Is there really a ban on women wearing flats on the Cannes red carpet?

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Moya Crockett
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Kristen Stewart is the latest actor to rebel against the heels-only rule – but does it really exist? 

On Monday 14 May, Kristen Stewart made international headlines when she went barefoot on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Stewart, who is a jury member at this year’s festival, kicked off her Louboutin stilettos in front of a bank of photographers shortly before heading in to the gala premiere of Spike Lee’s film BlackKkKlansman.

The actor didn’t explain her decision to remove her shoes to the throngs of reporters outside the screening, but she has previously been vocal about her distaste for Cannes’ ‘ban’ on women wearing flats on the red carpet. At the film festival in 2016, she argued that female Cannes attendees shouldn’t be obliged to wear heels.

“It has become really obvious that if [a man and I] were walking the red carpet together and someone stopped me and said, ‘Excuse me, young lady, you’re not wearing heels. You cannot come in’, then [I’m going to say], ‘Neither is my friend. Does he have to wear heels?’” Stewart said during a roundtable conversation reported by Vanity Fair.

“It can work both ways,” she continued. “It’s just like you simply cannot ask me to do something that you are not asking him.”

However, while the infamous heels-only rule at Cannes has been much-reported, the festival organisers insist that women are free to wear whatever height of shoe they like – as long as they look smart. 

Stewart takes off her shoes on the Cannes red carpet 

The controversy over women’s shoes at Cannes began in 2015, when sveral women attending the premiere of Cate Blanchett’s film Carol were turned away from the red carpet for wearing flats. At the same festival, security guards tried to refuse Danish producer Valeria Richter entry to a film screening because she was not in heels – despite the fact that she has part of her foot amputated.

At first, Cannes appeared to double-down on the idea of a rule against flats, with trade publication Screen Daily reporting that the festival had confirmed it was obligatory for all women to wear high heels to red-carpet screenings.

Rather confusingly, the festival’s director later denied that there had ever been a specific heels-only rule. “For the steps (red carpet), nothing has changed: Smoking (tuxedo), black tie. No mention of heels,” Thierry Fremaux tweeted.

Fremaux went on to slam the idea of a flats ban as nothing more than “a rumour”. He blamed “one security guard” for being overzealous when it came to enforcing the ambiguous dress code, and said that the festival’s ‘hosts’ would receive additional training on when and how to respond to perceived breaches of said code.

The festival later released a statement addressing the issue. “Regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years,” it read, noting that men had always been expected to wear tuxedos and women formal dress to gala screenings.

The statement continued: “There is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s.”

In conclusion: Stewart may not have broken any rules if she wore flats, but she certainly caused a stir by going barefoot.

Images: Getty Images