Dahlia hasn’t always been this popular. Last school year, she’d been the new girl at her Dallas middle school, where she mostly flew under the radar.
Then, this year, she got a Stanley cup — and everything changed.
“Every day when I get into school at like 7:45 a.m., everybody comes over to me like, ‘Oh my God, I like your Stanley!’ or ‘It’s so cool, I want a Stanley just like yours!’” the 13-year-old, who is in eighth grade, said. “It makes me feel like I’m famous and being swarmed by paparazzi.”
Like many schools across the country, Dahlia’s middle school has been overtaken by Stanley cup fever. Though the insulated-beverage-container company has been around for over a century, its $45 “Quenchers” exploded in popularity over the past year alongside #WaterTok. On TikTok, enthusiasts show off their collections, some owning dozens of the 40-ounce candy-colored tumblers. (The amount of liquid can be a problem: “I don’t really drink out of it at school because we have to ask for bathroom passes,” Dahlia told me.) Target locations have been thrown into mayhem, with desperate buyers camping out for hours outside the stores and even resorting to physical violence in the hopes of snagging highly sought-after special-edition versions.
The tumblers have particularly taken off among preteen girls, launching something of a cup-based social hierarchy in middle and even elementary schools — especially after students returned from winter break with the shiny new Stanleys they received for holiday presents. “I’m, like, a little bit more popular now, and I’ve been getting more friends because of it,” said Madalyn, a 9-year-old in Kentucky who owns five Stanleys. Her 16-year-old sister has 15 of them and more on the way. Some take it even further and accessorize their accessory with add-ons — from snack trays to phone pockets to decorative charms — sold on sites like Amazon, Temu, and Shein.
But if you don’t have one or, worse, have a fake one? Two words: social suicide.
In one viral TikTok, Dayna Motycka said her 9-year-old daughter was made fun of for having a Walmart dupe. “They made sure to let her know this is not a real Stanley. That this is fake and it’s not as cool,” Motycka said.
Another woman, Jamie Sherman, said her 11-year-old niece was bullied by her classmates for bringing an off-brand version of the cup to her New Hampshire middle school — basically the exact same product, minus the Stanley logo.
“When girls pass her in the hallway, they laugh and point, and they say, ‘That’s not real,’” Sherman said. “Now, she doesn’t want to bring it to school and she doesn’t want to use it.”
What’s so special about these cups? According to the Stanley website, the mug can keep drinks cold for up to two days, it fits in car cup holders, and it is dishwasher safe, but the same can be said of cheaper metal water bottles. “There’s this one girl at my school that, like, no one knows, and then she came in with a Stanley one day, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, she has a Stanley too, look!’” Stella, a 13-year-old from New Jersey, said. “I guess they just thought it was cool, because, like, everyone’s getting them.”
Parents might find themselves rolling their eyes at the idea that “everyone” in their child’s class has a Stanley, but teachers say it’s not that much of an exaggeration. Nicole Walker, a sixth-grade science teacher in Mississippi, estimated that about half her students lug them from class to class. “I wish I could have taken a picture today at lunch. At this one table, it was like every girl had a Stanley cup,” she said.
Many of these obsessives can’t even really tell you why they want one. “I asked one student, ‘Why did you want to get a Stanley?’” said Walker. “And she said, ‘Because everybody else had one, so I just feel like I needed to have one to fit in.’”
So, what are parents to do? Do you stand firm, try to teach your child that trends are fleeting and they shouldn’t want to be friends with anyone who only likes them because of a cup? Or do you just buy the cup, do what you can to make their life a little easier?
Sherman’s niece still doesn’t have a Stanley, but her grandmother is considering buying her one. “I told my mom, don’t do it — don’t feed into it,” Sherman said. “I understand that she’s getting bullied, but it’s like, bullies will find other ways to bully.”
Dahlia, in Dallas, loves her cup, but has mixed feelings about her newfound popularity. “I wouldn’t say any of them are actually my friends,” she said. “They only talk to me in the morning when I’m holding my Stanley.”