Theories abound about the global practice of flinging pairs of athletic shoes over power and telephone lines. Some claim the dangling sneakers mark a gang’s territory, a local crack house, or the departed “sole” of a fallen “homie.” Others suggest that bullies, after beating their victims, steal their shoes and toss them out of reach. Yet others hypothesize that shoes go flying to celebrate a rite of passage, such as losing one’s virginity, graduating, or marriage.

In Ann Arbor, footwear-festooned power lines are most frequently found in undergraduate neighborhoods. It turns out there’s yet another theory to explain that. Brad Hassinger, a recent U-M graduate, says that at any given time there are three to eight pairs of suspended kicks near his Sybil St. home. The story he’s heard is that they pay homage to former U-M quarterback Denard “Shoelace” Robinson.

Hassinger explains that Robinson received his Shoelace moniker as a peewee football player because he didn’t tie his shoes on or off the field. Continuing the practice at U-M, he managed to garner a number of accolades, notably becoming the only player in NCAA history to both pass and rush for 1,500 yards. (Robinson began playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.)

“He embodied what we thought a football hero should be,” Hassinger says. “Michigan didn’t have much going for them other than Shoelace. It was something to see him fly across the field, lose his shoes, and still do great. In honor of him, students tie their shoelaces and throw their shoes over the wire.”