The History of the Mary Jane

The History of the Mary Jane

The Mary Jane shoe. Where would we be without her? She’s highly adaptable, perfectly practical and oh so sweet. Her trademark is the ‘bar’ or strap that goes over the top of the foot and was traditionally fastened with a buckle or button. Now we have velcro which makes the Mary Jane even more of a winner.

Poco Nido Cream Leopard Mary Jane

Poco Nido Cream Leopard Print Mary Jane


Where did she come from?

Before there were 'Mary Janes', they were called ‘bar’ shoes and were worn by children in the late 19th and early 20th century. Surprisingly, they were worn more commonly by boys than girls. Another popular variation, and still is, is the T-bar. The difference being the addition of another bar creating a T.

Bobux tbar and mary jane shoes

1. Bobux i-Walk Delight Navy - Mary Jane          2. Bobux i-Walk Louise Dusk Pearl - T-bar

In 1904, bar shoes became known as Mary Janes when the Brown Shoe Company of Missouri named their bar shoes after the mischievous cartoon character Buster Brown and his sweetheart Mary Jane.

The Brown Shoe Company realized the marketing benefits of commercially associating themselves with ‘Buster Brown’ and paid $200 to cartoonist R.F. Outcoult for licensing rights. They also bought the rights for Buster’s sweetheart Mary Jane, whose character was based on the cartoonist’s daughter of the same name!

Mary Jane and Buster Brown The History Of The Mary Jane | Happy Little Soles


Mary Janes continued to be popularized throughout the 20th Century & here are some fun fashion facts:

  • They were a common pairing with the 1920’s flapper dresses.
  • In 1934, a young Shirley Temple wore white Mary Janes in the movie “Baby Takes a Bow”.
  • In the 1960’s, designer Mary Quant put model Twiggy in a pair, thereafter making them a fashion staple not only for kids but for women too.

So why are so many of our girl’s shoes Mary Janes?

Mitzi Rivas, co-owner of Livie & Luca, one of our most popular suppliers of the Mary Jane, says, “We love our Mary Janes. It’s our top performing silhouette and it’s because it’s so versatile and timeless. You can dress it up or down. The Velcro allows kids to take them on and off by themselves and our Mary Janes are incredibly durable.”

Livie and Luca Ruche Champagne Mary Jane

Livie and Luca Ruche Champagne Mary Jane

The Mary Jane is definitely here to stay and we have a great range on the website, cute and practical and as at home in the playground as at a party!


Mary Jane Style Barefoot School Shoes | Happy Little Soles

1. PaperKrane Kids Atlas Mary Jane          2. Pediped Kids Barbara Shoe Black            3. Young Soles Holly Shoes Black          4. Bobux Quest School Shoe