What Are Mary Jane Shoes? 12 Best Places To Buy Mary Janes

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The classic Mary Jane shoe is easily identifiable; a low-cut closed leather shoe with a strap over the top of the foot and fastened either by a buckle, a button, or Velcro. It has a thin outsole or very low heel.

Also called bar shoes, or doll shoes, Mary Janes are usually associated with children’s school shoes or formal shoes.

Since its inception in the early 20th century, this unisex shoe is still as fashionable as ever among kids and adults alike, but primarily among women.

Perhaps you are a fan of these shoes, which is great. Not only is it chic, versatile, and deeply embedded in popular culture, it has also never run out of style and has even evolved into a variety of styles.

As a tribute to the Mary Jane shoes, let’s dive into the origins of this shoe, how to wear them, and the most important of all— where to buy gorgeous ones!

A Brief History of Mary Jane Shoes: Timeline

1902 – A comic strip called Buster Brown, drawn by R.F. Outcault, was first published in the New York Herald. The character Buster Brown has a sister named Mary Jane, and they both sport classic bar shoes.

1904 – Outcault sold licenses of his Buster Brown characters to various companies— among them was the Brown Shoe Company, an American footwear company. They created a girls’ line of shoes, similar to that in the comic strip, and called it, yes, Mary Jane shoes!

The 1920s – The shoes became desirable to women, and the “grown-up” Mary Jane shoes also became dancing shoes in the Roaring Twenties— usually in sophisticated hand-painted designs and made of silk satins.

The 1930s – Mary Jane became a big hit among girls in North America. When child star Shirley Temple donned a pair in Harry Lachman’s 1934 drama-comedy Baby, Take a Bow, Mary Janes skyrocketed to fame.

Mary Janes boomed in the 1930s after little Shirley Temple wore a pair in Baby, Take a Bow movieMary Janes boomed in the 1930s after little Shirley Temple wore a pair in Baby, Take a Bow movie

The 1940s – 1960s – The Mary Jane shoes’ popularity crossed continents, and European girls also began clamoring for them.

In the sixties, English fashion designer Mary Quant made British icon Twiggy wear one, and the shoes boomed, with brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Dior making their line of Mary Janes.

The 1990s – Grunge alternative rock singer Courtney Love thrilled the fashion industry and trumpeted her pair of Mary Janes, further solidifying this style of shoes as timelessly appealing.

Then the ‘90s iconic teen film Clueless arrived, with star Alicia Silverstone wearing a silver pair, matched with a short plaid miniskirt and knee socks.

Alicia Silverstone wearing Mary Jane shoes with knee-high socks on the set of the 1995 movie CluelessAlicia Silverstone wearing Mary Jane shoes with knee-high socks on the set of the 1995 movie Clueless

Present Day – The Mary Janes are still gracing catwalks and Hollywood films and famous TV shoes, from Sex and the City to Gossip Girl.

Brands like Manolo Blahnik and Comme des Garçons are still selling this classic shoe in exciting variations!

9 Different Types of Mary Janes

Creativity is endless, and so it’s no surprise that the modern-day Mary Jane shoes come in exciting shapes, colors, materials, and designs— while retaining its classic closed-shoe and strap or straps across the instep.

But here are some of the iterations on the Mary Janes you will come across from generic shoe stores to high-fashion magazine spreads and runways:

1. Embellished heel

Dolce & Gabbana's Mary Jane pumps have been made in Italy from gold mesh and are defined by a striking crystal-embellished block heelDolce & Gabbana’s Mary Jane pumps have been made in Italy from gold mesh and are defined by a striking crystal-embellished block heel

2. Point-toe flats

ASOS Mary Jane ballet flats in blackASOS Mary Jane ballet flats in black

3. Slippers

This style from Nufoot combines the elegance of ballet flats with the fun style of Mary JanesThis style from Nufoot combines the elegance of ballet flats with the fun style of Mary Janes

4. Flats

Made in Italy from glittered leather, these leather ballet flats from Miu Miu have elegant crossover straps and small stacked heelsMade in Italy from glittered leather, these leather ballet flats from Miu Miu have elegant crossover straps and small stacked heels

5. Stiletto heels

This Jennifer Chamandi stiletto heel is threaded with a removable Mary Jane strap and measured to the millimeter to minimize pressure on your solesThis Jennifer Chamandi stiletto heel is threaded with a removable Mary Jane strap and measured to the millimeter to minimize pressure on your soles

6. Platform

Glossy patent leather intensifies the appeal of a Mary Jane-inspired pump from Jeffrey Campbell set on a blocky heelGlossy patent leather intensifies the appeal of a Mary Jane-inspired pump from Jeffrey Campbell set on a blocky heel

7. Block-heel

Camel-colored Marion Parke Bernadette Icon Mary Jane sandalsCamel-colored Marion Parke Bernadette Icon Mary Jane sandals

8. Shearling

A roomy Mary Jane from UGG features a braided strap and moisture-wicking textile made entirely from wool but crafted to feel and wear like genuine shearlingA roomy Mary Jane from UGG features a braided strap and moisture-wicking textile made entirely from wool but crafted to feel and wear like genuine shearling

9. Patterns

These leopard-print Hermione flats from Tabitha Simmons are made in Italy from calf hair to a point-toe silhouette with a smooth suede Mary-Jane strapThese leopard-print Hermione flats from Tabitha Simmons are made in Italy from calf hair to a point-toe silhouette with a smooth suede Mary-Jane strap

How To Wear Mary Janes

The best thing about Mary Jane shoes is that you can wear them with practically anything: from shorts to trousers, to miniskirts and maxi skirts, to leggings and dresses. It screams childlike yet ultra-fashionable.

Keira Knightley, Liv Tyler, Selma Blair, Katy Perry, and Chloe Moretz show how to wear Mary Jane shoes with chic outfitsKeira Knightley, Liv Tyler, Selma Blair, Katy Perry, and Chloe Moretz show how to wear Mary Jane shoes with chic outfits (Credit: Apega / Avalon / WENN)

12 Best Places to Buy Mary Janes Shoes

With the Mary Jane shoe movement still going strong, no doubt you can’t wait to get your hands on a pair or two. So where to purchase the best Mary Janes?

Here are 12 retails stores, both physical and online, where you can find these iconic shoes:

1. Walmart

Walmart has nearly 5,000 stores all across the United States, and they sell almost anything, from a teepee to women’s shoes— which include an extensive collection of Mary Jane shoes for both little girls and adults.

Brinley Co. Medium and Wide Width Mary Jane Patent Leather Pumps, $49.99

The Brinley Co. Mary Janes feature a faux leather upper with classic round toes, chunky heels, and chic double thin strapsThe Brinley Co. Mary Janes feature a faux leather upper with classic round toes, chunky heels, and chic double thin straps

You can find a China-made cotton doll pair for only $12.99 to a striking ankle-strap Mary Jane dress shoes at $29.95 that are perfect for a night of dancing!

2. Crocs

Headquartered in Colorado, Crocs may be known for their foam clogs, which were originally designed as boat shoes. However, they have since expanded to selling other types of footwear, including Mary Janes!

Crocs ‘Alice’ Mary Jane Work Flats, $39.99

A classic and comfy pair of Crocs Mary Jane shoes for on-the-go womenA classic and comfy pair of Crocs Mary Jane shoes for on-the-go women

They have the cute classic Mary Jane crocs from $17.49 to $24.99 in a slip-on style, to the classic closed and black ones for women, priced at $39.99.

3. Kohl’s

The largest department store chain in the United States, Kohl’s is operating in over 1,000 places. You can find Kohl’s in every state— except in Hawaii.

Headquartered in Wisconsin, it sells a huge variety of footwear, including a staggering collection of Mary Jane shoes!

Journee Collection ‘Elodie’ High Heel Mary Jane Shoes, $74.99

The elegant Elodie Mary Jane heels from Journee Collection feature a glittery heel panel and a sexy strappy silhouetteThe elegant Elodie Mary Jane heels from Journee Collection feature a glittery heel panel and a sexy strappy silhouette

They have the ultra-sexy Mary Jane line from the Journee Collection, all high-heeled with a variety of delicious colors and styles, as well as adorable ones for infants and toddlers, and just about any Mary Jane shoes, you can think of!

4. DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse)

Operating in over 500 stores across the United States, DSW also has an e-commerce site, where they also sell their private-label brands, like Audrey Brooke, Lulu Townsend, and Poppie Jones.

Clarks ‘Alayna’ Shine Pump, $69.99

Dress up with the Clarks Alayna Mary Jane pumps, featuring comfy Ortholite footbed and block heelsDress up with the Clarks Alayna Mary Jane pumps, featuring comfy Ortholite footbed and block heels

Revel in their super cute Mary Janes! They have styles suited for every kind of lady, from pumps to wedges, to chic animal-print styles, to slip-on and kitten heels.

5. JCPenney

With nearly 700 retail stores all across the United States, particularly located inside shopping malls, JCPenney is one of the most popular American department stores.

Like all department stores. JCPenney has Mary Janes that you will love, and the selection is exciting; from girl’s shoes with glittery gold uppers to sophisticated red ones from Hush Puppies, you will no doubt find the style you’re looking for.

6. Zappos

The online shoe and clothing store is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada. The word Zappos was named after “Zapatos,” which means “shoes” in Spanish. And wherever there are shoes, there will be Mary Janes!

LifeStride ‘Sandrine’ Mary Jane Pumps, $59.94

Elevate your look with lasting comfort with the LifeStride Sandrine Mary JanesElevate your look with lasting comfort with the LifeStride Sandrine Mary Janes

Browse through hundreds of brands that have both the classic and modern Mary Janes. From cute ones for infants and toddlers to schoolchildren to women with diverse tastes in footwear.

7. 6pm

Owned by Zappos, 6pm is an e-commerce site peddling affordable shoes and accessories.

The great thing about this legit store is they also sell clearance products, obsolete styles, and discontinued products, so you will thrill in the vintage or cheap selections of Mary Janes!

Nine West ‘Aimee’ Mary Jane Ballet Flats, $89

Give your look a sleek and classy finish with Nine West's Aimee Mary Jane ballet flatsGive your look a sleek and classy finish with Nine West’s Aimee Mary Jane ballet flats

Carrying bands with Mary Janes’s shoes from Skechers to Michael Kors, 6pm is one of your best bets in finding the pair you will fall in love with. From dazzling silver ones to velvet ones, get your Mary Janes here.

8. Kenneth Cole

American fashion house Kenneth Cole was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in New York. From watches to bags and, of course, shoes. The brand suits all sorts of budgets, as Kenneth Cole has both a luxury and a casual line.

Kenneth Cole ‘Card’ T-strap Espadrille Wedge Sandals, $89

Wear the Kenneth Cole Card espadrilles to finish off a chic summer outfitWear the Kenneth Cole Card espadrilles to finish off a chic summer outfit

From strappy black heels to gold leather flats, patent leather, and T-straps, Kenneth Cole has a wonderful collection of Mary Janes for casual daytime wear to power-shoes style for corporate events to dancing, or to simply look great.

9. Calvin Klein

Headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York, Calvin Klein is famous for ready-to-wear items to haute couture clothing. If they have perfumery, they also have a collection of beautiful Mary Jane shoes.

Calvin Klein ‘Gella’ Snake Heels, $118

Add a sultry finish to your outfit with Calvin Klein's Gella snake heels with asymmetrical Mary Jane strapsAdd a sultry finish to your outfit with Calvin Klein’s Gella snake heels with asymmetrical Mary Jane straps

Calvin Klein sells lovely pairs of Mary Janes for all sorts of shoppers, from those simply looking for comfortable footwear to those who desire style and sophistication.

10. Gap

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Gap is a well-known American brand and is the biggest specialty retailer in the United States. Chiefly known for clothing items, Gap also ventured into selling shoes.

Gap Toddler Scalloped Ballet Flats, $34.95

A cute pair of smooth leather Mary Janes with scalloped trims for toddlersA cute pair of smooth leather Mary Janes with scalloped trims for toddlers

If you are looking for Mary Jane shoes for your kids, Gap has super cute styles for your infant, toddler, or preschool child. From black leather to denim to ivory faux fur-lined pairs, their Mary Janes are too irresistible.

11. Amazon

The giant e-commerce site is usually the go-to for everything you need, and that, of course, includes Mary Jane shoes. If you are scouring for your favorite shoe brand, Amazon mostly has got it.

Rockport Total Motion Pointy Toe Mary Jane Pumps, $45.45

Rockport's Total Motion pumps allow you to look stylish without sacrificing comfortRockport’s Total Motion pumps allow you to look stylish without sacrificing comfort

Nifty Mary Janes available on Amazon are reliable brands from Clarks, Skechers, Keen, Crocs, Rockport, Alegria, and a thousand others.

The Mary Jane shoe selection is astounding that you might find yourself buying a dozen pairs of different styles.

12. Steve Madden

Based in Long Island, New York, Steve Madden is known for quality shoes and accessories— not to mention stylish. So if you love this brand, no doubt you are already aware of their collection of stunning Mary Jane shoes.

Steve Madden ‘Twice’ Bone Patent Mary Jane Pumps, $99.95

Channel '90s valley girl in Steve Madden's Twice Mary Jane pumpsChannel ’90s valley girl in Steve Madden’s Twice Mary Jane pumps

They have a pair with gorgeous flower details, retro suede Mary Jane block heels, tan leather, ruffled ones to peep-toe, to a leopard with buckles!

It is the place to go if you want your Mary Janes to be extraordinary— either grungy, rockstar, ultra-fashionable, or simply attention-grabbing.

Mary Janes Are Everywhere

Mary Jane shoes, with their era-defying style, are here to stay. From its humble beginnings as the shoes of an illustrated little girl in a Sunday comic strip, it has found its way to the runways in Fashion Week and is always featured by fashion editors.

The exciting thing about Mary Janes is how it is continuously evolving into modern— and even futuristic designs— while retaining its fundamental design: the strap across the foot.

Whether you think of yourself as a sensible, functional dresser, or a fashionista, no doubt you have a pair in your closet and are looking to add to your collection!

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