Ahh, the red Solo cup: For many Americans, just seeing one is enough to bring on a slight alcoholic buzz. But how did the bright plastic vessel become synonymous with keg parties and beer pong? Even Solo’s VP of consumer business isn’t quite sure. “The history is a little sketchy,” she tells Seth Stevenson of Slate. “We know we were one of the first to introduce a party cup.” But before the party cup came decades of other products, starting with a paper cone made for office water coolers in the 1940s. Seventy-five years later, however, Solo is best known for that iconic red cup (which even inspired a Toby Keith song—watch at left).
Stevenson theorizes that being first probably has something to do with the cup’s ubiquity, but it probably also helps that the cup is sturdy enough to handle even the rowdiest frat party, and holds more liquid than its competitors. But why red? The Solo VP confirms that the blue version is a very distant second place and guesses that red appeals to both men and women, while Stevenson thinks the reason might be more psychological: Red signifies “energy, passion, and emotional intensity,” which is a bit more appropriate for a “drunken beer blast” than blue’s “tranquility and depth.” Now the bad news: Solo has changed its classic round bottom to a square one. The good news, however, is that Stevenson tested it out—and the new design still works perfectly well for a game of flip cup. (Read more red Solo cup stories.)