The upturn of the academia aesthetic has reintroduced many style staples into our wardrobes. When it comes to shoes, nothing says "school's in session" like a pair of Mary Janes. These leather steppers have regained it-status over the past year or so, having found themselves slipped unto the the feet of Kendall Jenner, Zoe Kravitz, and more.
What are Mary Janes?
You might be wondering who this "Mary Jane" is in the first place. For starters, she was a character in the Buster Brown comic series, created by Richard Felton Outcault in the 1900s. The fictional lass, who was always seen in black footwear that had straps across their insteps, got her name from the cartoonist's daughter.
At the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the Brown Shoe Company bought licenses to Richard's characters, bringing Mary Jane to life through live-action plays. She was, of course, manifested alongside her eponymous pair of shoes. Mass production began as they became more popular, eventually making them a component of the American schoolgirl uniform.
What's the difference between Mary Janes and Ballet Shoes?
What differentiates Mary Janes from ballet shoes—which have a similar silhouette—is the utility of the straps and buckles. Additionally, Mary Janes are made of patent or plain leather, while ballet flats make use of softer textiles such as satin or canvas.
Contemporary iterations of Mary Janes have seen them come as pumps or chunky heels. They've evolved into hallmark pieces in the collections of Chanel, Simone Rocha, and Miu Miu, effectively making them a fixture of fashion beyond the classroom. They were a major part of the '90s grunge movement, and fast forward to today, stylistas still can't get enough of their dainty appeal.
How to Wear Mary Janes Like a Celebrity
1. Chunky Mary Janes + Sweater Vest + Polo Shirt + Pleated Mini Skirt + Handbag
There's nothing wrong with going down the obvious route and styling your MJ's with a reimagined uniform. Wear them with a pair of white socks, a pleated skirt, and a sweater vest, and you'll look like the best-dressed gal on campus!
2. Mary Jane Heels + Sweater + Pleated Mini Skirt + Backpack
Let's say you want to take things up a notch with your academic attire. A pair of platform heels can (literally) elevate your 'fit. Pro tip: Balance out your proportions and elongate your figure with a cutesy mini skirt.
3. Mary Janes + Oversized Blazer + Pleated Mini Skirt + Headband
You can never go wrong with an oversized blazer, especially when it's worn with a matching pair of bottoms and Mary Janes. Add an elastic headband for a Cher Horowitz-approved '90s vibe!
4. Mary Janes + Vest + Trousers
For a more night-out ready way to rock your MJs, team them with a relaxed pair of trousers and a cool vest, sans the inner top. Layer on the necklaces for added pizzazz!
5. Mary Janes + Bandeau Top + Mini Skirt + Stockings
FYI, Mary Janes can come in any color you fancy. Match their hue with a pair of stockings, plus an itty-bitty skirt, and you'll have legs for days. A striking red lippie is always a welcome addition, too.
6. Mary Jane Pumps + Muscle Tee + Jeans + Shades
Mary Janes with denim? Yes, please! Hunt for a pointed-toe version of the shoes for an instant boost to your simple black top and jeans combo.
7. Mary Jane Flats + Bustier Top + Maxi Skirt
MJs that have bows attached on the insteps are too cute to pass up. Lean into the dainty energy and throw on a lacy skirt, a bustier top, and a cute handbag.
8. Mary Jane Flats + Sundress + Headscarf
Here's a foolproof way to rock your leather steppers in the summer: Reach for a white pair instead of the usual black, so it can complement your vibrant tiered dresses. A scarf wrapped around your head seals the deal!
9. Mary Janes + Bodycon Dress + Handbag
For dressier occasions, a little (or a lot of) sparkle is the way to go. Team a studded pair of Mary Janes with a form-fitting bodycon dress and designer arm candy.
10. Mary Janes + Silk Maxi Dress
Mary Janes are also the optimal date night shoe, since they'll impart that touch of sophistication without making your feet ache too much. Put them on with a silky dress that ends right at your ankles, and you're good!