Cannes 2023: Why so many A-listers wear flats or bare feet on the red carpet

Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart have all made a heel-less statement at Cannes Film Festival over the years. (Getty Images)
Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart have all made a heel-less statement at Cannes Film Festival over the years. (Getty Images)

Jennifer Lawrence in flip flops, Cate Blanchett in bare feet. It’s not quite the look you would expect from an A-lister on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet – but it’s all for a good reason.

In 2015, a group of women were reportedly turned away from a screening of the film Carol at Cannes because they were wearing flat shoes. It is thought to be an unspoken rule of Cannes that high heels are mandatory for women.

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While festival director Thierry Fremaux has since debunked this, actresses began to use the Cannes red carpet to make a statement.

In 2016, Julia Roberts famously arrived at Cannes in bare feet. In 2018, Kristen Stewart arrived on the red carpet in stilettos onto to take them off when she was being photographed.

Julia Roberts went barefoot at Cannes in 2016. (Getty Images)
Julia Roberts went barefoot at Cannes in 2016. (Getty Images)

“People get very upset if you don’t wear heels or whatever… I feel like you can’t ask people that any more – it’s a given. If you’re not asking guys to wear heels and a dress, you cannot ask me either,” Stewart previously told the Hollywood Reporter.

Eight years after the women were told by security guards that they could not enter the screening as they were wearing flat shoes, the women of Hollywood continue to make a statement, like Lawrence and Blanchett have this year.

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“I think some people still find it difficult to equate flat shoes with glamour. And Cannes is the ultimate in glamour,” says Hannah Rochell, author of the En Brogue book series and a long-time advocate for flat shoes. “Obviously I disagree with this, and would much prefer to get on and off yachts in a stable pair of flats (preferably with grip soles!) or bare feet.”

Rochell herself stopped wearing heels 12 years ago and began her blog, En Brogue, as a way to document her flat shoe style. This expanded to Instagram (@hannah.rochell) where she has over 30K followers and promotes slow fashion. Rochell says she’s seen attitudes towards flat shoes change since she began her blog, which she started “out of frustration” for there being a “severe lack of choice if you didn’t want to wear heels”.

Jennifer Lawrence at the Cannes Film Festival
Jennifer Lawrence wore flip flops to the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. (Getty Images)

“Fast forward over a decade and you rarely see women wearing those vertiginous stilettos in everyday life that were so popular back then. I put that down to shoe designers catering for us flat shoe fanatics so much better (and there being so many more women designing for women), stylists giving us inspiration on how to wear them, and celebrities like those at Cannes getting on board on the red carpet, too. My favourite ever has to be Frances McDormand wearing bright yellow Birkenstock sandals at the Oscars in 2019,” Rochell adds (see below).

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: (L-R) Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell speak onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell at the 2019 Annual Academy Awards. (Getty Images)

As for the actresses at Cannes wearing flats or not shoes at all, Rochell says she “thinks it’s sad” that this is seen as a statement but understands their reasoning behind it, and that no one should feel pressured to wear a heel to a formal event.

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“I’ve been to plenty of weddings in flat shoes and am always the last on the dance floor,” she adds. “I can run for the bus if I’m late, I don’t get to the end of a work event and find my toes hurt. I don’t have uncomfortable heels languishing at the back of my wardrobe, unworn because I simply can’t walk in them. Plus I just think flat shoes look so cool.”

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