The Complete(ly Odd) History of Beanbag Chairs

history of the beanbag

You’re looking for the perfect place to settle in for an hours-long cram session. So, what do you choose? Your trusty dusty beanbag chair, of course. But have you ever thought about how these chairs — ones that cradle your buns and somehow make all of your cares go away — came about in the first place? Beanbag chairs are such an odd (but great) invention when you think about it. Where did these things come from, and who invented them? Here’s a glimpse at the completely odd history of beanbag chairs.

Let’s dig in!

The Beginning of Bean Bag Chairs

You can thank three Italian gentlemen — Piero Gatti, Franco Teodoro and Cesare Paolini — for bringing you the chair you have grown to love today.

Sacco commissioned these Italian designers to create a chair that young people would embrace back in 1968. At that time, the young demographic wanted items that were counter-culture and that featured totally new materials.

The designers called their newly designed chairs “shapeless chairs,” and they took the young generation by storm. The chairs, which looked like teardrops, each featured a tall support for the back, along with an area for sitting. They were also filled with polyvinyl chloride beads.

The chairs’ leather shells reflected the quality leather craftsmanship for which Italy was known. And the shapeless chairs’ stitching was top notch, which helped to create consistent seating surfaces for the masses.

The Popularity of the Beanbag Chair

So, why exactly were these chairs so popular among young people — specifically hippies?

Hippies were eager to bid adieu to traditional society, so they were constantly seeking new items and experiences to fit their lifestyles. Sacco’s bean bag chairs were particularly in demand among college students who shared apartments, as well as college dropouts who needed furniture to flop onto. The chairs were also well-liked because Italian hippies could easily toss them in the backs of their cars or vans.

However, what made these chairs especially unique is the fact that they don’t act like your traditional chair.

When you sit in a regular chair, its shape doesn’t change. It’ll always act and look like a chair.

On the contrary, a beanbag chair doesn’t truly take the shape of a chair until after you have taken a seat on it. That’s when the chair works with your body to function as a chair.

In other words, your chair needs you. Without you, it will never become what it was truly intended to be.

And that’s exactly what hippies loved about it.

Beanbag Chairs’ Golden Age — the 1970s

Once beanbag chairs became ultra-popular in Italy during the late 1960s, they quickly became available just about anywhere worldwide. This was the golden era in the history of beanbag chairs.

During the 1970s, the soft seats grew in demand in North America, Europe, and Asia, booming on university campuses.

However, the first beanbag chair that was commercially successful was different from the original one designed in Italy. The new one featured cheaper materials, including a lower-quality cover and beans that became flat rather quickly. These inexpensive chairs sold by the millions.

The chairs that young people bought in this era matched the look of the 1970s, featuring lively, bold and bright prints.

The Beanbag Chairs of the 1980s and 1990s

During the 1980s, companies began to shift their beanbag chair manufacturing to foreign countries featuring cheaper labor and material costs, like China. All manufacturers focused on was producing these chairs as cheaply and quickly as possible.

However, the sales of beanbag chairs during the 1980s and 1990s flattened relatively quickly, mirroring the expanded polystyrene material placed inside of them.

It appeared during this period that these once-popular chairs would end up being just another fad — much like moon boots, pet rocks and lava lamps.

However, these struggling chairs would soon experience a breakthrough and a resurgence as a result of one material: foam.

Foam Makes Its Beanbag Chair Debut

A majority of beanbag chairs feature polystyrene beans, as these pellets are inexpensive to produce and can be blown into all kinds of shapes with ease.

The problem with these beans, though? They flatten over time.

That’s why a few manufacturers about two decades ago decided to replace the beans with longer-lasting, more comfortable foam. And suddenly, foam gave beanbag chairs even more of a future.

Consumers at that time were also demanding higher-quality products. This sparked the creation of high-quality beanbag chairs filled with foam.

Today’s foam-filled chairs come with a variety of cover options, including twill, microsuede, suede, fur, and leather.

These chairs are highly stylish, so consumers have no problem showing them off. In fact, you can now regularly find them in home theaters and living rooms, not just in college dorm rooms. What’s great about these stylish chairs is that they are extremely durable, too.

However, if you’re looking for more affordable polyester-covered options versus premium-price chairs, you can easily find them. And with the right company, your more affordable the best bean bag chair options are durable enough to last you many TV-watching nights or study sessions to come.

How We Can Help

We offer a wide variety of beanbag options for those seeking versatile, hip and stylish chairs.

What makes our chairs stand out is that they not only look great but perform well, as they are created with quality in mind. You can find every color and style you need among our choices.

In addition, we have beanbag chairs for kids, teens, adults, and even grandparents. And on top of this, we offer water-resistant, luxurious outdoor beanbags to make your next summer pool session even more enjoyable and relaxing.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about how our chairs can add value to your space and to your life this fall and beyond. We hope you enjoyed reading about the odd history of beanbag chairs!

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