5 January 2024

Stanley Cups and sneaker culture have a lot more in common than you think

How did TikTok's favourite water bottle join the ranks of Supreme box logos and Air Jordans? Here’s the hype behind Stanley Cups explained.

Yes, Stanley Cups, those gigantic metal tumblers, are quickly becoming the most hyped accessory to own in 2024 – and it all feels a bit sneaker culture-coded. 

Recently, videos showing dozens of shoppers mobbing Targets to buy Stanleys have gone viral on social media. On January 3rd, the hype reached new heights with the release of another collaboration between Stanley and Starbucks.

The limited-edition Stanleys, which came in pink, were exclusively sold at Target for $45 (£35) and garnered early-morning lines at stores across America. One viral video shows a Stanley fan attempting to shoplift them before getting tackled and beaten by other customers who waited in line for hours. The cups sold out quickly and are now being resold for as much as £200 on StockX and eBay. Perhaps the sneaker hype has been replaced by, well, erm, water bottles?

For the unaware, Stanley cups (not to be confused with the National Hockey League trophy) are reusable tumblers that are well-received for their insulating properties. While plastic Nalgene bottles have always been a hydration staple for plenty of people, Stanley is known for crafting all-steel vacuum bottles that keep drinks both hot and cold for hours, which reusable plastic bottles can’t do. Ever since William Stanley Jr. patented the first design for an all-steel vacuum bottle in 1913, Stanley has developed a reputation for producing them for over a century, and even World War II pilots carried Stanleys onto warplanes. For decades, Stanleys were associated with blue-collar workers and outdoor enthusiasts – that was at least until Gen Z and TikTok influencers grabbed hold of them.

While resale values have plummeted for Supreme drops and new Air Jordan releases, Stanleys have proven to be a somewhat decent investment for resellers. As of now, 11 out of 17 Stanley products listed on StockX are its ever-popular Quenchers. The average resale price for Quenchers listed is £98. But the most popular Quenchers styles have resold for an average resale price of £120–£220 – which is a great flip since Quenchers usually retail for £30-45. These popular Stanley collaborations with Starbucks and Lainey Wilson have even resold for more money on StockX than co-branded Stanley releases made with Supreme or Human Made – note that these Stanley collaborations were not centred on the trendy Quencher model.

It’s even become so popular that there’s a “Stanley Cup Hunters” Facebook group that’s grown to include over 29,000 members since launching in April 2022. Meanwhile, on TikTok, you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find users flexing substantial Stanley Quencher collections – with some collectors even remembering all the names of the colours they’ve purchased as if they’re incredibly rare sneaker colourways. 

One reason why the cups are so collectable is because of artificial scarcity – much like Supreme’s limited drop model. Stanley President Terence Reilly told CNBC that Stanley did “want a little bit of scarcity” to maintain the hype around Quenchers. “We really continue to increase the number of units available each time we drop, because we see the trend and the waiting lists that are growing,” he said. “But there’s only so many seats in the stadium, and when the seats are sold out, they’re sold out.” In an interview with The Guardian that sought to explain the phenomenon behind collecting Stanleys, Reilly also told the publication that Stanley originally released Quenchers in only five colours but now releases limited-edition colours monthly to embrace collectors.

So, While it’s impossible to ascertain why anyone collects anything, only time will tell how many Stanley Cup collectors will be around once the hype dries up. But who knows, maybe we’ll see Stanley Quenchers replace those pesky sneaker resellers jumping on the bandwagon in an absurd twist of fate that no one saw coming.

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Banner Image Credit Stanley 1913

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