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Why the pope dresses like that

The hidden meaning behind Pope Francis’s clothes.

The pope is one of the most recognizable figures in the world, in large part because of the clothes he wears: all-white robes, ornate ponchos, various hats. But not all popes dress alike; there is a certain amount of personal choice involved. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI was named “Accessorizer of the Year” by Esquire magazine for his signature red leather loafers. And Pope John Paul II wore a dark burgundy pair.

There are even different articles of clothing that correspond to different events and seasons of year. During times of penance, like Advent or Lent, the pope might wear a purple robe. For ordinary times, he might opt for green. And during major celebrations like Easter or Christmas, popes often wear white and gold to symbolize purity and joy.

Pope Francis has made waves within the Catholic church with his relatively modern and progressive takes on church doctrine and tradition, and his clothing choices can be read as a visual shorthand for those policies.

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