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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Shoes in the Sky

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shoes on power lineWhen I began writing for Spacing Montreal I planned to write an exposé on mysterious shoes hanging from power lines. Just a couple of days prior I’d woken up to find a pair of yellow sneakers dangling from lines right in front of my bedroom window, and it had got me thinking about this strange phenomenon.

I asked a few friends what they thought these shoes signified, and heard a hilarious variety of theories of what they marked: drug dens, a speakeasy, gang territory, murder locations, crazy swinger sex parties… this was some seriously dark stuff, with no consensus to be found.

Then I got Googling, and found that again, no one really had a firm answer to this ages-old question. My sources — Wikipedia,, and the Straight Dope — do present some novel and even weirder possible explanations though: deaths, graduations, marriages, and more.

Since no one can agree on the meaning of looping shoes over power lines I can only surmise that there is, in fact, no real significance. Wouldn’t it be troublesome to have celebrated the loss of your virginity thusly only to be visited by crackheads day and night? Similarly, it would have to be difficult to convince gang members that your shoes are hanging out front simply because you passed out drunk in front of pranksters, not to encroach on their turf.

So I just look at these strung-up shoes as a little touch of humour in unexpected places — another one of the oddities of the city that you can only experience by looking up once in a while. Seeing dangling shoes remind me that I need to do just that more often.



  1. I’ve only seen shoes on power lines a couple times in Montreal (including a pair of shoes my friend retrieved from a line and still wears) and can’t say it’s something very common here. This is especially true when you compare Montreal to American cities such as Philadelphia which I visited a couple years ago and noticed that there were shoes on power lines everywhere! Some lines had as many as 10 pairs hanging from them!

  2. Here in TO they’re used to mark dealer territory.

  3. I grew up in Philadelphia in the US and there was no reason, it was just something kids did. There may be some specific purpose but in Philly at least that would be the exception, not the rule.

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