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The baby pink Bkr water bottle I was carrying was covered in rubber spikes, not unlike an adorable mace.
It wasn’t particularly easy to drink out of, and it didn’t fit in cup holders. But when it came to social signaling, it felt as if I were suddenly armed with a powerful weapon. With it, I’d pushed my way into the club of chic spin class girls, who wore luxury spandex and inexplicably didn’t sweat.
Bkr calls it the “spiked tutu” bottle and says its design was “inspired by warrior women crisscrossing the globe in the name of fashion, slinking around London in trusty pink ballet flats, wearing them until they look like dirty Band-Aids.” The brand charges $58 for the 1-liter model, which blurs the line between actual hydration tool and frivolous accessory.
In an effort to stick to a New Year’s resolution (drink more water) and dabble in luxury self-care, I tested a variety of water bottles, ranging from the least expensive, $20, to the most, $98. Some of the bottles I chose were among the best rated by Wirecutter, a reputable product review website, whereas others were “designer” bottles that didn’t make Wirecutter’s list. These bottles would replace the flimsy plastic bottle I’d refilled a million times.
Among my bottles was a 17-ounce stainless-steel S’well, decorated to look like wood. It was beautiful, and the evening I brought it home, a relative immediately tried to steal it. It sells for $35, which is $34 more than I’d usually spend on a water bottle. In fact, when I discovered my colleague had purchased a limited-edition S’well for more than $50, I thought he’d lost his mind. Then I watched everyone cluster around his bottle, complimenting his choice. Suddenly I was jealous. Of a water bottle. When I got my own, I found myself signaling to S’well-owning strangers with it.
In fact, the S’well circle is very wide. The brand is approved by Oprah Winfrey and took in revenue of more than $100 million in 2016. The bottles have found a home among lovable celebrities, including Kaley Cuoco and Julia Roberts. They’ve appeared on movie shoots and in Equinox gyms across the country.
The reusable water bottle market is expected to reach $10.4 billion by 2025, from an estimated $7.6 billion in 2016.
“The global market comprises a large number of players and, thus, is fragmented,” says a report from Transparency Market Research released late last year. “The top five players within this market accounted for a meager 6% share of the overall industry in 2016.” That’s a lot of people making containers that serve the exact same purpose.
Industry leaders range from trendy to old-school: S’well, with its 220,000 Instagram followers, sells bottles for $25 to $1,500 apiece. Tupperware Brands Corp. bottles cost $5 to $11. All perform the same functions: carrying water, not spilling, saving the environment.
As a matter of functionality, S’well, Klean Kanteen ($37), Hydro Flask($40), and Bkr all keep things properly cold for almost 24 hours. (S’well will keep your coffee hot for an entire workday, too.) But I found myself drinking more water when I used a luxury water bottle, particularly the baby pink mace. I wanted to show off my hydration vessel and, in the process, actually stay really well-hydrated. I was so delighted in my absurd water-bottle-induced superiority, I easily consumed the recommended eight daily glasses. I also brought it just about everywhere — into every meeting, on every subway ride. I wanted people to ask me about my water bottle.
Look, if you need something just to keep your water cold throughout the day, the $11 Tupperware model will do you right. The rest all have some degree of ridiculousness (I tested a $98 one with a gemstone pod in it for good energy; it was awful), but that’s their appeal. Buyers clearly want bottles that make hydration fun, even social. It works for them and, I’m not too proud to say, me.