shoes on a power line
Jade Small
Jade Small
February 12, 2024 ·  6 min read

What Does It Mean When You See Shoes Thrown On A Power Line?

You don’t see shoes on electricity lines very often. However, it appears that wherever you see one, you’re likely to see several, much like colorful beads on trees. There’s a lot of debate on the true meaning of shoes on a power line, but there’s general agreement about what those beads signify (it’s a Mardi Gras custom). Rob Demarco, a retired police sergeant who served for 20 years in Eastchester, New York, really believes that the reason the majority of them were thrown there was because other shoes had already been thrown into the power line.

Put another way, the shoes you see hanging from power wires may be an outcome of our “monkey see, monkey do” mindset, unlike colored balls on power lines, metal wrapped around a tree, balls on cruise ships, and the rare painted purple fence post—all of which have very particular reasons. That being said, the first pair is something Demarco’s hypothesis may not fully explain: How did it arrive there? And why? Many theories explain why individuals would be wearing shoes to decorate their electricity cables. You should continue reading if you enjoy bizarre trivia and fascinating information.

Why Do Individuals Toss Shoes On A Power Line?

People have been using throwing shoes on a power line as a kind of self-expression since before there were power lines or even electricity, which is one of those things you probably never considered. An historic English wedding tradition, for instance, involved hurling shoes at a newlywed pair. Some claim that happiness and luck were intended for the newlyweds. Additionally, there is a long-standing military custom to toss one’s boots in the air to signify leaving one’s station. Before landing back on Earth, space pioneers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin even seemed to toss their moon boots from the rocket door.

There are many additional explanations for shoes on a power line, and none of them include laughing. However, these customs imply that shoes on power lines can have a festive function. Some even allegedly entail criminal activities.

Gang involvement

A widely held belief regarding shoes on a power line is that they serve as a means for gangs to demarcate their area. The argument is flawed since there aren’t enough gang members who are prepared to vouch for it. Furthermore, none of the major cities’ police forces nationwide were ready to corroborate or refute our questions. 

Drug Locations 

Members of the city council in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as the police chief of Prichard, Alabama, claim that some drug traffickers let people know when they’re available for business by throwing a pair of shoes on a power line nearby. However, “I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that people advertise by leaving a sign,” an NYPD official said to the New York Times. Furthermore, a Toronto police chief has openly refuted the hypothesis, calling it nothing more than an urban legend.


An automobile is likely carrying the bereaved family of a deceased service person if you notice a license plate with a gold star on it. In a similar vein, shoes that are suspended from a power line may serve as a monument for a deceased person. In a YouTube video titled “Decoding the Streets,” a Brooklyn resident noted that the shoes represent the departed person “walking in heaven.” Some claim that these monuments are frequently dedicated to those who have lost their lives due to gun violence.

Honoring significant anniversaries

If you come across a pair of combat shoes on a power line, it might be the result of a service member who was commemorating leaving their position. However, some graduates in high school who are graduating want to celebrate their achievements by tossing their shoes over power wires.

In a similar vein, another Redditor writes that they used to excitedly pitch their gym shoes onto the wires outside of schools to signify the end of the academic year. Some people celebrate losing their virginity by tossing their shoes over power lines, according to Fast Company. 

Dropping a wager

This seems like a severe punishment for a simple misfortune bet, but we guess worse things have been gambled by others. However, depending on the tossee’s age, this might cross the line into bullying, as will be covered in more detail below.


Reader’s Digest is informed by Demarco that a pair of shoes on a power line may be considered proof of bullying in certain neighborhoods. In particular, it could indicate that a bully or group of bullies have taken someone’s shoes away from them, generally a defenseless youngster, and thrown the shoes over the power line so they can be admired like a prize.

Children being children

Similar to Demarco’s popular argument (mimicry) explaining why people toss shoes onto power wires, a pair of shoes hanging from the ceiling might represent nothing more than playfulness, or kids being kids and maybe competing with their friends to see who can do it in the fewest tries. Of course, adults can also engage in similar behavior.

Public art

There have also been comparisons made between the act of hanging shoes on power wires and the graffiti artists’ creations. It’s occasionally called “shoefiti.” And throwing one’s shoes over a power wire sounds like a good excuse as any for a crowdsourced art piece. Ad Skewville, an artist, and his brother grabbed this concept and ran with it. They etched pictures of shoes onto shoe-shaped pieces of wood and then threw the pieces across power wires around the Brooklyn borough of New York, as well as other places in South Africa, London, and New York.

Anger combined with passivity

Demarco claims that compared to more economically varied urban environments, one tends to witness fewer instances of power wires packed with hanging shoes in wealthy neighborhoods. One explanation might be the fact that many wealthy neighborhoods have lower population densities than metropolitan areas, which can result in fewer people and fewer places to throw shoes. Alternatively, it could indicate an intolerance for the behavior. Put another way, if a person witnesses a pair of shoes being thrown over a power wire, they may be more likely to file a complaint and have it sufficiently addressed.

Do Shoes Frequently Cross Electricity Lines?

It seems that there are more shoes on electrical wires in areas with higher population densities. Nevertheless, it is still unknown which towns are most affected and to what extent, as the majority of the police agencies that Reader’s Digest contacted declined to comment on the trend of shoe chucking.

However, our investigation did provide a variety of dispatches from different locations where local lawmakers’ efforts to establish a systematic procedure of removing shoes hanging from power wires have been highlighted by the media. For instance, Jackson, Mississippi, explored enacting a rule in 2021 giving the Public Works department the power to remove the shoes upon a resident’s 311 call. Wilmington, North Carolina, in 2014, and Long Beach, California, in 2010 both explored passing similar regulations.

Is It Against The Law To Toss Shoes At Electrical Lines?

Is it against the law in your town to toss rubbish, including empty beverage bottles, into the street? If so, tossing a pair of shoes over a power wire is most likely forbidden as well. At least in terms of New York law, shoe flinging may qualify as criminal mischief, according to an NYPD spokeswoman. Similar criminal mischief laws may exist in other jurisdictions, and in those without, the behavior may be classified as littering. “Many people are not aware that littering, even in small amounts, is a crime in Arizona,” claims the Salwin Law Group in Arizona. 


  1. If You See Shoes on a Power Line, This Is What It Means.” RD. Lauren Cahn. February 06, 2024.