In 2015, a group of women were reportedly turned away from a screening of Carol at Cannes because they were wearing flat shoes, an incident that thrust the festival’s somewhat antiquated dress code into the spotlight. Festival director Thierry Fremaux insisted at the time that high heels were not mandatory for women walking the red carpet, but it was widely acknowledged as an unspoken (and sexist) rule at the event.
In 2016, Julia Roberts famously took to the Croisette barefoot, while Conversations with Friends actor Sasha Lane followed suit at a photo call that same year. “The carpet was for our film and I was dressed in a very elegant gown and there’s a ton of stairs, and I’m walking around all day… so I will go barefoot,” Lane explained in an interview two years later. “Why is anyone against that? I’m still here and well-dressed.”
In 2018, Kristen Stewart arrived on the red carpet in skyscraper stilettos by Christian Louboutin, only to whip them off and face photographers barefoot. She had previously told the Hollywood Reporter: “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.”
This year, female stars continue to delight in flouting the old flat shoe “ban”. Cate Blanchett wore a velvet Giorgio Armani jumpsuit and a pink coat over the weekend, and stood barefoot on stage as she presented the Breakthrough Artist award to Iranian-French star Zahra Amir Ebrahimi. “I am going to take my heels off, in honour of the women of Iran,” she said, before giving a trophy to Ebrahimi. “This is to stab all the people that stand in the way of women’s rights.”
Meanwhile Jennifer Lawrence, who looked every inch the Hollywood princess at the premiere of Bread and Roses over the weekend, lifted the hem of her red Dior gown to reveal a pair of flip-flops underneath. The 70-year-old fashion renegade Isabelle Huppert, meanwhile, found a suitably subversive way to show solidarity with the barefoot brigade: by wearing moulded Balenciaga heels designed to resemble a naked foot.
The high-heels-for-women rule may not appear in the official Cannes handbook—and organisers may have distanced themselves from the requirement—but a female star choosing to walk the red carpet in flats (or dispensing with shoes altogether), still serves as a pleasingly rebellious two fingers up to the constraints placed on women. As well as, oftentimes, a very memorable look.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.