Mary Jane is an American term (formerly trademarked) for a kind of strap shoe or sandal that typically has low heels, broad and rounded closed toes, and a single-buckle strap across the instep and/or around the ankle. They are traditionally made of black patent leather, although some current incarnations can be in a wide array of colors and leathers.
Traditionally Mary Janes are a variety of shoe worn mainly by young girls. In modern times they are worn by women of all ages. Mary Janes are typically considered formal for girls and informal when worn by women.
Mary Jane was a character created by Richard Outcault for his comic strip, Buster Brown, which was first published in 1902. She was the sister of the title character, Buster Brown.
In 1904, Outcault traveled to the St. Louis World's Fair and sold licenses to up to 200 companies to use the Buster Brown characters to advertise their products. Among them was the Brown Shoe Company, who later hired actors to tour the country, performing as the Buster Brown characters in theaters and stores. This strategy helped the Brown Shoe Company become the most prominently associated brand with the Buster Brown characters. The style of shoe Buster Brown's sister wore came to be known by her name, Mary Jane.
While the classic Mary Jane still retains its wide popularity and appeal, today's more stylish Mary Janes tend to be platform styles, with half-inch to one-inch soles and three- to five-inch "chunky heels", often with ...