The word shag has many meanings. Of course, in the United Kingdom, the word has a rather colored definition and one that isn’t typically used in polite company. In the US shag is a dance that’s well known in Southern beach towns. It even inspired a genre of music that works well with the swing dance that’s known as Carolina shag. This dance style is so firmly established in Southern beach towns that shag is the official state dance of North and South Carolina. Shagging isn’t just grooving to cool music either. The term is popular in sporting circles too. To shag a ball in baseball is to catch it and throw the ball back. Shaggy also refers to a person’s somewhat unkempt appearance.
In the world of interior design, shag means one thing. Shag is a type of rug or carpet. If shag can mean many different things, how did the moniker get attached to stylish flooring?
The answer is actually a simple one. Shag comes from the Old English word sceacga. Sceacga is closely related to the Old Norse work skegg. Skegg means beard which is how shag came to be used to describe a rug or carpet with a longer pile.
History of Shag
Most people think shag rugs and carpets originated in the 60s along with lava lamps and tie-dye, but shag has actually been around a lot longer than that. The origins of shag rugs began in Ancient Greece with Flokati rugs. Flokati rugs were fashioned from goat hair and featured long strands. As the style gained in popularity, it spread to the Middle East and was often used to decorate royal palaces.
Unlike some ancient rugs, shag rugs were always crafted from different materials with one thing in common; a deep pile made from long loops. The somewhat haggard appearance of shag rugs is where it earned the well-known tag that has followed it through the ages.
Shag’s Rise to Popularity
The 60s and 70s are known for many things from music to politics to civil rights, but big transitions began to happen in the world of interior design during this time as well. Just as the views, opinions and clothes styles were evolving so were furniture, flooring and home accessories. Hippies were known for their unconventional, open lifestyle and different fashion choices. Shag rugs became synonymous with the hippy culture.
Like beaded curtains, lava lamps and bright colors, shag rugs hit their stride in popularity during the 60s and 70s. The rug’s comfy welcoming feel made shag a mainstay as the floor and beanbag chairs became the preferred seating arrangement. Shags also made van floors a bit more comfortable on long road trips. When the 80s rolled around, decorating trends turned more conservative with florals and country-inspired styles taking front and center. Shag rugs were considered passé and eventually faded out.
In recent years, shag has been making a strong resurgence. Today’s shag isn’t the shag of the flower-child era. Modern shag is readily available in a wide range of colors and styles. Shag rugs are crafted for a variety of materials from wool, faux fur, polyester, polypropylene, acrylic, and even leather.
Shags are still a bedroom favorite because of the cozy feel. A shag rug makes for a welcome addition in the nursery, playroom and family room. Of course, shags are still a top pick for the bathroom because who doesn’t want a plush feel when stepping out of the shower. The other plus for the modern shag is that the range of materials allows homeowners to find the ideal shag fiber to suit their needs. Shags haven’t lost that carefree, inviting appeal that brought them to the forefront in the 60s and 70s. Shag rugs just reinvented themselves to slide on to the floor regardless of the style.