Those of you who are too young to have experienced the 1970s can never fully comprehend them. The cultural débris it left behind like a retreating glacier–Qiana, est, "Three's Company," the BeeGees, The Poseidon Adventure, Watergate–is easy to sneer at. From a distance, through eyes jaded by experience, it appears hopelessly naïve, tacky, excessive, ridiculous.
Yet it was an exciting time. A time of experimentation, free thought and gleeful rule-breaking. Take the matter of carpet, for example.
For centuries, carpet had been something you mostly put on the floor. Sure, the odd Renaissance muckity-muck might use a nice bit of Turkish in lieu of a tablecloth,
but for the most part, carpet = floor covering.
In the 1970s, this practice was called into question. I know it was, for though I was a mere child (having arrived in January of 1971) I recall distinctly the happy excesses of the Cult of Shag Carpeting.
Devotees of the cult, who included (or so it seemed) all persons responsible for decorating airports, airplanes, public schools, upscale homes, fashionable hotels, retail showrooms, and cocktail lounges, felt that shag carpeting–though hardly a new invention–was the wave of the future. It was a magic wand, a panacea, a sure cure for all aesthetic and architectural ills.
According to some estimates, between 1970 and 1979 as much as 62% of the surface area of the United States of America may have been covered in shag carpet.
In many rooms, shag spread across the floor and then, like a moss that fed on patchouli and disco music, jumped the skirting board and ran right up the wall. It obliterated the boundaries between floors and walls, even between floors and furniture. My kindergarten classroom, in what was then a brand-new and forward-looking Arizona elementary school, had almost no chairs. We sat on tiny cubes upholstered with red shag carpet, arranged in a circle upon a floor covered by red shag carpet, surrounded by walls swathed in red shag carpet. Indoctrination at an early age was of paramount importance.
The stuff was so popular that fashionistas even carried it as an accessory. Sound incredible? Take a look at this striking image from a booklet published in 1973 by Coats and Clark.
In 1973, nothing said "comfort" and "style" like a handmade shag carpet muff. You could work it colors to match your polyester mix-and-match wardrobe, or your favorite faux-Tiffany swag lamp.
It kept your hands warm on the way to the singles bar; and once there, it allowed you to flirt shamelessly, yet coyly, with the leisure-suited airline pilot two seats down. The next morning, after you'd had a "meaningful connection" on his Broyhill waterbed, the 100% acrylic muff could be hosed down and drip-dried before your next outing.
What's that, youngster? You're sorry you missed it?
You should be.