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Mary Jane Shoes Are Celebrities’ Latest Obsessions

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For many little girls, formal attire goes as such: an itchy dress that looks like it could easily belong on a Victorian-era porcelain doll, white tights that get dirty in mere minutes, and, optionally, a velvet hair bow. To this day, Shirley Temple and Samantha, the early 20th-century American Girl Doll, are prime style inspirations. But the most quintessential part of any tot’s look is a stiff, shiny pair of patent leather Mary Jane shoes. 

Originally meant for little boys (then called Buster Browns), Mary Janes are now synonymous with girlhood. From tap class to school picture day, they were guaranteed to be both seen and heard anywhere they went. The shoe has long retained its ties to childhood, to the point that many ditch them out of fear of being juvenile. 

Shirley Temple, 1932.

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

But Mary Jane shoes have a long history for adults, too. While they gained popularity amongst flappers in the 1920s, they picked up serious credibility in the 1960s when they graced the feet of It girls like Jane Birkin and Twiggy. They had another big moment in the sun during the ’90s when grunge ruled supreme, with clunky iterations stomping the streets and red carpets alike. The strapped shoe had its most recent comeback during the Indie Sleaze era, which was marked by coquettish fashion and subverted schoolgirl aesthetics, championed by the patron saint of the 2010s, Alexa Chung.

Jane Birkin, 1969.

Yves LE ROUX/Getty Images

Sandra Bullock, 1995.

Jim Smeal/Getty Images

These days, designers are reimagining the classic shoe. Sandy Liang’s pointe shoe Mary Janes has gained a cult following; Khaite plays with heel height, metallics, and studding.

Amidst the Indie Sleaze revival, Copenhagen Fashion Week (which was absolutely crawling in Mary Janes), the return of the kindergarten-favorite is already underway. Below, check out a list of celebrities who have recently hopped on the Mary Jane train.



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