You might have come across a mysterious pair of shoes hanging from power lines, poles, and trees if you live in a city. What do these dangling sneakers on the power line mean?
There’s no proper answer to this question but there are different theories all around the world as to why people throw shoes on power lines. In some places, hanging shoes represent prosperity while in other places, hanging shoes are a part of the rite of passage. In this guide, we will try to uncover some truth about shoe tossing.
What is Shoe Tossing?
Shoe Tossing, also known as Shoe throwing or ‘Shoefiti’ is when someone ties a pair of shoes using laces and throws them over a power line or telephone wire. Hanging shoes can also be seen over poles or trees, but they are most commonly thrown on power lines.
Shoe Tossing is incredibly common throughout Australia, New Zealand, North America, Europe, and South Africa. Most of the time, the shoes are sneakers but they can also be cowboy boots or leather shoes.
Why Do People Hang Shoes on Power Lines?
Hanging shoes are quite common in major urban areas but there is no apparent reason explaining why people throw shoes on power lines. There are so many theories surrounding shoe tossing and all of them mean different things. Some of the common theories that you’re likely to come across relating to hanging shoes are:
- Used by gangs to mark their territory
- A place where one can buy drugs
- Celebrating life milestones
- Sending a message to the police
- For bullying or just for fun
What are the Theories on Hanging Shoes?
Crew or Gang Territory
In many cities, shoes are used to mark a gang’s territory. Several inmates in state prison have claimed that they would toss shoes on the power lines to warn the members of the other gang to stay away from the block.
Gangs can’t use the obvious signage to mark their territory as the police might know too. Hence, they used to throw shoes on the telephone lines to warn others back in the 1990s.
To Hint Drug Activity
One of the most common theories when it comes to hanging shoes on power lines is to hint at drug-related activity. Many people tend to believe that the shoes dangling on the power line indicate that someone in the neighborhood is dealing with drug-related activities.
But the theory doesn’t make much sense as no drug dealer in their right mind would advertise that they are selling drugs as it could catch the police’s eye and can get them arrested.
In Remembrance of a Loved One
It is also quite a common theory. Though it is unclear when or where the tradition began, sometimes friends or family toss shoes over power lines after the death of a young person. Some gang members hung on the shoes and threw them over power lines in a location where a close connection has lost his or her life.
Celebrating Life’s Milestone
Some graduating students toss shoes over power lines as a sign that they are leaving a part of themselves behind. Similarly, some members of the military paint their boots into festive colors and throw them over the power lines after completing their training.
The act is also done by some young boys when they lose their virginity. They tie the laces together and throw their shoes up on a telephone line.
For Bullying Someone
Another reason why people toss shoes on power lines is because of immaturity. A bully takes the shoes of a defenseless kid, ties the laces together, and tosses the shoes over the power line so that the kid can’t reach their shoes. This way, a kid not only loses their shoes but will also have to walk home barefoot.
Message to the Police
In Spain, it is believed that hanging shoes on the power line might be a mafia’s way of telling the police to back off from their territory. It is more likely a warning to the cops that the Mafia will harm the police if they poke around too much.
Alternate Graffiti – Shoefiti
Once the shoes are tossed up there it is extremely difficult and dangerous to remove them again. Thus, they become a permanent fixture in the air just like the graffiti.
Thus, people toss up shoes to leave their mark on the city. It is a way of saying that you were there. Shoefiti is said to have the same effect on the neighborhood as graffiti.
What to Consider When Tossing Shoes on a Power Line?
If you have decided to throw shoes on a power line, you might want to consider the following things:
You Could Hurt Passerby
If you don’t throw shoes with good aim — they can possibly cause a serious injury. Especially the ones with big leather soles can hurt anyone if they fall on them.
If they fall on the face or neck, misaimed shoes can blind or choke out anyone. Aim correctly and accurately while tossing the shoes on the power line.
Retrieving the Shoes is Risky
If you ever decide to retrieve your hanging shoes just know that it can be a risky task. The power lines are extremely dangerous to touch as it uses 7,200 volts of electrical energy. Wear rubber gloves and stand on an elevated platform to retrieve your sneakers. Also, make sure it hasn’t poured in your area on the day you decide to get your shoes back.
It Could Send a Wrong Idea
Tossing the shoes on power lines is most commonly known for the wrong reasons. If you throw shoes on a power line someone in your area might assume that drug dealers live nearby. Hanging shoes can also send the wrong message to those passing through.
As you can see there are many different reasons why people throw shoes on power lines. It could be due to gang-related activity, a way to remember someone, or just for fun. The real reason is still a mystery today but it is definitely a disappearing mystery. As not many hanging shoes are witnessed these years.