The hottest home accessory isn’t an arched floor mirror, or string lights, or that West Elm sofa we all hate: it’s Blåhaj.
You know Blåhaj, whether you know Blåhaj or not. IKEA’s stuffed shark has been an iconic part of the Swedish home furnishings and furniture store since 2014. At just over four feet long, with a slate blue coat and a soft white belly and the weight of just a feather, Blåhaj it is the size of a child without bones, give or take a few centimetres. It makes a perfect body pillow or statement piece, elegantly placed on a sofa or bed, or perhaps placed on a chair. Its name is Swedish for “blue shark”, the real-life animal that Blåhaj was modeled after.
I’m biased, of course, because I own a Blåhaj. I didn’t go looking for Blåhaj; Blåhaj came looking for me. It was 2019; a routine visit to IKEA with a new roommate. We were in search of typical IKEA food: cheap rugs, crazy lamps, assorted kitchen utensils. Blåhaj beckoned to both of us with his amiable posture (flat, lying down) and welcome appearance (permanent smile). Blåhaj, though three feet long, was only $30—the perfect price for any economically independent adult to find insignificant. The shark came home with us, along with some dining room chairs and a rug. We’ve renamed it “Sharkus”.
Sharkus has become a member of the family, a beloved participant. No one could sit on the couch without picking it up to hold it during movie showing or TV time. When that roommate and I finally went our separate ways, she bought a replacement. No home is home without it. Blåhaj is a perfect median signifier: the sign of someone who had $30 to spare for fun at IKEA.
Blåhaj’s staying power transcends the boundaries of my tristate social circle. The shark toy has been a meme for a while now, starting with this Tumblr post by a Blåhaj consortium in 2014.
Since then, a robust community of Blåhaj fans has emerged, their adoration far more conceptual than my own appreciation of the shark as decoration. Users on the r/BLAHAJ subreddit frequently post fan art of Blåhaj or photos of his sharks posing together and with other toys. There is also, of course, the infamous “me and the boys as sharks” image that was taken in Moscow and re-circulated across all social media platforms:
Blåhaj achieving meme status is perhaps not all that surprising. Sharks have proven to be some of the most meme-making animals in the last decade. Remember Left Shark? Shark Week? Baby Shark? That there is now a hygge answer to the question “Shark?” it’s no real surprise.
Blåhaj even garnered support as a trans symbol in late 2010 after a referendum on same-sex marriage in Sweden prompted IKEA to use Blåhaj in an ad that read, “Marriage for All.” At a time when many companies are unwilling to show political support, IKEA somehow granted Blåhaj the right to political independence. Now, if the shark could say something about, say, deforestation, then we could really start cooking.
It’s just a little strange that sweet old Blåhaj has emerged as an icon with perfect politics and an even more perfectly changeable posture. After all, he’s an object onto which all the crazies online-including me-can project their views. The boys, the LGBTQS, the kids (whose interest in a stuffed animal is perhaps more pressing than an adult buying a treat) – everyone can find something to love about Blåhaj. Any trip to IKEA will introduce consumers to an entire animal kingdom of stuffed animals, but none with Blåhaj’s sweepstakes, may they reign forever.
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