The Surprising Backstory Of Stanley Cups: How The Water Tumbler Took Over Your TikTok FYP


If your TikTok FYP (or dare I say, your Reel feed) looks anything like mine right now, chances are it’s become flooded with videos of women and teenage girls who in a not-so-new trend where they continue to flaunt their beloved Stanley Cups and the cute accessories they dress them up with.

The $80 water tumblers, which are actually called Quenchers (but they’re made by the camping brand Stanley), first shot to fame on TikTok in 2020 for their cute colours, ability to keep ice frozen for long periods of time, and tapered bottom that allows you to pop them into your car’s drink holder.

At the time, they were mostly spotted in videos of people mixing up their own custom sodas and cordials (that’s basically what #watertok was, but more on that later).

But unlike other viral emotional support water bottles — remember the Hydro Flask? — these have stuck around, now all over our feeds in the forms of unboxings, product reviews or line ups regardless of whether you’ve ever looked one up. They even have major brand collabs including a recent Starbucks drop.

Nearly four years later, mommy bloggers and TikTok collectors are getting into fistfights at Target over limited editions of the coveted cups, which are then being re-sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

Amazon also now sells accessories to dress up the cups like they’re some kind of Barbie doll, which have their own special following on TikTok. These days you can buy cute straw toppers and even cross-body shoulder straps for the bottles, so you can wear them like a handbag.

The accessorisation of the bottles is one of the most controversial things about them — what once gained popularity as an alternative to plastic water bottles has now become its own over-consumerist nightmare, with some people flaunting having dozens of the bottles to match every outfit or occasion.

So, how did we get here, and what’s so special about the Stanley Cup in particular?

First, a brief history of the brand.

The Stanley Cups’ origin story

This might come as surprising news given the sippy cups’ popularity, but in 2019, Stanley made the almost-disastrous decision to discontinue the Quencher. It could still be bought from other retailers, but the brand was no longer “prioritising” the bottle, according to Terence Reilly, the global president of Stanley.

It wasn’t until the intervention of Ashlee LeSueur, Taylor Cannon, and Linley Hutchinson — the three women who run The Buy Guide — that the cup truly took off.

The women, who have loved the cup before it was cool, bought 5,000 Stanley cups at a wholesale price with the company’s blessing, and then sold them through their ecommerce blog.

The cups sold out within 5 days, not once, but twice, and eventually Stanley noticed. In 2020, the company struck a deal with the bloggers to team up and market the cup to a new group of consumers: women who buy stuff after it’s recommended to them by other women.

“We promise you, it will sell,” LeSueur told Stanley, per the New York Times.

“We will introduce this cup to an army of other influencers on Instagram, and it will blow your mind what women selling to women looks like,” she added.

And boy, did The Buy Guide keep its promise. The Stanley Cup spread like wildfire on social media, with specific love from mommy bloggers, and its sales increased by 275% in 2021 compared with 2020.

Between 2019 and 2023, Stanley’s revenue jumped from $75 million to $750 million. According to CNBC, this was largely thanks to the Quenchers.

By 2024, the cup was everywhere and yet nowhere. They became so popular that it’s legitimately difficult to get your hands on a drop — and the fact that these even release in drops like other hypebeast brands who rely on a scarcity mindset is enough to demonstrate the ridiculous hype culture around them.

Just a few months ago, a TikTok creator revealed her car had caught fire and the only thing that survived the wreckage was her Stanley Quencher, which still had ice in it. When Stanley offered to replace her car, well, you can imagine what that did for the brand’s popularity.

But can the cup’s popularity purely be attributed to an excellent marketing campaign, or is there more to it? While we’ll never be 100% sure, there’s a compelling theory floating on TikTok that Mormonism and fake-luxury culture have something to do with it.

Stanley Cups and Mormonism

Like many types of religion, Mormons have certain dietary requirements, and one of those is to abstain from “hot drinks” — specifically beverages like tea and coffee.

Because of this, soft drinks (especially caffeinated ones) are really popular in areas with large Mormon populations in the US. In fact, “soda shops” (yes, these are actually a thing and reminiscent of retro milkshake bars) in the “Mormon Corridor” (which refers to the area between Utah, where more than 2 million Mormons live, and Idaho) are as common as McDonald’s.

The popularity of #watertok, a subset of TikTok where people mix different types of syrups into their water and in fancy cups/jugs/bottles is also popular among Mormon mommy bloggers, for obvious reasons.

This really came to light with the popularity of Dirty Soda (Diet Coke, cream, coconut syrup and lime) on TikTok, which prompted Mormons to share their own favourite syrup/soft drink concoctions, much to the shock and disgust of non-Americans.

Now, to bring this back to Stanley Cups: the Quenchers are popular for two main reasons. The first is that they keep your drink cold for long periods of time, and the second is that they fit in your car holder. If you want to walk around with them, they’re quite impractical given their size, but they’re great for driving around and wanting your drink to stay cold.

Users on TikTok have posited that Mormon mums, who want their various soda concoctions to stay cold while they run errands and drive around their kids, can be partially attributed to catapulting the Stanley Cup to the fame it enjoys today.

Given The Buy Guide (who popularised the cup) posts messages about Jesus Christ to its Instagram page, I would not be surprised if it has a decent Mormon following, which could explain the link between the cup and this community.

Besides the links between the Stanley Cups and Mormon communities, I think we can also analyse the water tumbler’s popularity as just the latest example of people desperately attempting to display a respectable class status without the income required to actually be considered wealthy.

Basically, Stanley Cups are expensive for water containers, but they’re not expensive in comparison to more luxury shopping like certain brands of handbags or clothes.

In some ways, they’re an accessible form of luxury — owning one makes you look bougie, but you don’t actually have to be rich or have a lot of disposable income to buy one.

Stylist and sustainable fashion educator Lakyn Carlton (@OgLakyn) put it really well in this tweet: “The Stanley cup collections, the wardrobes full of Lululemon, the obsessions with ‘quiet luxury’ and ‘old money’ style…desperate grabs for ‘status’ in an environment where many feel they will never achieve actual status or stability…perhaps.”

She mentions in another tweet that the cups act as “markers of stability and success that are inaccessible to many while buying endless crap *is* hyper-accessible.”

And really, the phenomenon of the Stanley Cup is not new. It’s a cycle of fads. When I was in high school, the equivalent was probably Victoria’s Secret body mists and perfumes — they weren’t actually expensive, but still signified a flair and style associated with money, class and beauty.

Just think back even within the last couple of years — the amount of trendy products we’ve seen come and go is, well, a lot. Air fryers, the Dyson Airwrap, Dunk Elephant’s bronzing drops, the Frank Green water bottle, those chocolate strawberries… Stanley Cups are not necessarily interesting because people are obsessed with them (honestly, what’s new?) but because they’ve been obsessed with them for so long. Although, the fact that four years is considered long is probably telling in and of itself.

But hey, as the wheel turns, it’ll be interesting to see if another water bottle takes over. How long can good product design and excellent marketing last in a world so deeply saturated with the concept of newness? I guess we’ll find out.