Shoefiti: shoes on powerlines
May 28, 2007 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Shoefiti: Shoes on powerlines. Shoefiti Phenomenology. Not to be confused with shoe trees.
posted by Rumple (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Please do not use the word "phenomenology" if you do not know what it means. Especially not if you live in Williamsburg.

Hipster assholes.
posted by nasreddin at 11:52 AM on May 28, 2007

Nor shoe trees?

(do do, de do do)
posted by mendel at 12:07 PM on May 28, 2007

Main Entry: phe·nom·e·nol·o·gy
Pronunciation: fi-"nä-m&-'nä-l&-jE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -gies
Etymology: German Phänomenologie, from Phänomenon phenomenon + -logie -logy
1 : writings and/or images describing of the idiosyncrasies of a particular culture or subculture.

Seems like pretty spot-on usage to me, Nasreddin.
posted by jeremy b at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2007

Growing up (near Detroit and later in Louisville, Ky.), I always heard the story that gangs threw shoes up on phone lines to mark their territory.

It makes sense (somewhat), but I (cynic) always assumed that was urban legend, especially considering some of the neighborhoods where I would see shoes.

Eventually, I just decided that it was more like a prank, either something to do with getting rid of old shoes or bullies, i.e. a meaner prank like locking someone in a locker or giving them a red belly, etc.

Shoes as gang signs on Snopes.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:19 PM on May 28, 2007

Ugh, I hate ghetto bullshit like this. Why do people fuck up their own neighborhoods?
posted by grytpype at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2007

It's enough of a problem in Buffalo that the online CityStat system (where you would report, say, missing recycling bins, downed trees, etc) has a category for it.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:39 PM on May 28, 2007

This has been going on for years around here, at least since I was a kid. Just something teenagers do, really.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:51 PM on May 28, 2007

Reminds me of the scam in Wag the Dog, where the Dustin Hoffman character thinks up throwing old shoes onto trees etc to honor the invented war hero, whose last name had the word shoe in it.
posted by nickyskye at 12:57 PM on May 28, 2007

I never really understood what dangling shoes were supposed to mean until I saw some guy trying to get his shoes back down.
You have to throw stuff at them repeatedly - hoping to just hit one of the shoes and have them flip back off - but you also have to take care not to break anything with the thrown object.
Tennis balls would seem to be a good choice for throwing - baseballs, a bad choice.

All the same, retrieving a set of dangling shoes seems hard to do with any sense of privacy or dignity... and that is ultimately my guess as to why they are thrown up there in the first place.

(Unless, of course, you have a really good throwing arm... in which case, you are probably "cool" and your shoes are relatively safe from chucking.)
posted by Tbola at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2007

In New Zealand, the urban myth goes that the house nearest the dangling shoes will sell you drugs...[covered in the Snopes article]
posted by meech at 1:12 PM on May 28, 2007

This was the final straw for me, when reading Jame's Frey's a Million Little Pieces. I was beginning to suspect that he was full of bullshit, but when he describes his search for drug dealers, as (I paraphrase) "Going to the place where the shoes hung over the lines, to get what I want." He took the urban legend and ran with it as fact, showing his ass in the process.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2007

The only time I saw a set sneakers slung over a phone line that I thought was an obvious marker was a couple months ago in Southwest Philly. They were the only set of sneaks hanging from the wire that ran the length of the block and they were hanging directly in front of a house that had black plastic taped over all the windows. That struck me as awfully suspcious, as it was a high drug and gun violence area and there wasn't like there were any renovations going on or anything. I was there to look at an adjacent property for a client (who refused to take it) and in the process of asking around with neighbors on the block I got someone to identify the house as an active crackhouse.

But yeah, as a general rule it means absolutely nothing.
posted by The Straightener at 1:37 PM on May 28, 2007

The only time I saw a set sneakers slung over a phone line that I thought was an obvious marker was a couple months ago in Southwest Philly.

It was de rigeur in Philly when I was a teenager in the 70s. Still is as far as I know. It doesn't mean anything at all - other than the fact that it takes a bit of skill to toss your beat-up Chuck Taylors so that the laces loop around the power line. You'd see some pairs that would hang there for years....
posted by three blind mice at 1:47 PM on May 28, 2007

I hate ghetto bullshit like this
I live in a very affluent Massachusetts town (I rent, I'm the poorest person in town I think), and there is a pair of shoes hanging over a power line a block away. They've been there about 2 months, near a park. I just think it's a teenager thing.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:00 PM on May 28, 2007

I prefer the Spathi.
posted by fleacircus at 3:19 PM on May 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

As a runner I throw my training shoes over telephone lines when they have no more miles left in their soles. My last pair were thrown over a line in front of my former apartment and at the telephone pole where I finished my daily runs (it took 3 tries to get it tangled up). Good ol' Eugene, Oregon: Track Town USA. Woot!
posted by heatherbeth at 3:51 PM on May 28, 2007

I've always wanted to create a photo book based on shoes on power lines.
posted by toddbass10 at 5:00 PM on May 28, 2007

Why the hell do you think anyone wants to look at your nasty old shoes?

So that people like toddbass10 can create photo books obviously.
posted by heatherbeth at 5:05 PM on May 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if self-linking is kosher in the comments, but I run another flickr group called High Flung Soles, mostly populated with photos I've taken of the phenomenon around Vancouver, BC. I don't consider them blight - instead, I think they're quite peaceful markers of city life. Sorry if this is too self-promoting.
posted by holycola at 7:31 PM on May 28, 2007

I love shoes on phone lines. It's just this tiny and anonymous shout of "I am here!" that gives me a small satisfaction.

Also, wasn't there some crappy 80s movie that had shoes over electric wires as a major theme? It turned out they were being thrown by some reclusive oddball who somehow saved everyone at the end of the movie. Ring a bell anyone?
posted by serazin at 7:51 PM on May 28, 2007

Self-linking in comments is fine, as long as it's relevant to the thread, and you identify it as a self-link. You're good!

posted by The Deej at 8:35 PM on May 28, 2007

thanks holycola, great flickr group..
posted by Rumple at 8:39 PM on May 28, 2007

3bm: It's a Philly thing, they wouldn't understand it. :)
posted by scalefree at 1:03 AM on May 29, 2007

So, if shoes => crack.. what was this advertising?
posted by plant at 4:28 AM on May 29, 2007

How would shoes be useful to mark territory for a gang?

Oh shit, see those shoes on the power line? Who's territory are we in?

Uh the British Knights? Pro-Keds? Oh no it's the Rod Lavers, we're screwed.

Ugh, I hate ghetto bullshit like this. Why do people fuck up their own neighborhoods?

Right, because in a blighted and underserved neighborhood with little or no street cleaning, public works repair and lots of shoddy slum construction and no stores but liquor and fast food the problem is that some teenagers chuck their sneakers over a power line.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:42 AM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I always thought it was a bullying thing. You beat the crap out of someone, take their shoes and throw them up on the line to be a dick and humiliate them. Phenomenon. Huh.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:46 PM on May 29, 2007

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