Pope Benedict XVI will hang up his signature red shoes, and enter into quiet prayer and meditation behind the Vatican walls as “Pope Emeritus”. It is a new position created just for this moment, once-in-900-years resignation.
What struck me about this piece of news as it broke was how a simple pair of red shoes became such an integral part of the brand of the Pope. The tradition of wearing red shoes supposedly harked from the times when popes wore robes and shoes fitting the liturgical colors. From then on, red shoes stuck on with the official dress and brand of the Papacy. Only the Pope can stir up so much attention with just his choice of shoes! This shows how potent a symbol of the Papacy the shoes are. Strong brands would often have distinctive characteristics and signs that are unique to them and stand out in the minds of consumers just like what we see here.
The current Pope restored the use of red papal shoes even though his predecessor Pope John Paul II opted for brown shoes. The Pope’s red shoes are specially made by his personal cobbler, Antonio Arellano from Gammarelli in Santa Chiara’s District, Rome. After his resignation, the Pope will keep his white cassock but would have to give up his red papal shoes. The Pope would be wearing brown loafers that were given to him by artisans from Mexico after his resignation.