#Shoefiti: tossing shoes to draw graffiti up in the air

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SEETIES Shoes onto powerlines and telephone wires, onto traffic lights and street signs, onto fences and tree branches. Wherever they can be tossed and remain hung up, held by the laces they are tied with. The first time we’ve shown you this urban art or trend – that is become global – has been in a post about Ljubljana: since years, bunches of shoes are hanging on the streets of the capital of Slovenia. But this practice was born in the rural and urban areas of the United States as a manifestation of adolescent folklore.

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Later, in 2005, Ed Kohler – a web strategist from Minneapolis – coined the term “shoefiti”: shoes + graffiti. So the first viral tags started and internet did the rest. Once landed in New York, the “shoe tossing” has actually been around the globe, from America to New Zealand. From urban centers to suburban streets, from parks to forests. Naturally, it’s easier to meet “flying shoes” in the most arty/indie/underground neighborhoods of the metropolis, like Williamsburg in Brooklyn (NY) and Shoreditch in the East End district of London. Usually, you find old sneakers but the local context influences a lot on the style: in Texas, for example, they prefer to toss cowboy boots. And then, as logic wants, you may find snow boots hanging on the trees in the mountain and sandals fluttering on the riviera. And why not, in the city, some heels? Sneakers remain the undisputed protagonists, especially if their soles are worn out, and sometimes, underneath them, you can read a word, a name or phrase.

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The meaning of all this? There are several interpretations: for the most romantic people, the shoe tossing is a ritual that indicates a moment of transition, an important change in life; for the most malicious people, it’s a gesture that marks the loss of virginity; for the most wary people, the shoes hanging from the wires delimit an area of drug dealing or a territory run by a criminal gang; for the most artistic people, it’s a way as any to express themselves; and for most of people, they seem graffiti in the air, like a suspended dream and sign of freedom.

We’ve done a research on Instagram – with the hashtag #shoefiti – and selected a series of photographs that show how this urban phenomenon, street art or trend, has really touched all countries. The first photo you see was taken by us a few nights ago in Florence, in Via delle Brache. The other snaps are by Instagramers from all over the world. For the rest, look up to the sky.

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Elena Mazzoni Wagner