THE WILDLY LONG fibers of shag rugs, in hues such as Day-Glo orange and electric blue, suited the loosey-goosey, experimental 1960s and ’70s. But the hirsute floor covering eventually flatlined, done in by its scratchy feel, reputation for harboring dirt and tendency to swallow keys and earring-backs whole—as well as its association with cocaine-fueled decadence.
Thanks to tweaks to the manufacturing formula, however, shags have resurfaced as a luxurious, denser, lower-pile and more comfortable option. In the ’70s, “shag rugs had a kind of rec-room association,” noted designer Jonathan Adler, whose collections include elevated varieties that mix viscous fibers with wool to add shimmer and glamour. “I don’t call them shag,” he said, but “sometimes you need a little extra squish.”
Other nouveau shag makers embrace the essential casualness of the style. Designer Luke Irwin’s new collection modernizes the laid back look of Berbers—the thick, white Moroccan rugs with large-scale geometric patterns that are the closest thing to shag rugs we’ve seen post-1970s. Berbers, he said, “match the informality of the world in general.” In Mr. Irwin’s versions, magenta and cobalt replace the brown or black of the naive patterns in classic Berbers, but the traditional neutral backgrounds remain.
Though shags get a bad rap for allegedly attracting dirt, said Bachman Brown, a New York-based interior designer, “now the pile is a touch shorter and a lot thicker”—improving its potential for good hygiene. The pile height of five decades ago (which topped 4 inches) and knots that were woven further apart limited designs to solid colors or super graphics. “I remember the shag rugs of the ‘70s being tufted—held together by a plastic grid—so the fibers were easy to pull out,” said Shanan Campanaro, creative director of Eskayel, a home-goods empire built around moody, organic watercolor prints. Eskayel’s new Tamandot Tesoro shag, above, exemplifies the shorter but still expressive pile (a little over an inch of bamboo silk) and close knotting that make more complex patterns possible. “I could have the structure of the intricate design shine through while simulating the movement of my watercolors,” said Ms. Campanaro.
The hugely improved vacuums of our era also make contemporary iterations—whose pile heights range from ¾ of an inch to 2 inches—a livable luxury. “I like to think of today’s modern shags as a mink jacket for your floor,” said Mr. Brown. “It doesn’t get more elegant than that.”
Source : WSJ