Story highlights

  • After 27 years, Portland International Airport is ditching its carpet
  • Portlanders are up in arms. Some have even tattooed the carpet design

Believe it or not, the carpet at Portland International Airport (or the PDX carpet, as it’s referred to locally) has inspired everything from poetry to beer flavors. Local sports teams the Portland Timbers and Portland Trail Blazers have commemorated the rug by selling limited-edition T-shirts of the pattern in the team colors, and 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 love affair is coming to an end, however, as the airport begins to rip up the 27-year old fixture this month. Portlanders, meanwhile, are in mourning. Since the carpet’s impending demise was first announced, retailers of PDX-themed products can barely keep their swag on the shelves.

Jeremy Dunn, who sells socks with the PDX pattern through his online store, The Athletic Community, told Katu.com that the item has been a best-seller from the start.

“I made a small run of them just to sell to my friends. Now we can’t keep up with the number of orders that we’ve got,” 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.

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