Pope Francis is known as a simple, down-to-earth kind of guy. The Cool Pope sneaks out of the Vatican to help the poor, refuses to ride in the bulletproof Popemobile and sprung for a modest guest house over the lavish papal apartments.
His ultra-chill lifestyle is admired by many — but it turns out a few people aren’t so thrilled.
According to the Catholic news site Crux, the Cool Pope’s frugal ways have inspired a “backlash among fashion-conscious Italians,” particularly among the artisans who create his wardrobe.
These tailors and shoemakers complain that Francis’ “papal athleisure” is hurting business and making Sunday mass a lot less fabulous.
“It’s not a question of agreeing [with the pope’s choices],” tailor Raniero Mancinelli tells the Crux, before conceding that the new clerical garb is “maybe too plain compared to how [it was] before.”
Francis’ ascetic chic has reportedly spread to other clergy members around the world, with cardinals clamoring for plain wool cassocks and opting for wood or metal crosses instead of the gem-encrusted bling popular during the Pope Benedict’s reign.
When Mancinelli first opened his shop in 1962, right next to the Vatican, cardinals still traipsed about in 20-foot trains. Though Pope Paul VI eliminated those cumbersome robes in the 1960s, the papacy continued to employ the ol’ razzle dazzle for years.
As Crux notes, Pope John Paul II could “rock a cape” like no one else, posing for photos “showing his red mantle billowing in the wind.” Meanwhile, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI garnered headlines for his ermine-trimmed velvet cape and bespoke red slippers.
By contrast, Pope Francis showed up at the Vatican after a trip to the beach with a torn sleeve. He wears only the plainest black loafers, eschews any ornament and prefers wool to silk.
“I don’t exclude the possibility that in the evening he just puts [his vestment] to wash and wears it again the next morning,” Mancinelli tells Crux.
The pope won’t even let the poor guy make him a new pair of trousers. “His are black, and I wanted to make lighter pants to wear under the cassock,” Mancinelli laments. “ ‘No,’ he said. ‘These are fine.’ ”
Though some more old-fashioned Catholics may miss the days when priests “dressed to the nines,” Mancinelli does see a silver lining in the church’s more modest tone.
“Maybe now we can concentrate more on the will of God instead of men,” he says.