What Do Sneakers on Telephone Wires Really Mean?

A video explores urban legends from around the world.

In Australia, dangling sneakers mean you’ve lost your virginity, in Spain, they are a territorial gentlemen’s agreement between the mafia and the police, and in the United States they can signify bullying, street art, or possibly a crack house. 

With very little definitively known about the origins of shoe flinging, or "shoefiti" as it's sometimes called, filmmaker Matthew Bate opened the “the mystery of flying kicks hotline." The filmmaker requested shoe flinging photos, videos, and stories that would help uncover the reasons behind this international phenomenon. The short documentary, The Mystery of Flying Kicks, combines the hotline’s global submissions with well-crafted animation, and video in an attempt to understand the heart of the matter: why exactly do we do it?

In the end, no one knows for sure, but perhaps anthropologist Marcel Danesi is on the right track: “Just the fact that you leave a writing on a wall, or a shoe somewhere, you have proven to yourself that you exist.” Or, maybe it’s just for fun. 

To see more work from Matthew Bate visit Closer Productions.


Paul Rosenfeld writes and produces for Atlantic Video. His work has also appeared on The Daily Beast and CNN.com.

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