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The Stanley Cup Social Pyramid: The Right (Cup) to Cheers Together 

Updated: Feb 15

The Stanley cup has been on the radar for over six years becoming an online phenomenon, especially among Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Reusable and colorful, the water bottles are available in a variety of sizes and designs which make them appeal to a wide range of publics.

New attention via social media has awarded fresh significance to the once humble Stanley cup shining a light on a darker side of the hype. 

The Stanley cup is only the most recent example of our ever-growing necessity to rank and classify each other based on our material belongings or financial status, and begs the question, how ethical is this trend?

Stanley cup social pyramid. Image by Selena Dols.
Stanley cup ranking. Image by Selena Dols.

William Stanley Jr. created the all-steel Stanley vacuum flask in 1913 which became known as the ‘Stanley bottle’. He wanted to have his coffee hot during his whole workday and therefore decided to apply some theories he had learned while he developed transformers. No, not “Bumblebee” from Paramount Pictures’ Transformers movie, but practical transformers like those that stimulate the development of AC power.

Stanley discovered that a vacuum bottle could be insulated with steel instead of glass, which forever changed the way hot drinks were consumed. The success that signified the Stanley cup continued throughout time with the products that the brand created afterwards - flasks, mugs, cook sets, lunch boxes and more. They became essential for outdoor adventurers, campers, but especially for manual and blue-collar workers on the go. 

William Stanley Jr. created the Stanley vacuum flask, applying theories he had learned while he developed transformers. IMAGE BY SELENA DOLS COPYRIGHT CGC STUDIOS
William Stanley Jr., creator of the Stanley cup

Sharing Your Cup (or Quencher) of Tea

In 2016, the Stanley company launched a stainless-steel tumbler which had double-wall vacuum insulation with a reusable straw and a handle: the Quencher. A shopping blog named ‘The Buy Guide’ by Instagram sisters Ashlee LeSueur and Taylor Cannon featured the product in 2017. The popularity of the tumbler skyrocketed, especially when the bloggers gifted one to reality TV-star Emily Maynard who thereafter posted online about the present.

On social media the Quenchers went viral, trending because of their use  by influential TikTokers. Videos revolving around the tumbler received a lot of online engagement which then prompted other influencers to feature the mug in hopes of also going viral. The Quenchers are raved about as high-quality products: they’re dishwasher-friendly, keep drinks cold for hours, and they fit in a car cup holder. However, the biggest reason for its online success can be attributed to the attractive pastel colors and artsy designs which the tumblers come in.

Since offering modern, less utilitarian colors in 2020, the Quencher has been Stanley’s best selling product. The company has sold over 10 million tumblers according to CNBC, beating the original  Stanley bottle in sales. A hit among millennial mom’s and a status symbol for Gen Zers and Gen Alpha, the must-have ideology has given  the tumbler icon status.

Inclusivity Excludes Knock-Offs

The success of the Stanley Quencher may be apparent, but it’s not all pastel colors and sunshine. At the beginning of this year in January, a TikTok went viral wherein Dayna Motycka calls out to parents after her 9-year old daughter came home upset. Her daughter was bullied at school for carrying a $10 knock-off cup from Walmart which resembled the Stanley Quencher (an original Quencher has an average price of $50 on the current market). 

History repeats itself throughout time in various ways and the social dilemma regarding ‘fitting in’ based on material belongings and financial status is clearly nothing new. The example above illustrates the controversy of how in the current digital age conversations about wealth and power wherein people are addressed or even reprimanded publicly, arrives at a global level. When issues reach such a broad audience it inherently comes with judgment and segregation.

Stanley Cup social pyramid. Image by Selena Dols.
Stanley Cup social pyramid. Image by Selena Dols.

Running Out of Time to Think

Socrates, ahead of his time, boiled it down perfectly, ‘‘I cannot teach people anything, I can only make them think’’. With the increasing consumerism that is ever-present in the West, inflamed by the digital age, a fast-forward pace in living life appears to be the new normal. There’s no arguing that technology provides us with advantages and improvement in certain areas of research, connection and time-efficiency. However, the other side of the coin is that along with the ease in consuming information, services, and material goods, in-depth and critical thinking is also being eliminated, making people impatient and lacking nuance.

No matter if it’s a cup or a car, a home, or even a goldfish, it doesn’t hurt to question ourselves, and the “why” of why we desire things, or reconsider the idea of possessing that one ‘hot item’ or the next trend. Even when it feels like time is rushing by and we’re supposed to join in on the great sprint race, we can remember that we have the power to choose for ourselves and take a step back to give ourselves time to think a little more and reflect.


Philosophizing may not offer solutions to the burning consequences of capitalism, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.


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