In a historic visit, Pope Francis set foot in the U.S. for the first time today — wearing a pair of simple black leather shoes. The Pope was greeted by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Sasha and Malia, Mrs. Obama’s mother, and Vice President Biden and his family. The Pope will meet with President Obama tomorrow and is also making trips to New York and Philadelphia.
Known for his no-frills lifestyle, Pope Francis opted for the multi-functional footnote. Like many of his views — religious and otherwise — his choice of this footwear reinforces his belief that less is often more. Upon arriving at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., Pope Francis rode away in not a limousine but a small Fiat car.
While his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was known for wearing the traditional bright ruby red footwear of his position — with rumors that they were made for Benedict by luxury Italian fashion house Prada — Pope Francis prefers to keep things simple. Instead, he’s chosen the black shoes associated with those of a priest, shunning the practice of wearing red, the color commemorating the blood of martyrdom.
Pope Francis isn’t the only pope in recent times who has broken with footwear tradition, however. Pope John Paul II was known to wear simple brown leather loafers made in his native Poland.
Since the 16th century, the pope’s slippers were typically handmade in red satin and embroidered with gold thread. Pope Benedict’s were made for him by a cobbler in the Borgo, a series of medieval streets near the Vatican.
Pope Francis isn’t just toning it down when it comes to his shoes. He’s also opted to shed the fancy garments worn by Pope Benedict XVI, wearing plain papal whites instead.
So far, the maker of the pope’s shoes has been kept under wraps. But it’s more than likely that an Italian craftsman is behind them. And while the pope no longer has to commute to work on the bus, it’s a good bet his shoes rate high on the comfort meter.