Max Berlinger, Esquire's style editor, explains the rather unusual choice.
"His mode of dressing really does reflect the mindset behind it," says Mark-Evan Blackman, assistant professor of menswear design at FIT [the Fashion Institute of Technology], of Pope Francis. "I remember when John Paul II was buried in those opulent bright red shoes. When the current pope was elected and chose not to wear the red shoes I thought that was very reflective of his approach to being a person functioning in a role."
Pope Francis has been big on symbolic gestures—paying his own bill at a hotel owned by the Church or washing the feet of inmates (two of whom were female) on Holy Thursday—and the black shoes and unadorned, simplistic regalia are just an outward acknowledgement of his progressive orthodoxy. "Pope Francis understands that menswear is meant to express the character of the man wearing the clothes," says Mary Lisa Gavenas, author of The Fairchild Encyclopedia of Menswear...
True, the opulent jewelry and fur-lined capes of yore have given way to humbler dress, and this break from aesthetic tradition says a lot of the man and what he hopes to achieve while doing his earthly duties.