There’s a reason one of Hollywood’s biggest stars wore flats with her red carpet couture.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival is well underway and the star-studded event has already gifted us with countless glamorous, high-fashion celebrity looks. Jennifer Lawrence certainly lived up to that standard with her vibrant Dior gown worn on the red carpet on May 20 — but it was the flip-flops she paired with the look that really captured audiences’ attention.
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At first glance, one may think that the unique footwear choice is a nod to Lawrence’s “relatable” celebrity persona and a desire to prioritize comfort over style. But, there actually may be a deeper meaning behind the star’s decision to swap out her crimson high heels for the black flip-flops that she wore to walk down the carpet’s famous steps.
It’s widely known that the dress code for Cannes red carpets is formal, black tie attire, but there appears to be an unwritten rule that women are expected to follow to attend the festivities: they must wear high heels.
While the origin of this unofficial guideline is oft-debated, there’s no doubt that high heels have long been regarded as a staple of femininity and attractiveness for women. A 2022 study found that women in high heels were regarded as being more sexually attractive and of a higher social status than women who were wearing flats. And yet, while sky-high stilettos may complement an outfit, sometimes a chic, comfortable pair of flats is the more responsible call if you don’t want to be in pain all night.
No one knows this better than the A-listers who often have to attend hours-long events in constricting clothing and uncomfortable footwear. As such, there are several other famous female celebrities who have challenged this sexist “rule” on past Cannes carpets — and some have been more direct with their statements than others.
Isabelle Huppert and Cate Blanchett in 2023
Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t the only star to seemingly stand up against the rule at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. French movie star Isabelle Huppert gave a subtle nod to the absurdity of the guideline by wearing nude Anatomic heels by Balenciaga at the premiere of Killers of the Flower Moon. This wasn’t just any old pump though, the design and colour of the heel were made to mimic a bare human foot, which totally made it look like Huppert was defying the “only high heels” rule on the carpet.
@byclaytondavis Cate Blanchett presented the Breakthrough award to ZAHRA AMIR EBRAHIMI at the Cannes Film Festival. Taking off her heels to stand with the women of Iran. #Cannes ♬ original sound – Clayton Davis
Cate Blanchett took one of the most direct stances of all when she presented the Breakthrough Artist Award to Iranian-French star Zahra Amir Ebrahimi at this year’s festival. Before introducing Ebrhaimi on stage, Blanchett made note of the sexist “ban” as she said, “I am going to take my heels off, in honour of the women of Iran. This is to stab all the people that stand in the way of women’s rights.” Ebrahimi had to flee Iran when she was in her twenties after an intimate video of her and her boyfriend was leaked and a criminal case was made against her for having pre-marital sex. As the two artists shared a hug onstage, it became abundantly clear that Blanchett speaking out against the festival’s “no flat shoes” ban was actually a much larger political statement on the need to speak out on gender inequalities for all.
Kristen Stewart in 2018
Kristen Stewart also made a statement against gender inequality in the fashion world on the red carpet for Blackkklansman at the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Similarly to Roberts, Stewart ditched her Louboutin stilettos midway through her appearance and walked the rest of the carpet barefoot — and the star was much more outspoken about the alleged high heel rule. “I feel like you can’t ask people that any more. If you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me either,” she told reporters. “I get the black-tie thing but you should be able to do either version — flats or heels.”
Julia Roberts in 2016
As she walked the red carpet for the premiere of Money Monster back in 2016, Julia Roberts infamously kicked off her heels midway through the event and concluded her appearance barefoot. When asked about her decision to ditch the shoes, Roberts said, “A lot was happening from my ankles up. Let’s not forget all that. A lot of time and effort went into ankles up.” Whether this act of rebellion was a direct response to the “no flat shoes” rule at Cannes, its timing certainly makes it seem like it was a statement. In 2015, just one year before Roberts walked the carpet barefoot, a group of women were allegedly not allowed into a screening of a film at Cannes because they were wearing flat shoes.