Buster Brown

Buster Brown

Charlie Brown and Snoopy may be the most iconic boy and dog ever paired together in a comic strip, but long before they ever appeared in the newspaper, children and their parents were all well aware of another cartoon duo, Buster Brown and Tige. Sure, they may not be quite as famous as their Peanuts cohorts, but they sure managed to sell a lot of shoes, ones worn by millions of children around the world.

Buster Brown – the little boy with the Dutch bangs hair style, the sailor cap, and the big bow tie collar – started as a comic strip created by Richard Fenton Outcault and first published in the New York Herald in 1902. Buster’s pet was a loyal dog named Tige who is considered the first dog to ever “talk” in a comic strip. His girlfriend, a nice girl named Mary Jane.

Meanwhile, a man named George Warren Brown (no relation) was the owner of the Brown Shoe Company out of St. Louis, Missouri. Wishing to boost sales, he had the good fortune of acquiring the name and character rights to Buster Brown in 1904. George not only used the character’s likeness in ads, but promptly changed the company name to Buster Brown as well. It proved to be a very smart move.

It wasn’t long before Buster Brown became a marketing powerhouse and, by proxy, a household name. The company sent real life characters and dog companions to department stores across the country for live appearances that proved very popular. They also sponsored the ‘50’s kids’ show Smilin’ Ed McConnell and His Buster Brown Gang (later Andy’s Gang) and became a national phenomena. The company also produced another line of shoes specifically for girls called Mary Janes, which were named after Buster’s girlfriend. These strapped shoes developed their own loyal following over the years.

Buster Browns weren’t always the most stylish, nor were the thick leather shoes entirely comfortable to wear, but kids adored them anyway. Parents loved the affordable price and the fact that a pair was durable enough to withstand the rigors of school and the playground. Unless or until a child outgrew them, the shoes would often last a year or more despite the daily abuse.

In later decades, as sneakers became acceptable to wear in school, many kids turned their attention to the comfort of Keds and Chuck Taylors. Buster Brown soon followed with their own line of sneakers to keep up with the competition. In the 80s, they even offered a special version that featured everyone’s favorite extra-terrestrial, E.T.

Buster Brown is still going strong, to the tune of over $2 billion in sales around the world each year. Granted, you’d be hard-pressed to find a kid today who knows a whole lot about Buster and Tige, but the impact of these two mascots over the years has made Buster Brown one of the most recognizable names in children’s shoes. Take that, Charlie Brown.

Were you ever the proud owner of a pair of Buster Browns back in the day? We hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections of these iconic shoes from yesteryear in our comments section below.

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