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As far as red-carpet fashion is concerned, the Cannes Film Festival is good. Maybe that’s because it exists outside the confines of Hollywood, where actors so often play it safe with their style, or maybe it’s just that the light in the south of France is better, making everyone look more radiant than usual. Either way, attendees always seem to approach the Cannes red carpet with a fresh sense of glamour and adventure. It’s a joy to behold.
Also a joy to behold: Kristen Stewart taking off her red-soled Louboutins halfway down the red carpet and walking the rest of the way barefoot, with her heels in her hands.
On any other red carpet, this move might just prompt a laugh, but the history of Cannes and high heels is a tumultuous one. In 2015, multiple women were refused entry to a screening of Carol because they were wearing flats — this, ironically, in a year when the festival was making a push to showcase the work of female directors.
The incident prompted some actresses to speak out against the festival’s archaic dress codes. “I think everyone should wear flats, to be honest,” said Emily Blunt, who was attending Cannes in 2015 to promote her film Sicario.
There were conflicting reports at the time about whether Cannes actually had an official rule against flats: Screen Daily said that festival officials confirmed that heels were obligatory, while a statement provided to Variety said the opposite.
“Regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years (tuxedo, formal dress for Gala screenings), and there is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s. Thus, in order to make sure that this rule is respected, the festival’s hosts and hostesses were reminded of it,” it read.
Whether or not Cannes had rules about women’s footwear, the whole debacle underscored the fact that women in Hollywood face disproportionate pressure to glam up for the red carpet. (Thus, they spend more time and money on the process than men do, even though they are often paid significantly less for their work.)
For more on that, look no further than this photo from a Hotel Transylvania 2 event, in which Selena Gomez wears heels and a strapless red dress with a slit up to her hip while her male co-stars, Adam Sandler and Kevin James, literally wear T-shirts and sneakers.
In 2016, Stewart wore a pair of black heels with a Chanel dress at the festival — only to change into some beat-up blue Vans after the official photos were done, a seeming nod to the previous year’s footwear controversy. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last year, the actress said that while there were certainly expectations about the Cannes red carpet, those were changing.
“There’s definitely a distinct dress code, right? People get very upset at you if you don’t wear heels,” she said. “But I feel like you can’t ask people that anymore. It’s just kind of a given. Like, if you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me either.”
When Stewart ditched her heels yesterday, maybe her feet just hurt. Maybe the carpet was slick from the rain and difficult to navigate. Maybe she was like, hey, I’m in the French Riviera, YOLO. But in doing so, she raised the specter of heel-gate once again.