Delicate Chain-Link Mary Jane Pumps in Black - CHARLES & KEITH

With a history going back more than a century, the Mary Jane continues to be a favoured footwear style for both women and girls. Practical and versatile, these highly adaptable shoes can be worn with almost any kind of outfits, whether they be casual or formal, for work or for play. There is no doubt that Mary Jane shoes and their iconic straps are here to stay.

In this guide, we will start with the origin and design of these classic shoes with an enduring appeal, and the many different forms they can come in, before delving into the ways one can wear and style them. Lastly, we will touch on how to care for your Mary Jane shoes so they will look good and last longer.


What are Mary Jane shoes?

Mary Jane shoes are a classic footwear style that has been popular for many decades. These shoes are known for their distinctive design and charming appeal. They typically feature a low heel or flat sole and a rounded toe. Although recently, Mary Jane shoes with chunky platform soles have risen in popularity. The defining feature of Mary Janes is the strap that crosses over the top of the foot and fastens with a buckle or button. This strap adds both style and functionality, providing extra support and ensuring a secure fit.

One of the reasons why Mary Jane shoes have remained popular throughout the years is their versatility. These shoes are incredibly adaptable and can be paired with a wide range of outfits, from casual to dressy. Their timeless design makes them a go-to choice for adults and children alike. Mary Jane shoes are often associated with a sense of innocence and femininity, but they can also add a touch of retro flair to a modern ensemble. Whether paired with a floral dress or with jeans, Mary Jane shoes effortlessly blend comfort, style, and nostalgia, making them a beloved choice for fashion-conscious individuals of all ages.


History of Mary Jane shoes

Before the term Mary Jane was popularised, these shoes were called bar shoes because of the “bar” that goes across the top of the foot. However, in the early 20th century, these shoes quickly gained recognition for its association with the eponymous character in the popular Buster Brown comic strip, Mary Jane. Characterised by a rounded toe and a single strap gracefully crossing the instep, Mary Jane shoes were an instant hit. Originally crafted from luxurious leather, they were renowned for their practicality and all-day comfort and were initially embraced as the go-to footwear for school uniforms and formal occasions. They have since become a symbol of versatile fashion, and can now be seen paired with everything, from a playful dress to tailored ensembles.

Over time, Mary Jane shoes have evolved to keep up with the ever-changing fashion landscape, and are now available in an array of materials, including canvas and synthetic options. The strap design, once secured by buttons or buckles, has since been transformed with the advent of Velcro closures and multiple strap variations. This evolution has added a touch of modernity to the timeless charm of Mary Jane shoes, and its adaptability ensures that they will remain relevant in the fashion world for decades to come. The enduring popularity of these shoes lies in their ability to effortlessly elevate any look, striking the perfect balance between form and function.


Types of Mary Jane shoes

The revival of early-aughts fashion, particularly from the ‘90s and 2000s, have re-catapulted Mary Janes back into the spotlight (as well as into our social feeds) — and now this iconic school-girl style comes in more varied forms than ever before. From heeled, flat, multi-colored, multi-strapped, patent, glittered to edgy experimental designs, there is a pair for every occasion and look.

Classic Mary Jane Shoes

Rounded Square-Toe Mary Janes in White - CHARLES & KEITH

Classic Mary Jane Shoes

An oldie but a goodie, marked by a closed round-toed silhouette with a simple strap across the feet. This timeless style often comes in solid-coloured finishes that will easily complement any look.

An oldie but a goodie, marked by a closed round-toed silhouette with a simple strap across the feet. This timeless style often comes in solid-coloured finishes that will easily complement any look.

Platform Mary Jane Shoes

Patent Buckled Mary Jane Pumps in Black - CHARLES & KEITH

Platform Mary Jane Shoes

An edgier and grungier version of the classic Mary Janes. These styles are often set atop chunky platforms, such as sturdy lug soles, and feature thicker T-bar straps. For the bold fashionista, avant-garde and sculptural designs are perfect for showing off your sartorial prowess.

An edgier and grungier version of the classic Mary Janes. These styles are often set atop chunky platforms, such as sturdy lug soles, and feature thicker T-bar straps. For the bold fashionista, avant-garde and sculptural designs are perfect for showing off your sartorial prowess.

Mary Jane Flats

Checkered Buckled Mary Jane Flats in Black Textured - CHARLES & KEITH

Mary Jane Flats

Typically seen as the “cousin” of ballerina shoes, Mary Jane flats come in an array of designs. From pointed toes to easy-to-wear slingbacks and patterned or quilted finishes, this low-heeled style is great for all-day wear.

Typically seen as the “cousin” of ballerina shoes, Mary Jane flats come in an array of designs. From pointed toes to easy-to-wear slingbacks and patterned or quilted finishes, this low-heeled style is great for all-day wear.

Mary Jane Pumps

Frankie Platform Mary Janes​ in Black - CHARLES & KEITH

Mary Jane Pumps

Featuring block heels or stilettos that are eye-catching and sophisticated, the Mary Jane pump is the ladylike iteration that can take you from the boardroom to an after-party with ease.

Featuring block heels or stilettos that are eye-catching and sophisticated, the Mary Jane pump is the ladylike iteration that can take you from the boardroom to an after-party with ease.


How to wear and style Mary Jane shoes

Despite its origins as a shoe associated with schoolgirls, the Mary Jane has evolved into a truly versatile style that will suit virtually all occasions and outfits. By varying design elements such as heel shape and height, strap thickness and type of closures, this iconic silhouette has proven to be an excellent source for creative re-imagining. Its unique blend of vintage charm and admirable adaptability to ever-changing trends means that the Mary Janes occupies a rare and covetable spot in the fashion world — one in which it is perceived as both timeless and ripe for a refresh. Thus, it always remains relevant and never goes out of style.

Most contemporary women’s shoes are designed to be worn with or without hosiery — for example, boots and sneakers should ideally be paired with socks while open-toed sandals are meant to go over bare feet. Mary Janes, however, would look and feel just as good whether or not there is a layer of fabric between skin and shoe. This ease and flexibility of wear is the main reason why they need not strictly be cold or warm-weather shoes, and can be worn seamlessly across the seasons. Simply slip them on and go on hot sunny days, and match them with thick socks or leggings when the temperature dips.

Depending on their design and the outfit you wear them with, Mary Janes can come across as sweet and feminine, cute and quirky, preppy and punk or polished and practical. The range of looks and occasions that they can fit into is nothing short of astounding — all you need is a little creativity and the right pair for your purpose.

In neutral tones — black, cream, nude — the Mary Jane is a beloved style staple that deserves a spot in every shoe collection. However, when rendered in bright hues, such as purple, pink, red or even lime green, it is a delightful statement accessory that can uplift an entire outfit. To add visual interest to your look, go for a pair in an eye-catching print or finish, such as gingham or tweed.

Buckled Mary Jane Loafers - Chalk - CHARLES & KEITH

Casual / Off-Duty / Vacation

Due to the comfort and versatility they offer, Mary Janes are fantastic shoes to wear on the weekends and on holidays — they will complement a diverse range of casual outfits while still making you look put-together. Denim and Mary Janes work unexpectedly well together, as the cool youthfulness of the former is a great match for the sweet femininity of the latter. A cropped t-shirt, boyfriend jeans and leather Mary Jane flats make for a fuss-free and chic combination. For a girlier take on casual-dressing with Mary Janes, opt for the always-pretty sundress and wear it with sweet pastel-hued Mary Janes that sit on sturdy block heels. To create a laid-back yet fashionable aesthetic, reach for chunky-soled platform Mary Janes that will elevate off-duty staples like linen shorts and slip skirts with ease.

Buckled Mary Jane Loafers - Black - CHARLES & KEITH

Workwear / Office / Professional

The Mary Jane was chosen as school shoes for both their practicality and formal / semi-formal appearance. These traits make them particularly suited for modern workplaces, especially those where dress codes lean towards the stricter side. Their classic, elegant silhouette is a great canvas on which to apply various design elements and details — depending on these, one pair can have a completely different aesthetic to the next. Rounded toes and short cylindrical heels exude a demure femininity when matched with a modest dress, while a red triple-strapped pair set on thick block heels is great for power-dressing and will complement a sharp pantsuit perfectly. Glossy black Mary Janes featuring striking metallic hardware can be worn with black leggings to polish up less formal ensembles, such as a collared blouse and skirt combination. In more relaxed working environments, Mary Janes with distinctive ridged soles will inject an edgy touch into your look while remaining comfortable enough for all-day wear.

Evening / Glamour / Special Occasions

Although the Mary Jane traditionally has a down-to-earth, goodie-two-shoes vibe, it will also certainly not look out of place at more glamorous events. While the stiletto pump may come more easily to mind when one thinks of evening footwear, the humble Mary Jane has charm enough to steal the show at any special occasion. Attend a garden wedding in a floral midi-dress and lovely bow-strapped Mary Janes, and you will definitely be among the best-dressed guests. Take the spotlight at a fancy evening soirée in an ethereal blush pink organza gown and a pair of metallic gold-toned double-strapped Mary Janes. For a night out on the town, create an electric look with a black silk wrap-dress, a chain-strap mini bag and impossible-to-miss red slingback Mary Jane pumps — these shoes will stay securely and comfortably on your feet through hours on the dance floor.


The benefits of Mary Jane shoes

Mary Janes are a wardrobe mainstay thanks to their all-star appeal — regardless of season, weather, or even age. Besides boasting a timeless charm and versatility that transcends passing trends, one of the main selling points of the Mary Jane shoe style is that they are podiatrist-approved as well. Featuring a supportive front strap — or multiple straps, depending on the style — that not only looks stylish but also provides the wearer with a custom and comfortable fit that doesn’t slip throughout the day, they allow for a more even distribution of the shoe weight across the entire foot, allowing you to walk and stand in them for longer periods of time.

Now made available in a variety of material and styles, there’s a Mary Jane shoe for any and every occasion. Traditionally made from high-quality leather that is designed to withstand daily use, classic Mary Janes are a worthy investment that will become a long-lasting staple piece in your wardrobe for years to come. While leather Mary Janes will continue to captivate, the fashion forward can look to patterned and coloured Mary Janes that are crafted from canvas and synthetic fabrics instead. Eye-catching and visually striking, these styles will allow you to boldly express your sense of style and experiment with different textures and finishes.


How to care for Mary Jane shoes

Caring for your new pair of Mary Janes is really no different from how you would with any other shoe. But regardless of the colour, material, sole, shape and style of your new favourite go-to, the first step you can take to ensure that they stay in pristine condition is to minimise stains — try not to wear them to incredibly rough or muddy terrains.

Another key factor in ensuring the longevity of your shoes is to use shoe care products, including waterproofing sprays and leather conditioners. Whether it’s faux leather, patent leather, leather, recycled plastic or fabric, these shoe care products can really extend the shelf-life and wearability of your shoes.

Lastly, clean your shoes regularly. Using a simple fibre cloth or a soft bristle brush to wipe the upper parts of the shoes goes a long way in keeping them polished and clean. Plus, it would also help remove minor scuff marks, wear and tear that appear as a result from everyday use. Don’t forget to also take some time to clean the soles of your Mary Janes, which are often the most neglected parts where dirt and grime can accumulate. Whatever the type of soles your Mary Janes come fitted with — ridged soles, chunky platforms, or dainty low-block heels — cleaning them will definitely ensure that your cherished pair can be worn for years to come.


With a fuller knowledge of the Mary Jane’s cultural significance and continued relevance in the fashion world, we hope that you will be better able to appreciate the charm and utility of this classic style staple. There is a pair of Mary Janes to suit any taste and occasion, and a shoe collection is definitely incomplete without them. Browse our wide array of Mary Jane shoes — you may just find a new-to-you version to fall in love with.