MARY JANE SHOES: Little diary of an icon

Shoes are without remedies, definitely woman.

Heel, strap, they rhyme with feminine. If you say Mary Jane, it rhymes with… Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from  the wonderful wizard of Oz, even Winnie the Pooh’s Cristopher Robin. And it’s suddenly fairy tale!

alice_4Essential traits of Mary-Janes are the round toe, the strap on the instep and a low, chunky r
This style has been used largely for children footwear, since their first steps and with no sex distinction.

Mary-Janes are the emblem of an age and have become always more a distinct synonym for femininity. And they lived happily in women wardrobes… till our day!

Max & Co

Her real biography begins with the publication of a comic strip, in 1902, on the New York Herald. The adventures of Buster Brown, the “boss” in a group of naughty children, which included his little sister, Mary Jane (The blond girl in the pics below:)

buster brown                         51QPVNoNEYL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The enormous success of the comic stripes convinced the creator, Richard F. Outcault, to release to many manufacturing companies the licence to use his characters for their brands; so, amongst the others, Buster Brown became the trademark of footwear maker Brown Shoe Company, today industrial giant with an yearly turnover of more than 2 million dollars.

In 1904 a pioneering marketing campaign started to spread across all America’s shopping centres, that were populated by professional actors dressed as the characters of the comic.

Mary Jane gave her name to the strapped shoes, which started to slowly disappear from the boys’ wardrobes.


C.COx,Vintage shoes

When the flappers, modern and anti-conformist women, wore Mary-Janes in the 20’s, they wanted to evoke the freshness of youth, the light-heartedness and the young spirit that characterised that age, so much it can be truthfully identified as the age of the Mary Jane! 

20s morning

vita 20e tsy

Vintage 20’s shoes


From this moment on the mary jane started to undergo various modifications, in the shape and height of the heel, as well as the materials used.

The model changed through the ages, influenced by the trends and the peculiar social structure of each period.

In the 20’s were introduced transversal straps with contrasting stitching. In 1922 the T-bar strap was born, later used profusely for dancing performances (especially Tango), and reinterpreted in most ages after that!

Here’s for you a little tour in the history of Mary-Janes!

vogue august 1950

Cover Vogue America

August 1950

roger viver

Footwear created by Roger Vivier, ’60 vintage


Stunning and very colourful in intense yellow, these Mary-Janes with strings and drop carvings on the sides. Very Sixties!

1972 shoes

A bit comic-style, a bit pop and gaudy these variations on the theme mary jane, directly from almost kitsch avant-garde of the 70’s.



From Louis Vuitton Fall-Winter collection 2011-12.

Mary Jane with very thin strap and high heel. High seduction.

schiaaprelli margiela

Schiaparelli  (on the left) and Maison Margiela (right).  Unusual shapes and materials, curvaceous tips. 2015

…and after this journey, I’ll bring you in my wardrobe! A few shoots of my favourite Mary-Janes, which I bought a few years ago in Milan. Enjoy!

IMG_20150907_181941       IMG_20150907_183127       IMG_20150907_184051


Vintage effect for the aged, metallised model with low heel, vaguely 70’s. T-bar strap, wooden heel.

Materials: Leather and wood

Brand: Ganzo. Made in Italy

See you soon for another story, another fairy-tale trip!


9 pensieri su “MARY JANE SHOES: Little diary of an icon

  1. I love this type of shoes, in fact I own a few, too, but the red ones you posted, from the Louis Vuitton collection FW 2011/2012, they are perfect… I’m speechless, Alice combined with Dita von Teese, innocent and seductive, heartbreaker shoes 🙂

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