A throwback to the 70s, shag carpet is making a little of a comeback. Shag is well-known for its… well, for lack of a better word… shaggy appearance. It’s constructed with tall tufts and low density causing the carpet fibers to lie down. You can think of this like hair on your head. If you have a buzz cut, it will stand up but as the hair gets longer it lies down. This gives shag it’s 100% unique appearance.
Is frieze the new shaggy carpet?
There’s a new kid on the block to compete with the throwback shag, and its name is frieze. It’s sometimes referred to as “modern shag” or “new shag” because it has a shaggy appearance. Today, when you hear “shag,” there’s a good chance the person is talking about frieze.
If you want true shag carpet, frieze isn’t a substitute. On the other hand, if you came here because you saw a “shaggy” carpet and wanted to learn more, I’d start by checking out our article on the pros and cons of frieze.
This brings us to our next point. Shag isn’t used as much for standard carpet anymore, but it does make a cool rug.
Shag carpets as rugs
Using shag as your main carpet has trended down since the 70s. But still, people like to add a little funkiness to their life. One way to do this is by adding a shag rug. Take a formal hardwood or other flooring and throw a shag, and it doesn’t feel so dull.
For the most part, the pros and cons of shag are the same whether it’s a rug or complete wall-to-wall carpet, but there are a couple of differences. The first is most rugs are made of wool. Wool is durable but also requires unique care, so I’d check out that article for more on it.
The other difference is shag rugs can be poorly constructed. Without getting too technical, the fibers are often not tightly adhered to the backing, which can lead to damage over time. This won’t be much of an issue if it’s a decorative rug, but if it’s a traffic area, it might be a headache.
Pro: brings some fun to your life
The main reason to buy shag is it’s fun. You don’t see it that often, and it’s just got a fun feel. Combine a shag rug with a hardwood floor, and it’s what I call the mullet floor—business in the front, party in the back. It gives the floor a contrasting formal and fun look.
Shags also pull off a rainbow of colors better than more formal carpets. It’s almost expected to see shag in burnt orange, bright avocado, or name your other fruit-color.
Con: wall-to-wall shag difficult to find
True shag wall-to-wall carpet has been replaced by frieze, so finding the real thing isn’t always easy. There’s not enough demand for stores to supply. Sometimes I get emails asking me where people can find it in their area, and usually, I don’t know. My best advice is to start calling local stores (skip the big box stores… they won’t know) and ask if they have it. But if they don’t, follow up with could you find someone in the area who does. Many times local stores will go the extra mile to see if they can help you out.
Con: can be loosely made
This goes for wall-to-wall carpet and rugs but in different ways. Wall-to-wall shag sometimes has a low twist level. This can make it prone to unraveling, making it look worn over time.
Rugs as we talked about earlier, can be loosely attached to the backing. This makes them prone to ripping out. This is especially true in high traffic areas or with aggressive vacuums.
Con: may require a new vacuum
Shag’s not a wimpy carpet that requires special treatment, but its long fibers can make for a small challenge when vacuuming. Calling it a challenge may even be going too far.
Basically, long carpet fibers and some vacuums don’t mix. The vacuum has to be strong enough to clean under the blanket of fibers but gentle enough that you can push the vacuum and not damage the carpet. All the details are beyond this article, but if you are shopping for shag, I recommend checking out our article on the best vacuums for shag carpet before you buy.
And if you have a shag rug (not wall to wall), review the rugs care guides. You may need to use a vacuums upholstery tool. A powerful vacuum can rip the strands out.
Captain’s parting words!
Only certain homeowners can pull off a vibrant shag carpet, but you know who you are.
The most important thing to figure out when shopping for shag, is that you don’t mean frieze. It’s the “modern shag” with a slightly neater appearance. It’s also a pretty durable carpet.
Still sure 70s shag is what you want? More power to you. Wall to wall carpet is going to be difficult to find, but I’m sure you can hunt it down. When you get it, vacuum a small area of it or a sample piece a few times to see how compatible your vacuum is. Otherwise, you might want to research a new one to buy.
If you’re going with a rug, be aware that there are many out there that are poorly made. It’s not the fault of the shag, but they don’t bind it in well to the backing.
Business aside, shags are just fun carpets. You can experiment whether you want to go all-shag or go with the mullet look. But most importantly, stay groovy.