My first introduction to the universe of the status water bottle was the S’well, the first “cute” water bottle I ever owned, which I got as a gift from my sister-in-law. I liked my S’well, especially its cute patterns and the ease with which it slipped into my purse, but I was soon reading about a litany of other water bottles that were better: the Yeti, the Bink.

But it wasn’t until 2019 that the water bottle you carried became a personality trait. The first iteration of this was the HydroFlask, the beloved hydrator of what came to be known as VSCO girls (named for the photo app). The HydroFlask was such a core part of the VSCO girl identity that it instantly telegraphed the type of girl you were (chill, sweet, liberal).

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In short, a water bottle was no longer just a water bottle. It was a key part of your aesthetic, and as reporter Amanda Mull wrote in The Atlantic in 2019, had become a status symbol. The fact that Mull wrote this about a year before the Stanley craze began to take off shows how prescient it was, but also how much bigger the trend would become.

There are a few ways to look at the rise of the status water bottle. On the one hand, the fact that everyone is now obsessed with reusable containers is a net positive for the environment, so yay! On the other hand, it’s a bit annoying that water bottles have become yet another item that we can be judged by in passing, telegraphing something about ourselves to the world when we really just want to stay hydrated.

Having a Stanley Cup used to mean you were on trend, even if you were easily influenced by people online. But as the cup’s popularity has reached its peak, owning one is now starting to give basic bitch cringe. Mockery of Stanley enthusiasts abounds in places on Twitter, where one person recently accused a woman who put a wallet on her Stanley (a popular accessory) of treating her cup as a “replacement for children.”

“I’ve had my stanley for 2 yrs, now i get embarrassed using it in public since the whole cup craze,” wrote one person.

Enter the Owala, the perfect replacement for Stanley girlies now worried their cup choice makes them look a little too cliché. The Owala has been out for a while, of course, and there are plenty of TikTok videos comparing the two dating back to early last year.

But over the past few weeks, there’s been an increase in Owala standom online. The greater the Stanley hype becomes, the more attractive an alternative is seeming. (The company, of course, is thrilled, with spokesperson Chad Sorensen telling me, “Simply put, Owala makes hydration fun. We pair world-class technology with personal style—because who wants one without the other?”)

All this to say, don’t be surprised if you see the Owala slowly slipping into the hands and Instagram feeds or former Stanley devotees this year. Or, if you are one yourself, you may slowly start feeling the pull of, “Do I need this other cup?” After all, these bottles aren’t just about staying hydrated anymore. It’s a way to telegraph who we are to the outside world, and no one wants to be caught dead in the water.



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