It's time to reacquaint yourself with the humble Mary Jane, as the silhouette is, indisputably, one of fall's leading shoe trends. Look to Bottega Veneta's sculptural and strappy stompers or Valentino's magenta platform pumps that took the shoe into the stratosphere (or should I say Barbie-sphere?). Khaite revisited the Mary Jane shoe for Fall/Winter 2022, too, albeit creative director Catherine Holstein opted for more of a space-age schoolgirl feel through lustrous silver textiles.
But why is the darling silhouette receiving such fervent industry-wide intrigue? Los Angeles-based fashion stylist Shea Daspin believes it to be because the shoes have a long history of being a perennial favorite. "People are drawn to Mary Janes because they have been around for over a century, and [we're] used to seeing them repurposed in a different way each decade," she details over email. They're familiar—they're the shoes you wore as a young girl for school days and family holiday gatherings. And, as we've seen time and time again, sentimentality plays an instrumental role in dictating the trend cycle (see: the steadfast Hot Aughts revival).
But you're not that little girl wearing velvet one-strapped flats as part of your middle school uniform anymore. You're a grown adult, who has access to credit cards and the ability to choose your own footwear now (take that, Mom!). So, ahead, you'll find a curated round-up of the best Mary Jane shoes of fall 2022, as well as more insight from Daspin on how to style the saccharine style.
What to Look For
It's simple, really. While Mary Janes are "as easy to reference as the stiletto,' the key difference is that the wearer isn’t limited to a heel shape or certain height," explains Daspin. "The strap across the front of the shoe is indicative enough that the style is a Mary Jane." In short, the only parameter you need to look for is the shoe's signature strap. Everything else—colorway, height, or sole—is up to personal preference.
How to Style Mary Janes
"Mary Janes are an iconic silhouette that's inherently girly, as they were named after a cartoon’s girlfriend in 1904," explains the stylist, referencing how the shoe's moniker is believed to be drawn from a character named Mary Jane in the 1902 comic strip, 'Buster Brown.' Daspin herself enjoys leaning into the shoe's intrinsic femininity: "My favorite way to style Mary Janes is with a frilly or knee-high sock! It pushes that Lolita feeling a little bit more. However," she cautions, "just be conscious of what bottoms you pair it with so the outfit doesn’t skew too young. For instance, I’d pair it with a pleated midi skirt and fitted top, with the option to throw a blazer or long vest over it all."
Daspin also encourages you to explore the other end of the gendered spectrum for an unexpected contrast of aesthetics. "It’s also fun to play with preconceived notions of what is feminine: Wearing the shoe with something masculine is a power move I’d love to see more of!"
The Best Mary Janes
- Best Black Mary Jane: Vagabond Brittie Shoes
- Best Mary Jane Heels: Versace Satin Platform Pumps
- Best Dr. Martens Mary Janes: Dr. Martens Addina Platform Oxford
- Best Platform Mary Janes: Melissa Pink Melissa Farah Oxfords
- Best Mary Jane Ballet Flats: Free People Mystic Mary Jane Flats
- Best Designer Mary Jane: Bottega Veneta Lambskin Mary Jane Platform Pumps
Best Black Mary Jane
"For the Brittie Shoe, the wider toe shape and a low heel go hand in hand with the Mary Jane silhouette," describes the vice president and creative director of Vagabond Shoemakers, Marie Nilsson Peterzén. As for how to wear the black patent leather shoes, Peterzén encourages you to "style them classic yet cool with a pair of white socks and a mini skirt." Or, lean into their understated prepster feel in "a dressier look, where a pair of fluid yet tailored pants are key."
Best Multi-Strap Mary Jane
When you want to test drive an of-the-moment shoe trend, Jeffrey Campbell is where you turn. These block-heeled pumps are one of the label's many Mary Jane styles and due to their 90s-feeling vibe and adjustable hook-and-loop double straps, are a cult fave amongst fashion folk. Consider styling these babies with chunky socks in either ivory or inky black, depending on what color is calling your name.
Best Dr. Martens Mary Janes
You know Dr. Martens. You likely love Dr. Martens for their lace-up combat boots (I personally own three well-worn pairs). But are you familiar with the classic shoe brand's Mary Jane styles? Its Addina Platform Oxford, in particular, is a playful take on the girly shoe that still abides by the label's signature grunge attitude. And given that one of winter 2022-2023's rising trends is the Tweeze aesthetic (Twee plus Indie Sleaze), this platform style you definitely would have reblogged on Tumblr is more relevant than ever.
Best Platform Mary Jane
For Daspin, it's a "chunky platform all the way!" She personally is fond of the extra height and hefty silhouette for its statement impact, which is an almost oxymoronic element to find on a shoe like a Mary Jane, which has long been a symbol of the unassuming, soft-spoken femininity. "The more Harajuku girl you can go, I say go for it, and the more patriarchal space the shoe can take up, the better," the stylist says, and GANNI's leather platform style, with its hefty rubber lug sole, is certainly hard to miss.
Most Comfortable Mary Jane
Meet The Freya, a Madewell best-selling style heralded for its retro look and ultra, almost-too-good-to-be-true comfort. This pair is made from leather sourced from a tannery that's received the highest possible rating from the Leather Working Group, an organization that promotes eco-conscious environmental practices in the leather industry. And as one reviewer put it, there's "no need to break them in" because its inner MWL Cloudlift Lite sole offers pillow-like padding.
Best Mary Jane Heels
If you wish to dabble in 2022's hot pink trend and have the means to go all-out, Valentino Garavani's Tan-Go Pump is where you should start. The highly-saturated Mary Jane heels have been worn by all your favorite It girls, from Anne Hathaway to Zendaya, Dua Lipa to Florence Pugh ... and now you! With the heel's 6.1-inch heel and 2.2-inch platform, you'll be sky high, so make sure you're comfortable being that far off the ground before pressing 'buy.'
Best Mary Jane Ballet Flats
I've been daydreaming about Miu Miu's ballet flats, particularly the strappy pair in black leather, for several months now. Sadly (or, in the case of my overall financial well-being, luckily), their almost-$1,000 price tag is not within my budget—but Free People's $128 Mystic Mary Jane Flats absolutely are. Plus, this style offers a smidge more rock-and-roll flair, which resonates much more with my personal style. A bonus, too, is that the shoe's cushioned footbed and adjustable buckle closures offer wearable comfort, which should always be a priority for footwear.
Best Tabi Mary Janes
"A lot of what I think is driving the Mary Jane shoe trend are Maison Margiela’s Tabi shoes," explains Daspin. "While the Tabi style has been iconic for the brand for decades, the Mary Jane touch is something I saw all over at New York Fashion Week and on TikTok and Instagram right now. The combination of two interesting details," such as Maison Margiela's iconic hoof toe and the Mary Jane strap, "is catching the eye of seasoned fashionistas all the way down to the fashionably curious."
The Mary Janes for Maximalists
All that glitters is ... belonging in my personal possession. I'm quite proud of my collection of shimmering sartorial wares, but it won't be complete until I own these high-shine Mary Jane Pumps courtesy of Free People. Their chunky block heel ensures they're more wearable than your standard narrow stiletto (a major bonus for me, who strives for comfort at all times when possible). I'll be wearing these party-ready pumps with my favorite sheer party dress and silver baubles to an upcoming friend's birthday party.
Best Mary Janes for Work
I love a reliably hard-working shoe that delivers a polished effect no matter how they are styled. In other words, I love these buckled flats from Charles & Keith. Made of ultra-soft Nappa sheep leather and crafted in a refined pointed-toe design, they're effortlessly professional and have become my new favorite in-office work shoe. Oh, and as a grown woman who has not yet figured out how to walk in heels, the low 1.5cm heels are ideal for days spent running from appointment to meeting to yet another appointment.
The Vintage-Inspired Mary Janes
Can't you envision Friends' Phoebe Buffay wearing these while sitting in Central Perk and crooning 'Smelly Cat?' The Michaela Mary Jane Flat have an inherent '90s feel that makes them ideal for those who like the vintage look but perhaps don't have the time to sort through every shelf at a thrift store. Not partial to this pair's muli-print velvet look? Choose another out of Sam Edelman's thirteen other rounded-toe styles, including a navy patent leather or a golden faux hide.
Best Party-Ready Mary Jane Pumps
Everyone needs some break-glass-in-case-of-emergency pumps in their shoe collection. You know, a pair of heels you can reliably reach for when, say, the party you RSVP'd yes to completely slipped your mind, but then you receive a calendar alert an hour before the event starts. Vince Camuto's Grelena Platform Pump in black suede are those shoes. As one reviewer writes, "they are comfortable, stylish and classic," and their 5.25" heel and 1.5" platform offer dramatic height ideal for celebratory occasions.
Best Metallic Mary Jane
A more affordable alternative to Khaite's metallic $850 pair, Larroudé's Mary Janes in Silver Specchio adopt a similar retro-futuristic look and cost almost a third of the price. (Fun fact: "Specchio" is the Italian word for mirror.) In addition, the Cloud Memory insole and adjustable strap promise adaptable comfort and control, making these a style you can wear all day without fear of dreaded blisters. The brand also notes they also run true to size, so you can safely stick with your usual size.
Best Designer Mary Janes
Here are the aforementioned Bottega Veneta Mary Jane shoes in all their abstracted funky glory. The newly-helmed Matthieu Blazy fashion house is known for its pristine craftsmanship, and these lambskin leather shoes done in an expertly curved silhouette are no exception. Admittedly more of a precarious option with a lofty 6.25-inch heel, these babies are ideal for statement dressers who are fond of futuristic-looking footwear. Consider slipping these on when wearing a voluminous midi dress for ultimate look-at-me drama.
Meet the Experts
Shea Daspin is a fashion stylist with work that is vibrant and sparkly. Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, she moved to NYC as a teen to pursue fashion and attend university. She began her career as a Personal Shopper in NYC, later moving on to editorial, e-commerce, campaign, and red carpet work. She now lives on the East Side of Los Angeles with her four cats, dream closet, and a roster of celebrity clientele.
Marie Nilsson Peterzén started Vagabond Shoemakers together with her husband Mats Nilsson in 1993, and today is the Creative Director and Vice President of the company.
“I met my husband and we decided that we should try to live together and do business together, so we moved to Italy where we lived for 4 years. There we got busy learning about shoemaking and started to apply our own design philosophy on-site, close to the best available skills within shoemaking in Portugal and Italy. During this time, Vagabond was truly acknowledged by a bigger audience and the first bestsellers hit the market. We then moved back to Varberg, Sweden and since then Vagabond has become one of Europe’s leading fashion shoe brands, selling shoes and accessories on 45+ markets all around the world.”
Emma Childs is the Style Editor at Marie Claire, where she researches up-and-coming trends, curates shopping guides, and gushes about the must-buy items she can't stop thinking about. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing up fashion deep-dives or finding the season's best pieces, you'll find her fiddling around in Photoshop and perusing HBO Max for the next show to base her personality on (currently, it's "Succession").
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