Pope Francis’ personal style is as humble and simple as that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, was traditional and rich.
Unlike his predecessors, the current pope prefers austere white cassocks to the red velvet “mozzetta,” a short hooded cape trimmed with ermine. Gone, too, are the traditional gold crosses — he wears the same iron model he has donned since his anointment as auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992.
He also recycled a ring, known as the Ring of the Fisherman, which was not created specifically for him. According to media reports, the ring “was in the possession of Archbishop Macchi, Pope Paul VI’s personal secretary.” This is a historical departure since traditionally a new ring is cast for each pope. Pope Benedict XVI’s ring was made of gold while Francis’ is made of gold-plated silver.
Pope Benedict was also known to favor red shoes, often by Prada, but Pope Francis only wears sensible black leather shoes, understood to be made by a friend, Carlos Samaria, in Buenos Aires. His basic black watch with a white dial, reportedly a Swatch priced at around $56, has no particular functions. According to one report, when the strap broke, it took some convincing to buy a new one as Francis simply wanted to replace the strap. He agreed to the purchase only when he was assured that a new watch would not have cost more than the strap.
Similarly, Francis in September changed the lenses of his old simple frames, refusing to buy new ones. His visit to the optician in Central Rome made the news, as he was photographed checking out the lenses in the tiny store owned by Alessandro Spiezia.
Francis’ tailor Lorenzo Gammarelli is also in Rome, a sixth generation of papal tailors, near the Pantheon. According to the Web site “Il Mio Papa [My Pope],” Francis “wears exactly the same outfits” throughout the year: Cassocks in heavier, warmer woolen cloth during the winter and lighter woolen fabrics during the summer. “He wants only natural white, not optical, which is obtained only with a dye. Natural wool is cream ivory,” according to the site. Reflecting Francis’ lack of attention to appearance, one photograph earlier this year created a stir as it showed a frayed sleeve. He also wears a simple white wool scarf with fringes and a white wool double-breasted coat, with peak lapels and eight buttons, of which four are decorative.
A further sign that he shuns excess is that his sash does not feature a coat of arms.
Under the sober cassock, Francis wears a shirt, a sweater and pants. In spring time, he wears the “pellegrina,” which is a short mantel open on the front, sewn on the robe, always white.
He shaves more than once a day — even three times — out of respect for those whom he embraces on his visits. His electric shaver is one of the few possessions he carries in his vintage leather briefcase when traveling — and even boarding planes, as seen in photographs circulating in the media. The briefcase is non-branded and has bellows pockets.
“It’s normal. We must be normal…It’s strange that this photo has traveled around the world. We must get used to being normal. It’s the normality of life,” Francis said of the sensation created by the image.