A very shaggy New Year

My friend, Karen, and I were talking the other day, and like nearly all discussions between members of the opposite sex, the conversation ultimately turned to shag carpeting.

Karen is remarkable. Not only does she juggle the demands of a husband and a home full of preteen children, she manages the household finance, and can do six handstand pushups in the gym without stopping.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Karen works in construction! 

Mind you now, when I say construction, I’m not talking about building a house or two. What I really mean is, construction –– as in high rise, steel and concrete braced frame structures, like hotels, dormitories or apartment buildings.

“Do you remember the shag carpeting that we used to have when we were kids?” she asked me the other day, more or less out of the blue. “It’s making a comeback. It’s gaining popularity again.”

Shag carpeting, for those of you who don’t remember it, or haven’t seen an Austin Powers movie, was the most popular floor covering of the latchkey kid era. The carpeting was nearly always wall-to-wall in those days. Shag adorned everything from the family living room to weird cousin David’s psychedelic hippie van –– floor to ceiling.

It was manufactured of nylon, polyester or acrylic, so not only did it hold up to foot traffic, it had twice the half-life of plutonium-239.

Shag came in a variety of vibrant colors, but what gave shag carpeting its appeal –– and its name –– was the fact that the pile was long, almost wooly. You could order shag carpeting as “shorties,” in which the fibers were 1.5- to 2-inches long, up to a 4-inch pile length.

Walking on shag carpeting was like walking on a sheepdog.

“Do you remember that green color? It was so popular, but oh my gosh, it was so ugly.”

It’s true! One of the most popular shag carpeting colors was a green that I could best describe as what you’d get if a bumble bee wearing a Boys Scout uniform hit your windshield at 60 miles per hour. “Yes! We had that in the hallway to our bedrooms.” I said.

I wanted to mention to Karen, that Dad — who once purchased two cases of pickled herring, because each tin was on sale, 10-for-one –– bought our shag carpet, used, from a building materials outlet store. Turns out the carpet had been in a house fire. It wasn’t bad carpet, per se, but every time the humidity came up a little, it smelled like someone was roasting a brisket in the master bedroom.

“Do you remember the rake?” Karen asked.

“The rake?”

Karen probably needs to know that my Mother always considered housecleaning to be punishment Eve brought on womanhood for eating the apple, second only to childbirth. Combining housework with garden work would have led my Mother to take the lawn mower to the shag carpet, long before a rake.

“Yes. It was a wooden or plastic rake with one or two rows of stubby tines on the bottom. Mom used it to loosen the deep dirt before vacuuming, or to reinvigorate the carpet.”

“Interesting,” I said.

“Yeah, I just told my kids how we used to get in trouble for braiding the long piles,” said Karen. “The rake always detangled the shag back to normal.”


“Yup. The only problem was that, after raking the shag carpet, Mom wouldn’t let us walk on it anymore.”

It was at this point that I realized Karen had just given me my New Year’s metaphor.

If 2022 is going to be the year we make our comeback, we’re likely going to have moments where the deep dirt gets scratched to the surface again. That shouldn’t stop us from making the first steps to where we want the year to take us.

Have a very shaggy new year!.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media.