Mary Janes 101: From Their History to On-Trend Style Tips and Beyond
Mary Janes 101: From Their History to On-Trend Style Tips and Beyond
Let’s talk Mary Janes, aka the cutest, most iconic round-toes shoes with a strap across the instep. They’ve been in the fashion world for a while now—starting out as a function flat to now becoming a revelation on the runway. They’re always getting reinvented, and the good news is that they’re trending again in a whole new way.
Why are Mary Janes called, well, Mary Janes?
We know the Mary Jane first stepped onto the fashion scene in the early 1900s as a practical shoe for young girls, but there are a few theories as to why they’re called Mary Janes. One idea is that they were named after the classic comic strip character, Buster Brown's sister, Mary Jane. Like what the cartoon character used to wear, the OG Mary Jane design looked like a ballet flat with a strap that buttoned (and later bucked) across the instep. Another theory is that the name is a reference to a popular song from the time, "Mary Jane, Pretty as a Picture." Either way, the name stuck and is still used to describe this classic style to this day.
When were Mary Janes popularized?
When they were first designed, Mary Jane flats were popular among school-aged girls because they were the most simple and comfortable shoe option for school, especially since the shoes were easy to put on and take off. But even though the Mary Jane started out as a shoe for kids, it quickly gained popularity among young women in the 1920s and 1930s. Naturally, the style evolved too.
In the 20s, the shoe got a sophisticated upgrade with high heels and sleek designs that were popular with flappers. Then in the 1930s, the Mary Jane became popular with women of all ages, and designers began experimenting with different colors and materials.
Fast forward to the 1960s when the Mary Jane took on a new look with the rise of the mod fashion movement. Paired with short hemlines, the shoes were often the statement piece of the outfit with bright colors, chunky heels and towering platforms.
Come the 1990s, the Mary Jane saw a resurgence again with the rise of the grunge fashion trend. Typically designed with black leather, the shoe was often worn with black tights and short skirts, for an edgier look. The style remained popular in the early 2000s as it took on a more academic aesthetic.
Are Mary Janes still in style?
Based on their history, we’d say Mary Janes never went out of style, but they’re definitely trending now. Today you can find Mary Janes in a variety of styles, including flats, heels, platforms, and wedges. Ballet flats are having a moment with the balletcore trend and there is nothing more ballet-slipper-like than the Mary Jane with its signature strap across the instep. And Mary Janes in platform form are also popular as ever.
There are so many options when it comes to Mary Janes that you can hop on the trend in any way that suits you. For a classic look, try our Melissa Jackie with a round toe, low heel and a single buckle strap—available in a range of opaque and translucent colors. For a bolder, flirtier look, go for our take on platform Mary Janes with the Melissa Farah that gives you all the drama of a tall platform and two skinny buckle straps. And for the young fashionistas, we have a whole collection of jelly Mary Jane shoes for girls.
And the varieties go on with Mary Janes that feature chic embellishments like bows, rosettes, buckles, and studs. They come in a wide range of colors and materials, like our signature jelly material. And when it comes to style, versatility is key—you can wear the modern Mary Jane has with almost any outfit or style aesthetic. Dress them up or down with everything from mini dresses to pleated skirts, and to wide-leg trousers, to denim. They’re perfect for any type of occasion or look.
How to Style Your Mary Janes Today
There are tons of ways to style your Mary Janes. Whether you’re going casual with Mary Jane flats paired jeans and a cropped sweater or dressy with Mary Jane platforms paired with a tailored suit, there’s a whole range of outfit possibilities. And for a touch of whimsy, consider adding statement socks or tights to zhuzh up the look.
Here are some of our favorite ways to style Mary Janes.
#1: The Classic Way
Nodding to their humble origins, give a pair of simple, flat black Mary Janes a classic school-girl look with a collared dress and some ruffled socks.
#2: The Colorful Way
Get some vibrant Mary Janes and let them do the talking when paired with an otherwise all-white ensemble. They’ll instantly stand out.
#3 The Balletcore Way
Choose either pink or black Mary Janes, style them with white tights, a poofy skirt, a fitted black bodysuit and a cropped cardigan. Très chic.
#4: The Office-Chic Way
Pair flat black Mary Janes with some printed trousers, an elegant silk button up, and your favorite blazer for a work look that’s everything but boring
#5: The 90s Way
Throw it back with a look that combines classic black Mary Janes, a white tee, a denim jumper, and matching scrunchies, of course.
#6: The Date Night Way
Try a sexier look by dressing up platform Mary Janes with a fitted mini or midi dress and matching your jacket to your shoes.
#7: The Academia Way
Give your Mary Janes a contemporary take on boarding school chic with a plaid A-line mini skirt, and textured sweater. Go classic with muted tones or modern with a playful color palette.
#8: The Casual Cool Way
Keep it laid back by pairing some Mary Jane flats with jeans and a slouchy tee or sweater. Polish off the look with a blazer or bomber jacket depending on your style.
#9: The Grungy Emo Goth Way
Break out your trench coat, frilly white socks, and a velvet black maxi skirt to go with chunky black Mary Janes for this retro look.
#10: The Preppy Way
Give a playful twist to your typical prep look with some Mary Janes to match a plaid tweed blazer and skirt set. Complete the outfit with some sheer tights.
Do or don’t: Wearing Socks with Your Mary Janes
It’s a vibe either way. The decision to wear socks with Mary Jane shoes comes down to your personal preference and style. You may choose to wear socks with Mary Jane shoes for added comfort or to make a fashion statement, or may prefer to go without socks for a clean look.
We’re all for wearing socks with your Mary Janes to make a statement. Consider pairing your Mary Janes with all lengths of socks—from ankle socks to knee highs to even bold thigh highs. Experiment with detail, print, and texture—whether that means sheer socks with ruffles or neon houndstooth printed socks. Novelty patterns are always fun, but we still love a classic solid white sock. Also keep in mind that a pair of cute warm socks can provide added insulation during the colder months.
No matter how you style them, an outfit with Mary Jane shoes is on trend with or without socks. If you like the way socks look and feel, go for it! If not, enjoy the flair Mary Janes give to your look all on their own.