The Stanley cup was *the* gift of the 2023 holiday season, but Stanley has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. And we (begrudgingly) welcome our new insulated cup overlords.
By now, you’ve likely noticed the Stanley cup craze and the rise of the certified Cup Girlies. In November, people camped outside of Starbucks for Starbucks’ limited-edition red chrome cups.
And at the beginning of the new year, fights broke out at Targets across the U.S. for the pink and red Valentine’s ones. The pink shimmery Starbucks Stanley cup got a similar reaction.
The Stanley cup craze leaves us scratching our heads and asking, “What the heck is so special about a cup?” Because while some of the cups are cute, it’s hardly worth taking (or throwing) a punch for.
If you’re confused about why fights over Stanley cups aren’t just happening on the ice anymore, allow us to break down this strange phenomenon.
What Are Stanley Cups?
If you’ve been on TikTok at all in the past year, you might assume Stanley is a new brand, gone viral with the help of Gen Z.
But they’ve been around since 1913. Literally before the invention of sliced bread. Boasting stainless steel, vacuum insulation, and the blood of Stanley’s enemies, these cups were designed to keep hot drinks hot for years and years and years.
Unlike about 50 percent of marriages, Stanley cups promise to last for life. They were invented as a means to reduce waste – if you only need one cup to last you a lifetime, you won’t need to buy any more that add to the landfill.
Unless you’re a collector and you have dozens jammed into your kitchen cabinets. Who needs actual bread when you have Stanleys?
Which brings us to our next point: why the heck is everyone so obsessed with these cups as a collector’s item, especially since just one is supposed to last forever?
What’s With the Stanley Cup Craze?
The short answer: marketing. Keep reading for the long answer.
Pop quiz: Who uses Stanley cups? If you’re picturing a young Millennial or Gen Z-er wearing Lululemon and sharing GRWM videos on TikTok, you’re partially right. But you’re forgetting about Stanley’s biggest buyers.
The viral Quencher, a 40-ounce insulated cup with a handle that fits in your car’s cup holder, is all the rage amongst a younger crowd. But that isn’t Stanley’s bestseller, and hasn’t been for most of the brand’s history.
To this day, according to the brand, the bestseller is the Legendary Bottle in Hammertone Green, and its buyers aren’t Gen Z-ers who are so into hydration that we imagine the next thing trending will be a literal water cooler.
They were designed for those on the go who without easy access to fresh water who want their drink to stay hot or cold for a long time. Durability was a huge factor too, which is why the brand uses stainless steel construction.
Customers include truckers and rugged outdoor types, like campers and anyone who adds hiking to their Hinge profile to seem interesting.
But in 2020, Stanley got a new boss: Terence Reilly. Reilly had spent prior years at Crocs, otherwise known as the shoes dubbed “the look of the future” in the film Idiocracy because they looked so incredibly dumb. Reilly was the one who made them cool.
When Reilly took over Stanley, he began surveying employees on what was working and stumbled across news of a group of Utah women who ran a blog called The Buy Guide. That’s when he learned Buy Guide cofounder Ashlee LeSueur was already singing the Quencher’s praises.
When LeSueur made a wholesale order of thousands of Quenchers to sell to her Buy Guide audience, they sold out faster than tickets to the Eras Tour.
From then on, Stanley and The Buy Guide began a partnership. The blog promoted new colors that captured the attention of their new audience, and the rest is history.
Ok, But Why On Earth Are People Literally Getting Into Fights Over These?
For some people, the idea of people throwing a punch over a cup is ludicrous (it’s me, I am those people). But for Cup Girlies, it’s just par for the course. What course? The influencer marketing course, of course. Okay, I’ll stop saying course now.
The truth is that Stanley isn’t just a cup anymore. It’s ascended to a higher power. It’s part of the aesthetic.
You don’t drink Stanley because you want a cup. You drink Stanley because you want to be seen with Stanley. He’s like the Bachelor. Everybody wants him, but nobody really knows why.
I could spend a long time talking about how influencer marketing affects our brains. (I’ve literally written other articles about it.) But to make a long story short, the more you see something, the more you want it, whether you consciously realize you’re seeing it.
And since Stanley is everywhere, it burrows into our brains like a bad song. And now we’re all singing Stanley’s tune.
To be clear, no one is throwing punches over any old Stanley cup. But when you slap a limited edition sticker on it, that’s another story. We’re a world that thrives on exclusivity.
The more you’re told you can’t have something, the more you want it. The truth is, we’re all not that different from toddlers at the end of the day. I, too, just want to nap and yell nonsense.
Let’s be real, though: Stanley is also a money-making venture, and not just for the company. Spend a minute searching Stanleys on eBay, and you’ll see how resellers have really got their teeth in this one. Tbh, it wouldn’t surprise me if a reseller actually did bite someone to get the last Stanley at Target.
Collectors and resellers camp out and fight tooth and nail for limited edition Stanleys. And then they end up on eBay, Mercari, and Poshmark. The collectors who didn’t score what they wanted shell out extra money to buy cups from the resellers. Wash, rinse, and repeat next time Starbucks and Stanley collab.
Do Stanley Cups Really Work?
If you want to buy one of these famous Stanley Quencher cups, prepare to shell out around $45. That is for a non-limited edition style.
If you want the viral pink Target x Starbucks Stanley cup, which is sold out in stores, you can get it on eBay for $300.
Stanley promises that their cups can keep drinks cold for 11 hours and hot for seven. And testers show those numbers are pretty legit. But for $300, it should probably be doing your taxes, too. Come on, Stanley. We set up Turbo Tax and everything.
If the question is, “Do I need a Stanley cup?” The answer is, “Probably not,” but they might help you keep your drinks at the right temperature and encourage you to drink more throughout the day. Do you need one of the limited edition colors? Do what you want with your money.
But, like, please do something better with it. And, whatever you choose to do, just don’t punch anyone in Target. It’s not Walmart, after all.
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