Holy Fashion!

Most Fashionable Popes from Benedict to Pope Francis (PHOTOS)

'Esquire' has crowned Pope Francis "Best Dressed Man of 2013," but he’s not the only pontiff to have a distinctive papal style. See history’s most fashionable popes.

Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images; Getty; AP

Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images; Getty; AP

Papal Fashion

While popes tend to wear standard-issue robes, many pontiffs have broken the Vatican mold with their own style signatures. Recently elected Pope Francis has even been named the 'Best Dressed Man of 2013" by Esquire magazine, and is famous for his humbling apparel. But Francis’s predecessors had some panache too. From the medieval ages to present day, take a peek at some of history’s most stylish popes.

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Pope Francis (2013-Present)

Newly-elected Pope Francis is now known for his sense of style on top of his unconventional and progressive views, having received the title of Esquire magazine's 'Best Dressed Man of 2013.' Although the magazine admitted that its selection was a bit "unconventional," it explained that the Pope's sense of style has "signaled a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church." Most notable is Francis's choice to eliminate the red shoes typically worn by previous popes. Instead, Francis has opted for a black pair and has selected the least decadent Papal ring. Ann Pellegrini, New York University's Associate Professor of Performance Studies & Religious Studies told Esquire, "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."

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Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013)

Recently retired Pope Benedict XVI was “something of a clotheshorse,” the New York Times reported on Sunday.  Italian shoe brand Geox once admitted to sending him six pairs of maroon loafers per year, and his sunglasses were once a heated debate amongst Vatican onlookers. But no item in Benedict wardrobe was as famous as the pontiff’s red shoes, which were widely believed to be Prada until CNN filed a report on the date of his retirement, revealing that the scarlet shoes were instead made by a Roman cobbler.

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Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)

Pope John Paul II had some fairly indie wardrobe inclinations (for a pope, at least). In 1999 he met with Bono of the band U2, who gifted the pontiff his signature blue-tinted sunglasses in exchange for a rosary. John Paul II was known to favor Polish-made loafers—a divergence from the papal’s traditional Italian-made red kicks. He sprung for specialty outerwear in the wintertime too, wearing a “crimson wool cloak trimmed in old braid, at times allowing children to play hide and seek in its deep folds,” the Washington Post reported in 2005.

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Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)

Most high-ranking prelates carry a “crosier,” a ceremonial staff with a curved top, to demonstrate their power, but when Pope Paul VI assumed his post in 1963, not just any crosier would do: he commissioned a Neapolitan sculptor to custom-design a silver one in the shape of a cross.

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Pope John XXIII (1958-1963)

Pope John XXIII was the last pope to wear a medieval papal head covering called the “caumaro,” which essentially looks like a stout Santa hat—made of red velvet and trimmed in white fur at the base, just like the holiday classic.


Pope Pius XII (1939-1958)

Roman Pius XII was the only pope in the last century not to use the official papal outfitter Ditta Annibale Gammarelli. He had a private tailor instead. The persnickety pope favored gold-rimmed glasses, red fur-trimmed cloaks, and all the Vatican’s jeweled fixings.

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Pope Paul V (1605-1621)

Paul V’s papal style was so unique that it even spawned imitators. His elaborate cloaks served as inspiration for Pope Benedict XVI’s 2008 Ash Wednesday ensemble: a purple brocade robe with gold thread embroidery.

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Pope Clement V (1305-1314)

Popes have a long history of wearing papal tiaras—tall, cone-shaped crowns decorated with jewels—but according to Herbert Norris, author of Church Vestments: Their Origin & Development, Clement V was one of the first popes to introduce the triple crown, or “triregnum,” seen in all its glory on the following slide.

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Pope Innocent V (1276)

The first-ever pope of the Dominican order, Innocent V accomplished a lot during his short pontificate. In addition to trying to pacify warring Italian factions and unite the Greeks and Romans, he’s credited for popularizing the white cassock.