Have you ever seen a pair of shoes thrown over a telephone wire or power line? Did you wonder where they came from and why they are there?
These are exactly the questions that Closer Productions aimed to answer when making the short documentary The Mystery of Flying Kicks. Closer Productions is a collective of filmmakers based in Adelaide, South Australia. They asked for submissions from around the world using an on-line call out and a phone message bank. The donated photographs, phoned-in theories, video, vlogs, and animation culminate to make this 15 minutes of terrific documentary.
And the theories they received are abounding.
Some shoes are tossed as memorials to those who lost their lives. This is the theory that I heard the first time I saw a pair of chucks tossed over a line.
Some shoes are to mark territories whether it is Spanish Mafiosi warning authorities to stay out of their streets and neighborhoods, or delineating gang borders. Some shoes are tossed as a notification of drug dealer’s locations.
Some are tossed out of bullying or as pranks.
In the movie Big Fish (2003), Edward Bloom finds himself in a mythical town Spectre. The inhabitants’ shoes are hanging from a telephone wire. A girl named Jenny Hill steals Edward’s shoes and adds them to the wire. Without one’s shoes, one can’t travel, right? Might as well settle down and stay forever.
Shoes have been tossed to celebrate changes in life such as lost virginity, upcoming marriage, change of job, or a graduation.
Military boots have been tossed to show a member shipping out or leaving the service. In Wag the Dog (1997) they shoe trees, power lines, lamp posts, as an allegedly spontaneous cultural manifestation in tribute to Sgt. William Schumann nicknamed Old Shoe.
Some are tossed for fun or self-expression. Skewville, twin brother street artists, have been tossing wooden “dogs” since 1999. The project has been dubbed “When Dogs Fly” and has consisted of 50+ versions. Each pair of “dogs” is an image of a shoe silkscreened onto wood then cut out and laced together. The brothers have been tossing shoes on wires wherever they go from Hollywood to NYC, London to Berlin. To find out more about these artists visit Skewville.org.
Lines and wires are not the only places you can find these mysterious abandoned footwear. You can find a list of trees that have had shoes tossed, tied, and generally attached to them here.
Road trip anyone?