Shoe Tossing in Berlin

by Sara · 12.12.2011 · Kiez Life · 2 comments

This city is attracted by many people of all kinds. The spirit and the diversity of our urban habitat is like a magnet to many tourists, expats and young rebels who’ve found a place to develop their personalities. But with all the differences to the rest of the world, Berlin shares at least one urban phenomena with other metropoles like New York or London: shoe tossing.

Nobody really knows where the habit of throwing shoes up on electricity lines or trees stems from. There are a couple of grimey uses, like marking gang territory in LA or being a symbol of someones death in other areas. There’s a whole list of suspected reasons and myth-guessing on Wikipedia, but it really leads no where (as for internet research, I’ve tried. Nobody knows). All we know: shoe tossing is a collective habit appearing everywhere in the world. I’ve seen shoes on high wires in South East Asia, in Australia, in the Middle East and in Berlin.

[pullquote author=”Wikipedia”]Shoe flinging or “shoefiti” is the practice of throwing shoes whose shoelaces have been tied together so that they hang from overhead wires such as power lines or telephone cables. 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 folklore in the United States[/pullquote]

Most people remember the dangerously heavy load of sneakers at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg. The city decided to remove the dangling accessoires from the wires. I was honestly upset. Shoe tossing just seems like the most random thing to do, and so effortlessly cool. It’s refreshingly pointless. People call it “shoefiti” for a reason: just like painting walls, there’s some intense urban symbolism sprinkled with a nice touch of illegality. Is there a cultural worth to it? Why are people motivated to throw their shoes up up wires? Nobody knows. My take: Sometimes what we do doesn’t need a valid reason. It can mean one thing to me and the next thing to you. It’s art and it’s not art. That’s the sort of undecided ambivalence that shapes Berlin culture. For some it’s this, for others it’s that. I hope we’ll never find the source of this tradition.

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This (and even more) is what it used to look like at Kottbusser Tor. The city had the shoes removed - and frankly it did look a bit unstable.

Anyway – ever since I read on the subject I started paying attention by taking pictures of the incidents. Guess what? Although the many shoes of the Kottbusser Tor have been removed – one lonely pair has been thrown up there a couple of days later to take back the wire. These are my favorite pictures on the subject, check it out!

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Found up high on a parking lot deck - this time around, not just a pair of shoes, a pair of high heels no less. Romantic date gone wild? We'll never know..

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Shoes high up between two buildings in Londons Notting Hill. Do some of those still have their label attached?

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A random pair somewhere in Berlin Mitte.

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Clothes, shoes, whatever - the urban shoe tossing legend is sometimes even part of club and event decoration.. this one was taken at Johannisburg24 in 2010

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After the shoes had been removed from Kottbusser Tor, someone decided to reclaim the wires - this lonely pair is staying strong on the premise.

In New York, "shoes on a wire" is a very common concept - so much in fact that the shoes just disappear into the backdrop of houses and scenery.

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Brad Downeys most recent installation at Warschauer Brücke - he identified his work by tossing up a pair shoes with his name on them.

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These are the kind of shoes you should probably get rid of by throwing up on a tree.

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Close, but not really. Nice try though!

Thanks a lot to DefShop from Berlin for sponsoring this post – we had an amazing time putting these pieces together and sharing our love for shoes, whether up on high wires or on our own feet! They were amazing enough to make our readers part of the game, so if you’re into streetwear and hot sneakers, listen up: DefShop x FindingBerlin are giving away two gift certificates for the DefShop Store! To win, all you need to do is tell us why you think people throw up their shoes on high wires on our Facebook status!

First prize: 100€ gift voucher for DefShop
Second prize: 50€ gift voucher for DefShop

You have until Wednesday to participate – good luck!

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2 comments
  1. Shofeti stems from the ancient reverent act of surrendering ones shoes to the heavens, and a venerable sacrifice to the shoe God who blessed us with the ability to design and wear truly amazing shoes (from DefShop!!!)

  2. i’ve noticed a lot of bike tires thrown around the lamp posts here as well – have you seen them?