If you've been alive long enough you've seen them. Shoes dangling by their laces from a utility line. That line could be electrical or a communications line or a wire that serves some other purpose but it probably wasn't designed to hold a pair of shoes.

Tomasz Wyszoamirski, ThinkStock

And the last time I checked, shoes were not cheap items of clothing. In fact, some of the shoes that I have seen dangling from power lines are worth quite a bit of money. Or, they were before they were flung into the air and wrapped around a wire carrying enough electrical current to knock the shoes right off you.

Why Do People Throw Shoes onto Power Lines?

There are several interesting theories as to why people toss footwear onto utility lines suspended from poles. The most common reason is simply this, "monkey see, monkey do".  Yeah, most shoes are tossed onto power lines because someone else already threw some shoes on the power line.

Kontiantyn Li via Unsplash.com
Kontiantyn Li via Unsplash.com

In some cases, people were just horsing around and managed to get their shoes stuck. Or, people were being mean to someone else and they threw their shoes on the power line as a form of bullying. That explains why you often see so many pairs of shoes on power lines near schools.

Are Shoes on a Power Line Some Kind of Gang Code?

Oddly enough if you ask different police departments you'll get different answers to that query. Most of the police departments that we read about in researching this article were non-committal. Especially when asked if the shoes on the lines were used to denote "gang turf" or "specific area to buy drugs".  Although both of the scenarios are mentioned often when people ask about shoes on a power line.

Are The Shoes on a Power Line a Memorial?

That's another likely scenario especially if the area in which the shoes are located happens to be in or around high-crime areas. Again, police departments were non-committal on giving a definite answer to this query as well.

Is Throwing Shoes on a Power Line Against the Law?

The short answer is yes. The reason the answer is yes is based on litter laws more so than power line protection codes. Sure, there are laws that should dissuade you from damaging a power line but the fact is most of the lines don't get really damaged by the shoes. The damage to the community comes when the shoes fall and they become litter on the ground.

Stephan Tafra via Unsplash.com
Stephan Tafra via Unsplash.com

Are Shoes on a Power Line Strictly a United States Problem?

Like a lot of strange behaviors, the United States does lead the way but we're not the only civilized nation that engages in the practice of tossing shoes on power lines. Australians are pretty good at it as are the Brits and the Spanish. Other countries either don't have the power line infrastructure that we do or they toss their shoes into trees.

Regardless, if you find your shoes have been flung into the air and are now wrapped around a power line don't you try to remove them yourself. Contact your local utility company and they will gladly come to remove the foreign object from the lines. Believe it or not shoes on a power line can be very dangerous and be a catalyst for service interruptions so let's keep our shoes on our feet and our power lines free shoes.

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