Every so often, I’ll be driving down the street and will notice a pair of shoes, tied together by their laces, dangling from the power lines. This sight sparks a series of questions in my brain: How many attempts did this take? Is this the reason my power went out the other night? Will someone take those down or will they fall off themselves? And let’s not forget the most perplexing question of all: WHY did someone throw a pair of shoes onto this power line?
I grew up fascinated by urban legends and obeyed their every warning. I never mixed Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola; I only said “Bloody Mary” two times at slumber parties before running out of the bathroom screaming for my mother; and to this day, I refuse to flash my lights at an on-coming car who has forgotten to turn on their headlights (what? I’m not going to end up being some new gang member’s initiation murder, thank you very much.) Urban legend told me shoes hanging from power lines symbolized the murder of a child (again, usually by a gang). Let me take this moment to remind readers I grew up and still reside in Burlington, Vermont—one of the safest, happiest, (most boring) cities in the United States. Our “top stories” are usually about cows, snow, and a lovable Moose named Pete. We don’t have gangs in Burlington, and even if we did, they certainly don’t go around murdering children every single week. Yet, people continue to sacrifice their Nike’s.
So why the shoes? I turned to the ‘net for some other explanations. As always, Wikipedia blew my mind and melted my face off.
- First of all, there’s a name for this practice. It’s called “shoefiti.”
- Apparently, some do this to advertise where the local crack house is. These shoes are then called “Crack Tennies.” Appropriate.
- Like me, some believe it commemorates a gang-related murder, or is a way to mark “gang turf.”
- Others “shoefiti” for a person who has passed away—they’ll need their sneaks for “walking high above the ground.”
- Some do it for happy reasons—to celebrate the end of the school year, to tell the world about an engagement, and in Scotland, young men do it to announce they’ve lost their virginity!
Hmm. So to review, shoes hanging from power lines can mean: Crack houses, gang turf, or the loss of virginity? While these explanations make sense in other cities (scratch that, it still doesn’t make sense no matter where you live), I don’t think these really work for Vermont.
Here’s my theory on shoe throwing: Bratty kids have too much time on their hands and toss their shoes for entertainment purposes, plain and simple. As annoying as it is, I suppose it could be worse. After all, kids could be joining gangs.