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If you travel through certain large cities around the world, it's a fair bet that you have encountered Love Locks. Small padlocks — often marked or painted with initials, names, or other tender adornments — can be seen affixed to bridges, fences, statues, and many other public structures.

 


a love lock in the United States

 

While the origins of this trend are varied (and many learned individuals can cite examples of this act arising spontaneously in unconnected regions) many practitioners today take their cue from an Italian tradition inspired by a book and film adaptation of the same name: Ho Voglia Di Te. Nowadays, the trend has spread worldwide, resulting in many pages of entries on photo streams, blogs, and travel sites.

NOTE - Many news article and web sites discussing Love Locks innacurately report that the trend was inspired by the 2004 Italian film Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo. We in TOOOL even repeated this myth when first learning about Love Locks. This is incorrect. Ho Voglia Di Te is the 2007 sequel to the aformentioned film, featuring many of the same actors and a similar plot theme. Many clips are available on YouTube showing the specific scene on the Milvio Bridge where the lead characters share a Love Lock moment. We have, much to our displeasure, searched through the entirety of Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo various times and nothing to do with locks or lockpicking takes place (save for one character breaking a window in order to gain access to a locked room).


love locks in Venice, Italy

 

We in TOOOL find locks wonderful in a myriad of ways. Their cultural significance is something of which we frequently speak during public lectures, and we are often wont to reinforce the very deep manner in which locks demarcate public areas from personal space. Locks symbolize permanence, security... and openness only to those limited few who possess the right key. It's safe to assume that TOOOL members everywhere have a deep appreciation for this trend.

 


love locks in Paris, France

 

It isn't just handfuls of romantics or individuals with ties to fringe cultural elements (such as locksport) who admire this trend. Many cities have encouraged (or, at least, turned a blind eye to) the practice of affixing Love Locks to public structures. Even large corporations -- such as Master Lock -- offer special-order padlocks that are ostensibly geared specifically to this purpose.

 


the Master Lock company's Love Locks campaign

 

There is a sad side to this story, however. While some city governments appreciate (or, as is more likely the case, simply tolerate) Love Locks... in most places, city officials disapprove. Many bridges now bear signs discouraging the affixing of "attachments of any sort" (clearly targeted at this practice) and some cities have imposed fines for anyone seen applying Love Locks to public structures. In the end, due to the fact that they exacerbate the problem of rust and the manner in which they interfere with routine painting and maintenance, many cities now employ work crews to regularly remove Love Locks.

 


the sad fate typical of most Love Locks


the ultimate resting place of most Love Locks

 

We in TOOOL feel that this is sad. Let us be clear, we are not making a statement in support or opposition to Love Locks themselves. Everyone's feelings are their own and every public structure is under the purview of local laws, norms, and customs. What we find particularly distressing is the destructive cutting of these locks and their ultimately being resigned to scrap bins and metal recycling centers.

It is for this reason that we were so inspired by the emerging trend known as Love Picking.

Originally popularized and publicized by German sportpickers and hackers, Love Picking is the act of non-destructively opening Love Locks using pick tools, shims, and other such methods so as to preserve them and eventually relocate them elsewhere... typically someplace where they will still be on public display but will be safe from the threat of bolt cutters, angle grinders, and municipal recycling buckets.

 


lovepicking in Germany

 

It is the hope of TOOOL that Love Picking becomes popular and that many Love Locks can be saved from ever landing in waste bins and being melted down in foundries. Public art installations which celebrate Love Locks already exist in some cities and we would like to see this trend continue. TOOOL supports the non-destructive removal and relocation of Love Locks and we are working with local artists and city officials in order to see the emergence of "Love Lock Trees" and other such public art structures where these locks can live on forever.

 


a street of Love Lock trees in Moscow, Russia

 

How do you feel about Love Locks and the act of Love Picking? Is this something in which you would like to participate? Follow @TOOOL on Twitter for more news and updates as well as announcements concerning days when this may happen near you. It is important to note that, as with all locksport, certain ethical principles apply and TOOOL members must always be certain to follow them:

 

Ethical Rules for Love Picking

 

1. Public Locks Only - The first Golden Rule of all sportpicking is "Do not pick locks that don't belong to you." Thus, Love Picking can only be considered OK if you are working with locks that local ordinance would define as "abandoned property" and which therefore do not belong to anyone else. This may seem like a stretch, but what we wish to make clear is that it is NOT ok to pick locks — even "unused" Love Locks — if they are on private property or otherwise not in a public space.

 

2. Threatened Locks Only - This takes the above principle a step farther... TOOOL finds locks beautiful and we applaud the sentiment behind Love Locks. Therefore, if any city or municipality does not take action to remove Love Locks, we feel that sport pickers should similarly refrain from opening them. We only support the picking of Love Locks in places where they are regularly cut off by work crews or maintenance teams.

 

3. Pick to Preserve & Display - Love Locks that are removed as part of a sportpicking outing should not sit idle in someone's personal collection, nor should they be kept as trophies on someone's shelf. A Love Lock, once opened by Love Picking, should ultimately be locked closed again... ideally on some other artistic structure, and one that is designed for this purpose and which will not be subject to removal.

 

4. Care & Kindness Trump Speed & Glory - While sportpicking competitions often feature boastful posturing and frenzied hand movements as everyone involved seeks the fastest times and the highest rank, we feel that Love Picking should be conducted with an atmosphere of casual camaraderie. At the end of the day, measuring the total weight of the locks that have been removed may be permissible as a matter of interest... but anything to do with stopwatches, leader boards, and other features typical of events like LockCon are out of place, in our view.