Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Shag Rugs of The 1970s

Shag rugs were extremely popular in the 1970s. Their origin is shrouded in psychedelic mystery. One version says they originated from the meditation mats that Buddhist and Indian monks regularly use.

These mats are often pretty large, and look exactly like a shag rug does when they get worn out through long use. Because the 1970s saw a great influx of eastern religions in the US, it is not inconceivable that the popular shag rugs were inspired by these so called meditation mats.

Another version says that shag rugs are direct descendants of the goat and sheep skin rugs that were a part of the Middle Eastern Jewish tradition. In the late 60s and 70s, not only was there a sort of revival in traditional Christianity, there was also a growing interest in and awareness of the Middle East after the Arab Israel wars and constant Diaspora to Israel from the US. It is plausible that the shag rug may have arrived on these shores from these Middle Eastern connections.

Shag rugs are soft rugs made of a pile of various kinds of fibers. The pile is knotted short so that loose ends of the fibers form the pile. The rug is extremely soft, and in the tradition of the times, they were done in bright colors that would remind people of so called “LSD trips.” Colors ranged from typical hippie yellow and purple to green, orange and blue. Often a single shag rug would have all of these colors in a bright rainbow.  

One very popular shag rug in those days of zero conservation and organic clothing was the bamboo shag rug. Strange as it may seem, the bamboo shag rug was really a very soft and delicate shag rug that had a silken touch to it. The bamboo shag rug was widely used because of its non-allergic, organic, and antibacterial nature. It was renewable and bio-degradable and looked good and colorful; what more could people from the 70s want?

A shag rug had a very particular place in a 70s household, especially if you were into mod stuff. I remember, when I was young, we had a gray shag rug neatly folded and kept in a corner of the room. Every Saturday evening, when two families we were friends with – our neighbors, actually – came down to visit us, my mother would unfold that rug and spread it near the fireplace.

People would mostly sit on that rug, with their back against the couches, and smoke pot. Sometimes, the guys would laze on the couch, but the women always sat on the shag rug, their legs spread out, lazily smoking pot and chatting away. The funny thing was that everybody always sat on a particular place on the shag rug; that spot was always reserved for the person it belonged to. All 3 families were into the hippie thing, and they often wore peculiar hippie clothing, and all were greatly interested in eastern stuff like Buddhism, pot, shag rugs and the rest.

For many years, after the hippie thing died down and father took a job in the local bank, that shag rug was left unused. But recently, I happened to look into a carpet maker’s shop window downtown and saw a shag rug just like ours on sale. I came back home and took the old shag rug down from the closet and spread it out again near the hearth. It looks good.


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