Shoes on Power Lines
By Chad Upton
Tying shoes together by their laces and throwing them onto overhead lines is known as “shoefiti” (shoe + graffiti).
Shoefiti started in the United States and spread throughout the world, the photo above was taken in Berlin.
There is no single reason why people do this, there are many reasons.
When sneakers are festooned on power lines in rough neighborhoods, the conclusion for their presence is often crime related. Some believe they mark crack houses where you can get your fix or some free shoes via ladder. Others say they are shoes that belong to (or hang in memory of) a murder victim. Some say they are for marking gang turf, but Tucson Arizona police have denied that and flagged the turf marker idea as myth.
They did mention that many shoes are removed each week, since they are unsightly and can cause damage to the lines.
They also said that the volume of shoes increases during the summer break from school. A couple of stories have been told that may support this. One is that of tradition, shoes are thrown on power lines to celebrate the last day of school or graduation. Teenage boys have also been said to do this when they lose their virginity.
Perhaps the oldest story about the origin of shoefiti claims it was tradition for soldiers to hang their boots on the power lines at base when they completed basic training, went home on leave or left the service entirely.
In some movies, it’s the school bully who steals your shoes and throws them onto the lines. There are also stories of kids retiring their own shoes when they get a new pair.
Chances are good that the people who are doing it now have no idea why their predecessors did it.
Some people may think it’s a harmless tradition, but the shoes can disrupt utility services by adding weight to the lines which causes them to sag and potentially touch other lines or trees, which could also result in fire.
If you want to remove shoes from the lines, because you want your kicks back or you just want to clear the eyesore, you should call the utility company to do it — a few Darwin Award candidates have earned their nomination trying to DIY their shoes back.