Is any single household object as inconspicuously ubiquitous as the red plastic drinking cup? That unassuming ounce chalice of moulded crimson polystyrene appears perched on every nightclub bar top, littered across the lawns of every outdoor music festival , stacked in every suburban kitchen cupboard, clenched in the firm fists of every polo-shirted undergraduate and sweating, yawping fraternity brother. The red cup is a tailgate mainstay, a cookout staple, a fixture of dinner parties and keggers; it's synonymous with flip cup, with beer pong, with debauchery and merriment and revelry. There isn't a college campus in North America that isn't teeming with them. The red cup isn't simply popular. It's attained the currency and reach of a universal brand. The brand itself is called the Solo Cup Company , a disposable plastic goods manufacturer founded in the mids in the American midwest and acquired, in , by the Dart Container Corporation. The red Solo cup—only one of the company's products but by far its most recognizable—was introduced to the United States in the s, as what Rebecca Bikoff, a brand manager at Solo, describes as "a time-saving solution" for the hosts of domestic social functions. The cup can furnish an event with inexpensive glassware that at the end of the night can be disposed of rather than washed and put away. It minimizes clean-up and maximizes the quality time a person hosting a party can spend with their family and friends.
This ordinary piece of polystyrene was never meant to be a classic
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For everyone else, the Solo cup is the party cup, end of story. It works without any sophisticated marketing. When Leo Hulseman started Solo in , the company originally just made paper cups the pointy-bottomed kind for watercoolers. To that end, he added a series of graduated rings along the outside—rings that, fans soon noticed, corresponded handily to drink measurements 1 ounce for a shot of spirits, 5 ounces for a pour of wine, and so on.