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What is Shag Carpet?

A man's feet with socks on the shag carpet.

It seems like some kind of Hollywood requirement that every movie and TV show set in the 1970s or 1960s must have shag carpeting in it somewhere. This is a look that you probably recognize instantly and spot easily.

Shag carpeting is one of the most distinctive styles of floor covering available. Everyone’s seen it, but most people don’t know a whole lot about it. How does shag achieve its distinct look? What is it made of? And can this look be stylish, or is it just totally retro?

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Defining Shag Carpet

Shag carpeting is a deep pile carpeting made with long-haired fibers. This type of carpeting is very soft to the touch and feels rather plushy and luxurious. However, they look rather casual. Shag carpeting is marked by its somewhat sloppy appearance that looks just a little bit wild. Shag carpeting is very much associated with the 1970s when this look reached its peak popularity. However, shag carpeting is far older than the Disco Era.

This carpeting was created in Europe, where it was known as “flokati.” This was a hand-woven wool rug and it was used all over this part of the world. Evidence that shag carpeting was used 1,500 years ago has been found in Greece. In the Middle East, shag carpeting was popular among royalty.

A beige shag carpet with colorful patterns.

Shag carpeting’s European roots are clear in the name itself, which stems from the Old English word “sceacga.” This is close to the Old Norse word “skegg,” which means beard.

It was in the U.S. that shag carpeting really caught on as an everyday home design trend, primarily among those involved in the counter-culture movement. To this day, shag carpeting is associated with hippies, disco, and that colorful chapter in American history.

Types of Shag Carpet

Today, shag carpeting has gone through several transformations. Now, there are a few distinct types of shag carpeting that give this classic design some different looks. Which type of shag carpet do you like best?

A baby sleeping on a blue shag carpet.

Flokati rugs, the most ancient type of shag carpeting, are still in use today. They’re made with long, woven goat hairs in a complicated process that involves soaking the carpet in water to make the yarn swell. This makes the rug even plushier and fluffier, distinct characteristics of shag carpeting.

This type of shag carpeting is extremely durable, even more so than many other types of carpeting, and can withstand regular use and still look good for about 25 years. This makes flokati extremely durable but also rather pricey. Since it’s handwoven and made with animal hair, this type of shag carpeting is one of the more expensive styles available.

A baby sleeping on a wool shag carpet.

Wool shag carpeting is a very popular choice that’s easy to find. Many shag carpets are made with wool because this is a naturally soft material. Wool can be dyed in any color, so the shag carpeting can be made in any shade or pattern.

Wool is naturally very soft and warm, which makes this type of shag carpeting very comfortable and luxurious. The problem is that this type of shag can be extremely hard to clean and must be cleaned often because of the long fibers of the wool trap debris and dirt. Also, the wool material can become yellowish over time in lighter color shades.

This is a closed look at a mixed texture shag carpet.

Mixed texture shag carpeting is another very popular choice that’s easy to find. Many different types of fibers are blended together to create this type of shag carpeting. This creates a fluffy, soft carpet that has a lot of texture and a lot of softness. Mixed texture designs are used to create interesting and intricate patterns in shag carpeting.

The leather shag collection from Safavieh.


Leather shag carpeting definitely has an interesting look that’s very high-end. This kind of carpeting is made up of individual strips of leather attached to a cotton backing. The trouble is, leather shag carpeting is prone to breakage and damage. The little strands of leather can break off simply from being walked on or vacuumed. Leather shag carpeting is a more expensive choice than other types of shag carpeting.

Living with Shag Carpeting

There’s something fun about owning shag carpeting. It has an attention-getting look that’s a little bit different and definitely striking. This carpeting is incredibly soft and it adds great texture to any space. However, shag carpeting is more expensive than other types of carpeting and it isn’t easy to keep clean. Shag requires a lot more maintenance than other types of carpeting that have a lower pile.

A man relaxing and listening to music on the shag carpet.

Another problem with shag carpeting: they can bother allergy sufferers. Shag carpets can trap dust and other allergens much more effectively than other types of carpet, which can be a pain for those who have problems with allergies. Pet dander and other irritants end up in the carpet. Because shag is made with such long fibers, even vacuuming the carpet may not remove all of the allergy-inducing irritants.

Shag carpeting is also more prone to staining because those long fibers soak up liquids and grime. Some shag carpeting must be cleaned with special formulas and equipment.

Modern Shag

Today, shag carpeting looks a little more refined than the shag that was so popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, shag carpeting was frequently brightly-colored and somewhat messy-looking. It was made to create a great casual look. Shag has become popular in home design again thanks to these more modern, neater carpeting styles.

Today’s shag is made in a variety of colors and patterns that are more muted than the vivid designs of the past. Shag carpeting is most frequently made with wool, polyester, acrylic, leather, and faux fur. The shag look has become very stylish again as an interesting and plushy alternative to carpets with a shorter pile.

If you want something that looks a little bit different and a little bit luxurious, shag carpeting can be a great choice. However, remember that this carpet takes a little bit more maintenance and may be a little more difficult for those who suffer from allergies. Weigh all the pros and cons of shag carpeting and then make the best design decision possible for your home.