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!

  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?