Why People Hang Shoes on Power Lines

The topic may seem strange at first, but it is more than likely something you have experienced. Have you ever seen a pair of shoes just randomly hanging down from power lines? It may initially seem like it is of little to no significance. However, there is possibly more to it than meets the eye. Let us try to answer this question today- why do people hang shoes on power lines?

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Surprising as it may be, there is no singular answer to this. Rather than that, there is an array of possibilities to why this is done. However, more often than not, it was found that these are symbolisms. Be it positive or negative, they often are symbolic to an event, a group, an act or just about anything. People hang shoes on power lines in order to symbolize, signify or signal something or another.

Gangs and Syndicates

A commonly believed cause behind people hanging shoes on power lines is to signal locations, locations that may belong to gangs or syndicates. It was believed that these members would mark their territories to let other groups know of their presence. This was widely believed as an urban myth, especially back when it was done more popularly. 

In the United States, there have been shoe removal incidents back in 2003 when the people living there expressed worry. It has happened namely in Los Angeles and Chicago. Specifically in Chicago, there were thousands of calls from the residents every year complaining about hanging shoes. Authorities have stated that they would receive as much as 6000 calls per annum to solve this issue.

Over the years, these complaints have gone down the numbers; almost as much as 70 percent. These numbers used to be very high back in 2003, and have gone down over the years drastically thanks to the authorities. 

Drug Activities

Like the gang and syndicate activity, this one falls into the same line of thought. It was popularly believed that drug cartels or factories would operate within more crowded, remote areas. To mark the territory as their own, some of these groups would hang shoes on power lines.

This would let other groups of similar kinds know that it was an area already taken for business. They can then choose to stay away or act accordingly. This was also seen by residents as a sign of illicit activities, and thus these too would be reported to the authority. Over time, gangs, syndicates and drug groups have stopped doing this.

It should be noted however that there has not been any evidence found to support these claims. No gangs, drug cartels or syndicates have been found to be tied with incidents of hanging shoes from power lines. These are just widely believed urban stories, especially amongst residents of that time. 

To Mark the Passing of a Loved One

Quite unknown how this tradition began, but people would do this for commemoration of the death of a loved one. Within days of the passing, people would toss or suspend shoes over power lines and tree branches. It is believed that this was originally a gang tradition, which eventually made its way to urban traditions in some places.

This is done more commonly in some remote areas of the Western society. And more often than not, the shoes would actually belong to the one who is no more. The culture has seen slow deprecation over time, due to it being unsanitary and considered littering. Authorities see this as a similar case with the first one, so they also do not approve of it when it is done too widely.

The urban myth that supports this idea is not very common. However, the myth basically says that upon returning from the dead, the individual’s spirit would have shoes to walk in.

To Commemorate an Important Event

This one initially may seem rather strange, but unbelievably – it is done quite popularly! Over in the United States, many families, especially in more remote areas have been observed to take part in this. They have or have been hanging shoes over power lines to mark a milestone of a family member, or the whole family.

Occasions can be various for which this is done. This includes graduation of a family member, such as a child or a niece/nephew. On the day of graduation, shoes will be hung on power lines to mark the milestone that has been achieved. There are other cases when the family members will do this due to the completion of military training of someone. The family will have already hung shoes on power lines. They will then greet a returning graduate from military escapades.

Authorities have been found to not appreciate this much. This ultimately can tie back to our first point about gangs and syndicates.

General Bullying or Abuse

A reason that may logically seem the most realistic: Bullying and abuse. We all know about the kind of people who lurk in our society who just like kicking people when they are down. Shady individuals have been found to harass others by stealing their shoes and tossing them over the power lines.

There are also other cases of goons and thugs. They simply beat people up and take their shoes to throw over power lines. Taunting and showing dominance is the most common reason for this. Some people just like feeling powerful by showing down to the powerless. 

Why People Hang Shoes on Power Lines

Photo by: Daniel von Appen


We hope we have been able to provide you with some answers to your curiosity or research. These are some of the most widely believed ideas behind why do people hang shoes on power lines. The ones related to crime and drugs are not evident by any official authorities, while the commemorate-event is still done to this day. We hope you have found this article satisfactory.  

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