If you were at Dragon Con this past weekend you no doubt noticed displays of a bizarre and intricate nature. From stickers and fliers to clothing, art displays, and numerous cosplays there was an ongoing and seemingly baffling tribute to the old carpet of the Marriott Marquis. A geometric pattern of red, gold, and blue, the carpet is a sort of phenomenon that has come from the con life and become synonymous with the Atlanta fandom convention. But where did it start and why is it such a big deal for fans and attendees of Dragon Con? To find out, I looked for a guide who could help explain to me the Cult of the Carpet.
Lucas is a friend who has been attending Dragon Con for over twenty years. He’s extremely well versed in the con scene and is also a devotee to the old carpet of the Marriott Marquis. Wearing a kilt emblazoned with a swatch of the famous rug, he painted me a picture of good natured fun briefly interrupted by corporate greed and a sort of kind hearted protest that became a true phenomenon. I apologize in advance if I butcher this story but I’m trying to keep it simple for the sake of my word count. The legend, however, goes something like this:
Several years ago, a couple of cosplayers decked out their toy soldier costumes with the baffling Marriott pattern and crawled around the convention blending in with the floor like chameleons. While con goers and the internet adored them, the company responsible for creating the carpet was not as easily won over. After a while, the cosplayers were hit with a cease and desist letter over their use of the pattern. As we do in most fandom communities, fans rallied and began adorning other costumes and items with the carpet pattern in a move of solidarity. Needless to say, the battle was won but the story didn’t end there. A few years ago the massive hotel began renovations which included replacing the decades old carpet. Unwilling to let it go people went to great lengths to procure sections of “Ol’ Trashy” so that its memory might live on. From dumpster diving and collecting tossed aside scraps to an undisclosed convention goer who managed to scoop up several yards of unused carpet, Dragon Con fans did their best to preserve their bizarre legacy.
It’s a strange story that has lead to some phenomenal (and cringe inducing) cosplays and fashion choices. There is even a legitimate Cult of the Marriott Carpet that attended with acolytes creating a makeshift shrine in an affiliated hotel that fans could pay homage at.
Is it odd to see people lying prostrate in mock worship to a berber idol? Undoubtedly. But it is a worthy testament to that never give up and never give in attitude that perseveres and thrives within the various fandom communities? Absolutely. Dragon Con, and most other conventions like it the world over, are a way to bring people together. Using the unique, seemingly obscure stories, characters, and universes that they love these fandoms have come together to create events and a culture where literally all are welcome. In a way, the Marriott carpet has gone from being a farce to a badge of honor recognized by con goers and fans around the world.
Being relatively new to the con scene still, I may never truly understand the depth of the culture that has grown around this old carpet. But I can appreciate that it means something important to people, that it brings a lot of joy wherever it appears. If you want to learn more about the significance of the Marriott carpet all you have to do is search the hashtags #marriottcarpet or #carpetcosplay to get an idea. And if you are an acolyte of this Cult of the Carpet and want to share your stories, pictures, or feelings on the topic, feel free to do so in the comments below.
The old Marriott carpet has become something truly unique and meaningful to those who are familiar with it.
For more of our coverage of Dragon Con 2018 look for the social media hashtag #dannodoesdragoncon and keep checking in with 52 Weeks of Horror for new articles and images from the Southeast’s biggest pop culture and fandom event.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at dannoofthedeadblog.wordpress.com/books and through PDI Press.