If you’re wondering, is it bad luck to put shoes on a table, then you’re in the right place. Because we were wondering that, too. Putting shoes on the table is pretty gross, isn’t it? But, that’s not what my mother scolded me for, instead she would exclaim “bad luck!” whenever I mistakenly placed shoes on a table. Also, just so we can be clear it isn’t just a cleanliness thing, brand new shoes on a table are considered to be extra bad luck!
Like a lot of superstitions, this one has a murky origin. There are several competing origin stories, that may not be mutually exclusive and all seem perfectly plausible. So, we’ll cover each of those origin theories separately. Additionally, we’ll think about whether there’s any common sense behind this superstition. Last, but not least, for fun, we’ve also put together a quick list of other items that some believe are bad luck when placed on a table.
Shoes On A Table – Has Somebody Just Died?
Shoes are an important item when you’re getting ready to go on a long journey. Such thinking inspired our ancestors to equip their deceased loved ones with solid, well-made, and very useful shoes. Logic being that those shoes would allow their loved ones—whether literally or symbolically—to comfortably make the journey to the next life.
It’s this belief that is, some believe, behind the superstition that placing shoes on a table is bad luck. This is especially true for new shoes. In the olden days, a new pair of shoes was probably quite a rarity, because they were very expensive and generally repaired by a cobbler rather than replaced. However, a deceased loved one would have, where affordable, been given new shoes as a show of love and affection for them. Those shoes might have been placed on the table before being put on the lost loved one before the funeral.
So, therefore, now some consider new shoes on a table “bad luck” and representative of death.
Coal Mining In Northern England
The second possible origin story comes out of the north of England, where coal mining was once common. Mining is notoriously dangerous, and in the past it was even more deadly. Therefore, you can imagine, miners developed a superstition or two.
One such practice involved placing shoes on the table deliberately. In the event of a deadly accident in the mines, the miners would take the shoes of their deceased peer and place them on a table. This placing of the shoes on a table was, to them, a sign of respect. Therefore, to them, it wasn’t considered “bad luck” but, if shoes were put on a table without the intention to honor, then it would seen as distasteful.
Therefore, putting shoes on the table came to be associated with bad luck.
The Theater and Bad Luck?
Like coal miners, thespians have a way with superstition. After all, they say “break a leg” because to say “good luck” would, of course, be terribly “bad luck”. As such, it comes as no surprise that, in theater circles, the act of putting shoes on a table is considered to be a very unlucky thing to do. How this came to be in the theater world, though, is not exactly clear. One speculation would be that, perhaps, to put shoes on a table might tempt a performer to put a foot wrong. A misstep might not seem like a big deal to you or I, but in a carefully choreographed routine, a wrong foot is certainly cause for concern.
Hanged With Their Shoes On
There’s a bit of a theme running through a lot of these theories: death. The next theory of this superstitions origin is perhaps the most macabre of all.
It relates to the grim fate of convicted criminals in bygone eras—they were sent to the gallows, to swing at the end of the hangman’s noose. Of course, criminals were hanged with their shoes on. After all, there’d be no reason to remove them prior. So, what has this got to do with shoes on a table? Well, the gallows were, of course, wooden structures. When the deceased were cut down, their shoes would touch and scrape along the wooden platform beneath them. That platform, like tabletop, was wooden and, so, the connection was made.
So, putting shoes on a table is bad luck because it could invoke the grim reaper’s ruthless scythe.
Common Sense: Bad Luck To Put Shoes On A Table
Superstitions are, often, funny old things—sometimes you can look at something that is supposedly bad luck and be at a complete loss as to how on earth that belief came about in the first place. However, whether it’s easy to imagine or not, often superstitions have commonsense origins.
Sure, there are a lot of more entertaining theories as to the origins of why putting shoes on a table is bad luck. However, we should also consider that the superstition could have just as easily arose because, obviously, putting shoes on a table is super gross. Even before the discovery of microscopic germs, people would have understood that dirt and food don’t go well together. Even the humble raccoon knows this, and if you’re looking for some cute entertainment then check out videos of them washing their food in streams!
Conclusion: Is It Bad Luck To Put Shoes On A Table?
Here at IsItBadLuck.com we believe people make their own luck. And we also recognize that belief in superstitions isn’t for everybody and, when taken too far, can inhibit your enjoyment of life. However, at the end of every article we pass judgment on each bad luck superstition. Is it bad luck? Yes, no, or maybe! For a “yes” there needs to be a clear, traditional belief that, generally speaking, is still widely held into the modern times.
So, by the above definition, we can definitely say that, yes, putting shoes on a table is bad luck. Not only does this tradition belief go back generations, it also has several possible origins and is still a widely believed superstition into modern times.
Here’s the final answer:
Is It Bad Luck To Put Shoes On A Table? Yes!