- Shoe tossing
Shoe tossing (or shoe flinging), the act of using shoes as improvised
projectiles or weapons, is a constituent of a number of folk sports and practices. Today, it is commonly the act of throwing a pair of shoesonto telephone wires, powerlines, or other raised wires. A related practice is shoe tossing onto trees or fences. Shoe tossing has been observed in areas of the United States, Canada, Britain, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuadorand Ireland.
In the Arab world: a gesture of contempt
Arabworld, shoe flinging is a gesture of extreme disrespect. A notable occurrence of this gesture happened in Baghdad, Iraqin 2003. When U.S. forces pulled down a giant statue of Saddam Husseinduring the 2003 invasion of Iraq, many Iraqi detractors of Hussein threw their shoes at the fallen statue.
This may be an ancient
gesturefrom the Middle East; Psalms60:10, speaking of some of the traditional enemies of Judah, says that " Moab"is" my washpot; over Edomwill I cast out my shoe...." (KJV)
The shoe represents the lowest part of the body (the
foot) and displaying or throwing a shoe at someone or something in Arab cultures denotes that the person or thing is "beneath them." Showing the bottom of one's feet or shoes (for example, putting one's feet up on a table or desk) in Arab cultures is considered an extreme insult. Examples include Iraqi citizens smacking torn-down posters of Saddam Hussein with their shoes, and the depiction of President of the United States George H. W. Bushon a tile mosaic of the floor of the Al-Rashid Hotel's lobby, forcing all visitors entering the hotel to walk on Bush's face to enter the hotel.
Shoes hung from overhead wires ("shoefiti")
Shoe flinging or "shoefiti" is the American and Canadian practice of throwing shoes whose
shoelaces have been tied together so that they hang from overhead wires such as power lines or telephonecables. 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 folklorein the United States. Shoe flinging has also been reported in Australia, Sweden, France, The UKand Norway.
Shoe flinging occurs throughout the United States, in rural as well as in urban areas. Usually, the shoes flung at the wires are sneakers; elsewhere, especially in rural areas, many different varieties of shoes, including
leathershoes and boots, also are thrown.
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 cocaineis 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. [cite web
title= The Secret Language of Sneakers
authorlink= Barbara Mikkelson
work= Urban Legends Reference Pages (
snopes.com)] A newsletter from the mayor of Los Angeles, Californiacites 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. [cite web
title= East Los Angeles NSC Combats Problem of Overhead Shoes on Wires
author= TeamWork LA
year= c. 2003
archivedate=2003-10-07] These explanations have the ring of
urban legendto them, especially since the practice also occurs along relatively remote stretches of rural highways that are unlikely scenes for gang murders or crack houses.
Other, less sinister, explanations have been ventured for the practice. Somewho claim that shoes are flung to commemorate the end of a
schoolyear, or a forthcoming marriageas part of a rite of passage. In Scotland, it has been said that when a young man has lost his virginity he tosses his shoes over telephone wires to announce this to his peersFact|date=March 2008. It has been suggested that the custom may have originated with members of the military, who are said to have thrown military boots, often painted orange or some other conspicuous color, at overhead wires as a part of a rite of passage upon completing basic trainingor on leaving the service.Fact|date=March 2008 Others claim that the shoes are stolen from other people and tossed over the wires as a sort of bullyingtactic, or as a practical jokeplayed on drunkards.Fact|date=March 2008 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.Fact|date=March 2008 It may also be another manifestation of the human instinct to leave their mark on, and decorate, their surroundings.Fact|date=March 2008
motion picture" Wag the Dog", a spin doctorflings shoes into trees as a part of a campaign to call attention to a fictional war heronamed Sergeant William Schumann, who was given the nickname"The Old Shoe." In another motion picture, " Like Mike", a character is struck by lightningin an attempt to retrieve shoes from a power line, and improbably acquires superpowers as a result.
Shoe flinging may cause utility outages, as the weight of the dangling shoes can disrupt the power line. In addition, peoplewho have been killed by electrocution while trying to remove shoes from power lines.
Utilitieshave asked the public to call them instead of trying to remove the shoes themselves.
In some neighborhoods, shoes tied together and hanging from power lines or tree branches signify that someone has died. The shoes belong to the dead person. The reason they are hanging, legend has it, is that when the dead person's spirit returns, it will walk that high above the ground, that much closer to heaven.Fact|date=June 2007Another superstition holds that the tossing of shoes over the power lines outside of a house is a way to keep the property safe from ghosts. Yet another legend involves that shoes hanging from telephone wires signals someone leaving the neighborhood onto bigger and better things.
Occurrences in movies
* There is a scene in
Tim Burton's film " Big Fish" where a man's shoes are thrown on a power line.
1997movie " Wag the Dog" contains several scenes where old shoes are thrown onto trees and telephone lines in support of a supposed war hero.
The Sandlot 2" after David Durango, one of the main characters, gets a pair of Nike shoes he throws his old pair onto the power lines.
Stick It" during the introductory animation.
* In "
Freedom Writers" there is a brief shot where a pair of sneakers is shown thrown over a power line in Long Beach.
* In "
Like Mike", a pair of shoes is tossed onto power lines. The film's protagonist retrieves the shoes, receiving an electric shock in the process. As a result, he is endowed with the talent of the pairs' previous owner.
* In "
The Savages (film)" Jon Savage drives under a power line with many old shoes while singing Opera.
* In "
Friday (film)", the first shot is of a pair of sneakers thrown over a power line.
* In "
The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things" two pairs of shoes thrown over a powerline are briefly seen.
thumb|The Shoe Tree in Morley Field, San Diego. [">The Shoe Tree in Frisbee Playground, Morley Field, San Diego fell down (allegedly on 1/7/2008, confirmed on 1/8/2008), caused by a long period of rain.] A Shoe tree, not to be confused with the shoe-preservation device of the same name, is a
tree(or, occasionally, a powerline pole or other wooden object) that has been festooned with old shoes. Shoe trees are generally located alongside a major local thoroughfare, and may have a theme (such as high-heeled shoes). There are currently at least seventy-six such shoe trees in the United States, [Roadside America. Search results for "shoe tree." http://www.roadsideamerica.com/roger/QueryTips.php3?tip_AttractionName=shoe+tree&tip_Town=&tip_State=&Submit=Find ] and an undetermined number elsewhere.The legend of how a particular tree came to be in Middlegate, Nevada, is quite interesting: a couple of local teenagers were spending the late spring evening hours by the tree. Being on the roadside of US 50, the loneliest highway in the US, they had a lot of time to themselves.Being the teenagersthat they were, they ended up unclothed, exploring each other's anatomy.The story says that they came to an argument, and she got in the car and left, naked.The boy put his clothes on, and made a ball out of hers. The shoes, however, he did not take. He tied the shoestrings of both shoes together, and flung them into the tree, in an act of revengeful fury. Supposedly, since he had to get home without the car, he figured she should walk without her shoes.From here, the story gets fuzzier, and no one agrees on who was the next person to add the next pair of shoes to the tree. However, the legend says when the pair of shoes of this indignated boy fall, the girl will be involved in a traffic accident, not far away from there.
Competitive boot throwing
Boot throwing has been a competitive sport in
New Zealandfor many years, although not one that is taken very seriously. Gumbootsor Wellington bootsare the heavy rubber boots worn by most farm workers and many other outdoor workers. A competition to see who can throw a gumboot the furthest is a feature of many Agricultural Field Days in the rural communities. The town of Taihapein the central North Islandis particularly identified with this sport; they claim to be the Gum Boot Throwing Capital of New Zealand. They hold an annual competition in the main street and award a Golden Gumboot as the trophy; see Wellie wanging.
2003the sport has been practiced competitively in Eastern Europe. The 2004World Championship Competition was won by Germany who is hosting the 2005Competition at Döbeln. Apparently teams are also expected from Sweden, Estoniaand Russia.
* "The Straight Dope" on [http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_274.html shoe flinging] .
* [http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/sneakers.htm "The Secret Language of Sneakers"] at
* [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/09/26/1064083166229.html?from=storyrhs Why do people throw their old shoes onto overhead wires] ? Attests and attempts to explain the custom in Australia.
* [http://www.shoefiti.com/ Site dedicated to "shoefiti"]
* [http://www.bdb.co.za/shackle/articles/fences.htm New Zealand shoe throwing]
* [http://www.gosleepgo.com/guide/us/or/juntura/shoe-tree Shoe tree] in
Juntura, Oregonfrom GoSleepGo
* [http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/sneakers.htm Urban legend]
* [http://www.roadsideamerica.com/set/shoetrees2.html Roadside America's article on shoe trees]
* [http://newcastlephotos.blogspot.com/2005/12/armstrong-park.html Shoe Tree in Armstrong Park, Newcastle in its post council cut down state]
* [http://www.edhat.com/site/tidbit.cfm?id=847&event=shoes Shoes in Santa Barbara]
* [http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2003/04/21/38692 University of Minn. campus shoe tree]
* [http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/08/09/68675 Musings on meaning of shoe tree]
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