Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who Remembers Buster Brown?

It’s a standard joke from me: Each time I have my bangs trimmed and they turn out too short for my liking, I say I look like Buster Brown.
Buster Brown and his dog Tige.

Younger people may ask, “Who is Buster Brown?”

Buster Brown was originally a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard Felton Outcault, who was associated with the Brown Shoe Company. Buster, with his pageboy haircut, was based on a small child in Outcault’s hometown.

Brown Shoe Company

Another small child named Richard Barker played Buster Brown in the Brown Shoe Company advertising campaign. Midgets were hired to play Buster in tours around the United States. These little people, accompanied by a Pit Bull dog named Tige, performed in department stores, theaters and shoe stores from 1904 until 1930.

The Buster Brown character went on to a career in comic strips, the theater, radio, television and comic books. But to me, Buster Brown only meant shoes; back to school shoes. Those ugly lace-up numbers that meant you were a mere child; not old enough to wear grown-up shoes.

Childrens Size 8 vintage Buster Browns for sale at

No more sneakers and sandals of summer. No more bare legs. It was Fall and time for the shopping trip for sturdy shoes. The kind with which you had to wear socks. That meant Buster Browns.

A Buster Brown Shoes sign like this was outside Kaye's Shoe Store.

I was dragged into Kaye’s Shoe Store, where you were met at the door by a stuffy man who escorted you and your mother --  with all the formality befitting being taken to meet royalty -- to the back of the store where resided the fluorescent X-ray machine.

Fluorescent X-ray Machine used in shoe stores to ensure the proper fit.

Little feet slid into the machine, which was a big box resembling a floor-model radio. As the formal salesman adjusted the controls, X-rays penetrated shoes and feet and struck a fluorescent light, resulting in an image of the feet within the shoes. The machines were a big selling point for stores, which advertised that a proper fit would make for longer-lasting shoes and the need to buy fewer pairs.
The fluorescent image was reflected to three viewing ports at the top of the cabinet, where you, the salesman and your mother could view the image at the same time. (Radiation hazards associated with shoe fitting x-ray units were later discovered and the X-ray machines were no more).

After the proper fit was determined, the salesman went to shelves that lined the wall, selected the correct size, brought the box, opened the tissue-type paper that covered the shoes and presented the brown things with a flourish. 

For my mother, it was an event that proved she was doing the right thing by purchasing footwear that provided proper support for growing feet. It was the kind of shoes all little girls should wear!

My little tantrums and incessant begging to be allowed to wear “slip ons” or loafers, like some of the other little girls, fell on deaf ears. Later, when you're older, she promised. I had to wait a few years before I got my first pair of Bass Weejans.

But one benefit of buying shoes at Kaye’s was receiving the card each year on my birthday for a free present. Now that was something to look forward to! Some of the gifts I remember are the The Game of Cootie; Old Maid and Authors playing cards; and a miniature doll with a dressmaking kit.

Recent research about Buster Brown indicates the Brown Shoe Company  celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. Still making shoes after all these years! And in the most stylish way! I guess not all little girls have to wear lace-up brown oxford shoes anymore. Read more about the history of Buster Brown.

Brown Shoe Company
Did you ever wear Buster Brown shoes? What are your memories associated with them, or with other shoes you wore as a child?


  1. Too funny!!! How well I remember Buster Brown shoes of which I had to wear until I was in the fifth grade. You being a few years younger got to get out of Buster Brown shoes when I did thus making you not have to wear them as long as I did!!! Buying the shoes was almost a formal experience as the clerks were dressed in suits and very professional looking. I too remember so well the birthday gifts which were a very special thing. Thanks for the memories you keep reminding me of. But even if they were ugly, remember how they shined when Mother polished them with paste shoe polish and it smelled so good.

    1. You remember when we stopped wearing them and I did not! Thanks! And remember that the sales clerks were all male! Yes, I DO remember that paste shoe polish and how our shoes would shine. Mother wouldn't allow the liquid stuff in our house! And we eventually had to learn how to polish our own shoes when we got old enough. I don't believe many people apply paste shoe polish any more...

  2. I loved the Cootie game! Wouldn't mind finding one of them these days.
    Buster Brown shoes were what the rich kids wore and I wanted a pair so badly. So funny that you thought of them as a burden. I didn't even know about the birthday gifts. We wore those plastic flip flops that were called Zorries in those days.

    1. That Cootie game (used)is available at the website named under the photo. I don't know if they're still made or not.

      That's funny that rich kids wore them where you grew up. We were not rich kids. haha

      The birthday gifts were given by the shoe store, not the Brown Shoe Company.

  3. Have never heard of Buster Brown,he sounds like a fun character for children.

    I wore lace up shoes made by Clarks in the Winter,and their sandals in Summer.No slip on shoes til early teens.

    Clarks were made in Britain until the early 1990's,now made abroad..maybe China.Ida

    1. It's only the last maybe 20 years that we see Clark shoes in abundance here. They are so comfortable.

      I guess there used to be more concern about childrens' feet getting "proper support" during growing years. Now they all wear flip flops and sandals most of the time.

  4. The minute I saw Buster Brown in you post title I though of that x-ray machine. I recall only once having my feet in it and I don't think I ever had the shoes. My memory isn't great but I think I mostly wore some version of Mary Janes. I do remember a favorite pair of white leather sandals, they had fringe on them. Mostly I recall later years of saddle shoes and Spaulding's White Bucks.


  5. I later had saddle oxfords and my sister had white bucks. Funny that you thought of the X-ray machine you thought of Buster Brown. I never knew all that stuff about "him" until I started researching it. Very interesting I thought.

  6. Buster Brown Shoes were, literally, my life when growing up in Maplewood, N.J. For eons, my father was an exec with Brown Shoe Company. Thought you might enjoy my blog, "Bonni Brodnick Blog" ( and the Buster Brown- and Tige-inspired post. (Search "Buster Brown" if it's not top of blog.) Thanks for this fun post, Sanda.

  7. I loved Buster Brown Shoes. I had brown lace ups for everyday and white lace ups for Sundays. I watched Tige and Groggy on TV. I also had Buster Brown Socks. The Children's Xray Macine at Fagen's Bootery, Gainesville, Florida was fun to play on. Judy

  8. I loved Buster Brown Shoes. I had brown lace ups for everyday and white lace ups for Sundays. I watched Tige and Groggy on TV. I also had Buster Brown Socks. The Children's Xray Macine at Fagen's Bootery, Gainesville, Florida was fun to play on. Judy


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...