Back to Basics: Chinese Mary Janes

Natasha's Cafe offers a huge array of colors of the basic Chinese mary jane!
Natasha's Cafe offers a huge array of colors of the basic Chinese mary jane!

Um, I’m obsessed with mary janes. I realize that the look isn’t necessarily flattering on everyone, but I wear them anyway. I remember when I was a little kid, I had this pair of really oldschool mary janes. The super-cheap cotton ones with the terra-cotta rubber sole. I’m sure we’ve all had a pair.

Anyway, I loved them to bits and then I grew out of them.

And then a few months ago, I decided I wanted to find something similar. I’d been going through a hardcore mary-jane phase, and while I got a few pairs of All Blacks, the Dansko Merrie, and the Mia Melina (I’m sure among several others), it just wasn’t the same. Sure, they were super-snazzy and mod, but I just had the craving for the flexible and basic Chinese mary janes.

So I did some searching, and happened to find this little gem boutique, Natasha’s Cafe. They sell lots of fun stuff from around the world–Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Russia–in addition to an enormous selection of the basic Chinese mary janes!

Burgundy cotton basic mary janes--one of the colors I chose!
Burgundy cotton basic mary janes--one of the colors I chose!

If you can’t decide on the color, they offer several combo packs with discounts. In the end, I ended up purchasing two pair of basic cotton (one in black and one in burgundy) and one basic canvas (in black). Most basic cottons are around $9, and a canvas averages around $12. Nicer fabrics like silk or flax tend to be more. The shipment took a little longer than I expected (but hey, I have the privilege of working for a company that has lightening-fast shipping and if I order some, I take them home that day), but that’s okay. I even got a phone call from one of their employees because one of the sizes I had ordered was out, and they wanted to know if there was a substitution. I could tell it really was one of the few locally owned, mom-and-pop kind of stores that just happened to offer some of their goods online.

So my shoes came, and they were almost exactly what I expected. However, I didn’t realize that my step is so high, the straps tended to undo themselves when I was walking. Some of them used a basic metal buckle, and some were Velcro, but it wasn’t specified on the Web site.

I feel pretty gutsy wearing them, even with jeans. The burgundy is a fun splash of color. However, if I purchased them again, I would most likely stick with a more structured material like canvas or silk, because the basic cotton shoes really are just basic cotton…and you can see your toes pressing up against the fabric because it’s pretty thin. Also, not tons of support, but that almost goes with the territory of getting a cheap flat.

So, check ’em out, if you’re so inclined! I can’t wait until fall to start wearing mine again…with funky socks, of course!


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Exuberant photographer, artist, writer, designer, wannabe chef, and Crossfitter.

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