedict XVI on the other hand wore a wire-framed and dark-lens sunnies on his way to meet the Italian president in 2015. According to reports, the shades were from designer brand Serengeti. (Read: Pope Benedict XVI Visits Ailing Brother in Germany)
Papal Fashion: Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Prada’ shoes
When Pope Benedict XVI became the pope, his trademark were the red loafers that earned him the nickname the “Prada Pope”. However, the red shoes were not from the Italian fashion house but from Italian cobbler Adriano Stefanelli. Because of the shoes, Newsweek named Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as a “religious fashion icon” and in 2007, Esquire said that he is “Accessorizer of the Year” because of the statement shoes!
Papal Fashion: Pope Francis’ ‘papal athleisure’
The flashy phase of the papacy lasted only until the pope emeritus stepped down. His successor, the current Pope Francis has displayed a more minimalistic style since taking over the leadership of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has bypassed traditional and extravagant garb such as the red mozzetta, the gold-embroidered papal stole, and many others in favor of simpler fabrics, wooden crosses, and plain, black shoes– “papal athleisure” said Catholic news site Crux. In 2013, Esquire named Pope Francis the “Best Dressed Man of 2013” and said that his “sartorial decisions have subtly signaled a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church.” (Read: 5 Ways Pope Francis Inspires Us to Switch to Sustainable Fashion)