The city of Portland is losing one of its most beloved institutions: its airport carpet. But the carpet is going out in sentimental style, with a wave of commemorative T-shirts, beer and even a new edition of Adidas shoes bearing the iconic design.
The abstract teal design has become a symbol of home for Portlanders over the last 27 years, welcoming an estimated 300 million people to the city. And after all those feet, it’s showing its age.
The 2013 decision to replace the carpet with a new design sparked an outpouring of affection — and not a small amount of capitalism — from the Portland crowd.
Local sports teams the Portland Timbers and Portland Trail Blazers have commemorated the PDX carpet, as it’s known by locals, by selling limited-edition T-shirts of the pattern in the team colors. A handful of true fanatics have even had the design permanently etched onto their skin.
“It is definitely an endearing statement of how much (Portlanders) like the pattern,” says Kama Simonds, a communications officer for Port of Portland.
The latest entrant: Adidas with an addition to Trail Blazers’ star Damien Lillard’s line of sneakers made to resemble the iconic floor covering.
“Something special for my PDX fans,” Lillard tweeted Wednesday.
Jeremy Dunn, who sells socks with the PDX pattern through his online store, The Athletic Community, says the item has been a best-seller from the start.
“My wife and I joke about it all the time, because when I made the initial order of 72 pair of socks she was, let’s just say, not that stoked about having that many pairs of teal socks lying around our apartment. But they sold out in the first hour that we posted them on our Instagram accounts,” he said.
The impending demise of the carpet has also inspired a Facebook page, three twitter accounts and an Instagram account — all run independently by carpet groupies.
Ceara Chewning, who manages the PDX Carpet Facebook page, notes that the carpet has a certain “Je ne sais quois”.
“It seems like in most places, the carpet is there to fade into the background, but this has such a bright, cheerful eye-grabbing pattern. It’s also a symbol of making it home,” explains Chewning.
“It’s also ugly, but in a really cute, endearing way, and Portland seems to love that.”
Despite the rampant nostalgia for the old floor covering, Simonds says the carpet is overdue for a replacement:
“We’re starting to see more than general wear and tear. The seams are showing and you’re seeing frayed edges. In some spots, it’s so thread bear the underlying mat pokes through,” she says.
“It’s been on the floor for more than 20 years. Someone did a calculation and figured about 300 million people have passed over it.”
The new carpet design, created by Hennebery Eddy Architects, hasn’t quite received the same love (though it does at least have its own Twitter account).
“I get that the old design is cool. It’s kind of quintessential 1980s, and it’s like an old friend we don’t want to leave behind, but it’s OK to have a new friend, too,” says Michelle Vo, principal at Hennebery Eddy.