Who is Mary Jane?
The term "Mary Jane" is commonly used to describe a particular style of women’s footwear, but have you ever wondered how this shoe received its name? We found the answer:
In 1902, cartoonist Richard Oucault created a comic strip called Buster Brown, which quickly became very popular. The comic portrayed the antics of Buster Brown, a troublesome young boy, and his little sister named Mary Jane.
By Richard Felton Outcault (Buster Brown chez lui) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1904, Outcault traveled to the World’s Fair and sold licenses to 200 companies, allowing them use of the Buster Brown characters to endorse their products. One of the more prominent advertising campaigns he authorized came from the Brown Shoe Company. The cartoon characters Buster and Mary Jane wore closed, low-cut shoes with a strap across the instep—a style very popular at the time and similar to shoes made by the company.
By Richard Felton Outcault (Buster Brown chez lui) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons>
The campaign was a huge success. At one point, the Brown Shoe Company even hired actors to dress up as characters from the comic strip and sent them to visit theaters and stores throughout the country.
Buster Brown Actor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. See page for author.
Although the low-cut strapped shoe was commonly worn by both boys and girls in the early 20th century, it eventually became known as a women’s shoe and took the name of the female character, Mary Jane. Today, over a century later, the style of the Mary Jane is still very similar to its original design—and still very popular.
The elves at Soft Star are very excited to offer our own minimalist version of the Mary Jane, but we prefer to write it as "Merry Jane" since they make feet so happy!