Saturday, June 20, 2009


Who knows why, in a quiet suburban neighborhood, the youth fling their sneakers over the power lines? My adult children told me it means there is a drug dealer in the area. Should I be concerned about the children two blocks from my home when this happens?

If my son did this when he was a teenager, he would have been grounded for
life even if it didn't involve drugs!

Okay, I haven't been living in a cocoon. I've seen this kind of thing for years, but not so close to home. I had to come home and google "Shoe tossing" to find an answer.

Wikipedia defines it this way: "Shoe flinging or "shoefiti" is the American and worldwide practice of throwing shoes whose shoelaces have been tied together so that they hang from overhead wires such as power lines or telephone cables. The shoes are tied together by their laces, and the pair is then thrown at the wires as a sort of bolas. This practice plays a widespread, though mysterious, role in adolescent folklore in the United States. Shoe flinging has also been reported in many other countries.

A number of sinister explanations have been proposed as to why this is done. Some say that shoes hanging from the wires advertise a local crack house where crack cocaine is used and sold (in which case the shoes are sometimes referred to as "Crack Tennies"). It can also relate to a place where Heroin is sold to symbolize the fact that once you take Heroin you can never 'leave': a reference to the addictive nature of the drug.

Others claim that the shoes so thrown commemorate a gang-related murder, or the death of a gang member, or as a way of marking gang turf. A newsletter from the mayor of Los Angeles, California cites fears of many Los Angeles residents that "these shoes indicate sites at which drugs are sold or worse yet, gang turf," and that city and utility employees had launched a program to remove the shoes. These explanations sound more like urban legends, especially since the practice also occurs along relatively remote stretches of rural highways that are unlikely scenes for gang murders.

Still others claim that the shoes are stolen from other people and tossed over the wires as a sort of bullying tactic, or as a practical joke played on drunkards. Others simply say that shoe flinging is a way to get rid of shoes that are no longer wanted, are uncomfortable, or do not fit. It may also be another manifestation of the human instinct to leave their mark on, and decorate, their surroundings. It has been reported that workmen often throw shoes if they are not paid for waxing floors." goes on to give an innocent reason for this juvenile act:

Graduating seniors use it to mark a transition in their lives.

Since the shoes in my neighborhood have just appeared recently, let's hope graduation is the explanation.

Is it an innocent adolescent prank or
a sign of something more sinister?


Travelin'Oma said...

I have never heard of all these meanings!

Whenever I've seen shoes dangling, I imagine some poor mother searching under the couch and through the coat closet for her kid's lost shoes. I figured somebody found them on the freeway after they fell out of a car, and gave them a toss. (Obviously I haven't thought through the logistics here.)

I am very naive I guess. Thanks for giving me some street smarts.

PI said...

Whatever the reason it is vandalism and not to be encouraged. Sheltered life that I've had - it's new to me.

Keri(th) said...

Yikes, I saw several back in Utah near our home. Thought they looked kind of cute swinging in the wind, but after reading your post it's obvious that I live in my own little delusion of happy!

Haven't spotted any here in Texas yet... now I'll be on the lookout.