Red Shoes

The recent news that the Pope Emeritus was not actually wearing shoes from Prada during his years in office raises fascinating questions, not only for the fashionista but also for the historian.  Image

Why did an unsubstantiated rumour about the pontiff’s footwear go viral in the way that it did, and why did the happy illusion last for so long?  

For many of us, the answer lies at least partly in Kansas, with Dorothy, Glenda the Good Wtich, and the desire to go home. Within recent memory, the shoes worn by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz were sold at auction for an astounding sum.

Like coats of many colours and magic carpets, coloured shoes are an object from the landscape of foklore, and they carry with them the imaginative potential to carry their wearer back and forth between incompatible worlds.  This, of course, is what we hope for from holy men–and women–of all confessions.

The larger and even more profound question–why are shoes generally so interesting, and red ones more interesting than most?–may have to go unanswered, at least for the time being!




  1. chrisannmatteo · · Reply

    Delightful piece, Kate and a witty comparison. I wonder if Benedict was hoping to “click” those red shoes when the helicopter (hot air balloon) whisked him away from the Vatican (Oz)? But now that you mention it, when I compare your photos above, the pope’s shoes match the carpet and so, blend in rather than stand out. Lucy was just confirmed in November, and I remember buying the red shoes she wore so that they would match (not stand out) when all the kids were robed, but would be a major accent against the dove grey dress when the kids were disrobed. So perhaps this is a consideration in the pope’s accessorizing when “layering”? Different “audiences,” different meanings?

    1. Yes! There is definitely something about finding different meanings in these signs…
      How great about Lucy’s shoes–I am sure there are a thousand other red shoe stories out there–perhaps we should be colelcting them!

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