Pope Francis has picked up yet another year-end honor which may be his most surprising yet!
Esquire named him “The Best Dressed Man of 2013,” chiefly for the symbolism of his papal style choices. Pope Francis has largely avoided splendor, and is most commonly seen in a plain white robe and skullcap. He chose the simplest papal ring out of those proposed to him, and passed over the red leather shoes that were previously a customary part of papal dress.
Pope Francis has been big on symbolic gestures—paying his own bill at a hotel owned by the Church or washing the feet of inmates (two of whom were female) on Holy Thursday—and the black shoes and unadorned, simplistic regalia are just an outward acknowledgement of his progressive orthodoxy. “Pope Francis understands that menswear is meant to express the character of the man wearing the clothes,” says Mary Lisa Gavenas, author of The Fairchild Encyclopedia of Menswear, before adding: “No rapper-style popewear for him.”
True, the opulent jewelry and fur-lined capes of yore have given way to humbler dress, and this break from aesthetic tradition says a lot of the man and what he hopes to achieve while doing his earthly duties. He’s certainly been the most approachable Pope in recent memory, one who tweets his gospel, takes selfies, sneaks out of his modest apartment (he declined moving into the Apostolic Palace) in a disguise to help the poor, and even hangs out with Patti Smith.
Ann Pellegrini, Associate Professor of Performance Studies & Religious Studies at New York University puts it this way: “The humility of his garments offers a way to visibly display his theological and material concerns for the poor. This Holy Roman emperor really does have new clothes.”