mary-jane-etymology.jpg

In part two of our feature on how shoes got their names, we look at a Shoewawa favourite: the Mary-Jane. How did the girly shoe get its name?

We all recognise the Mary Jane or "Mary-Jane" as a shoe with one strap (or occasionally two) and typically a mid or low heel. The style dates from the 1900s and was originally worn by young children of both sexes. Mary Janes are now considered to be formal for little girls and informal for adult women. We love the style so much we've devoted an entire category to the ultra-feminine look. But before becoming a type of shoe, Mary Jane was someone's name.

Who was the original Mary Jane?

buster-brown.jpgMary Jane was a character in the comic strip Buster Brown first published in 1902, and was the younger sister of the eponymous character. Here she is with her brother, both sporting the distinctively simple shoes.

In 1904, Richard Outcault who created the series sold licenses to up to 200 companies to use the Buster Brown characters to advertise their products. One of these companies was the Brown Shoe Company, which later hired actors to perform as the Buster Brown characters in its stores.

This campaign helped the Brown Shoe Company become the most prominently associated brand with the Buster Brown characters, and both Buster and his sister Mary Jane wore the single-strapped shoes. The style then came to be known by the name of the female character, Mary Jane.