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The origin of an urban mystery: why do shoes hang from electrical cables?
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By: payless

The origin of an urban mystery: why do shoes hang from electrical cables?

They are so present in the urban image that they could go unnoticed. However, his disposition seems always predisposed to attract our attention. We have become accustomed to electrical wiring braiding between our eyes and the sky, but we are not accustomed to finding shoes dangling from these cables. What are they doing there? When and how did they get so high? Perhaps you imagine a guy who, suddenly, takes off his shoes in the middle of the street, ties his sneakers and they end up hanging while he goes on his way barefoot. It could be a form of protest against the idea of ​​decadence that cables carry: you take the sky from me because I use you for another practical purpose. It could be anything.

It is, yes, a common practice for decades. Halfway between ritual, chance and legend, mysterious pairs of shoes can be found tied and hung from power lines in more than half the world, from North America, Europe, Latin America to Australia. Getting to the origin of the gesture seems as difficult as getting it under very high posts: It is not clear when or why this tradition began, but there is no shortage of theories about it.

The most famous urban legends in history (and where they come from) AN

Some historians agree that this fashion originated in the suburbs of large cities in the United States in the late seventies, although others place it in London. What does seem certain is that the taste for her grows as much as the rejection.

dozens of explanations

'Urban Dictionary', the reference portal in terms of unverified popular culture, offers several explanations: it could be that they symbolized that a person passed through there under the influence of some drug, since some shoes hung high above the place with which they are related, the floor, reminds the English concept of being 'high'. Likewise, it could also mark a drug sales point.

One of the first references that can be found on the internet about it dates back to the end of the nineties, specifically in 1996. That year, the columnist Adams Cecil tried to answer this question in his popular question and answer column in the well-known Chicago Reader as 'The Straight Dope'. The question was constantly repeated among his readers, so he went to a cyber forum of the time and waited for answers: the link with the drug came up quickly, but also other ideas such as that it could have to do with cases of bullying in which the stalkers ended an assault by throwing the victim's shoes at the wires.

Since then, over the years the explanations have continued to multiply, such as the very appearance of new pairs in new street cables. Some have even tried to relate it to much older practices that already used shoes, as Karen Harris explains in 'History Daily', from commemorating the dead to celebrating a move or a job promotion, even in wedding rituals in England, in which what was thrown at the bride and groom was precisely shoes (we can already imagine why this custom stopped being done).

an art form

Today it seems more to do with an art game, a three-dimensional form of street art known as "shoefiti." Ed Kohler was the person who coined this term a few years ago, conflating the two words upon discovering that the public reception of shoes hanging from power lines has a significant parallel to graffiti. "Both allude to ideas of urban decay and desolation. It adds to the pollution of our city. We identify 'shoefiti' as an icon that represents disorder because something that is meant to make us look civilized, that is supposed to stay on the ground, hangs from heaven," says Gita Devi in ​​'Medium'.

Often it's just a game to see who can hook their shoes with the fewest tries. However, as with graffiti, it has been elevated to an art form in modern times.

In this way, there are artists who have included it as a practice in their work, such as a duo of artist brothers from Brooklyn, where they have come to show up to 500 pairs of woodcuts adorned with images of power line shoes from around the world. In the short film 'Mystery of Flying Kicks', these and other artists already associated with "shoefiti" recount their experiences throwing shoes in the air around the world. You may never fully know to what end this phenomenon started, but that doesn't mean we can't know why they do it today.

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