The omnipresent water bottle: function, fashion, affliction

photo credit: cropped Getty Images image

Carrying a water bottle around wasn’t a thing when I was younger. The only time you needed to carry your own water was at outdoor day-camp on nature hikes. They were huge, made of tin, insulated with a strip of wool blanket or canvas on either side, and were shaped like a Mateus bottle with edges. We called them “canteens”, so you can imagine (or perhaps recall) the confusion at the food concession at the community hockey rink—also a “canteen”.

Now I’m sitting at a co-working desk where an astonishing two out of four people have water bottles. Only two! I have coffee in a cup. The girl kitty-corner to me has water in a glass. The point is that you can get water almost everywhere. There are fountains or coolers in gyms and schools and malls and offices, and there are taps in sinks and bathrooms. So why all the bottles?

Hydrating is about ego
I blame yoga.

It started (at least in North America) as a small group of early adopters giving healthy attention to body, mind, and spirit. It then gained broad acceptance before Lululemon skyrocketed the practice to full affirmation of oneself as a superior member of the human species. This stage comes with badges of honour: the public display of mats, pants, and water bottles says, “I’m unconcerned with how you perceive me because I do yoga. Did you notice?”

I mean, I can see needing something handy to hydrate if you’re in a fifth-set tiebreaker at the Australian Open. But at work? At home? At your friend’s house? At the gym? On your commute? Go to the fountain. Get a cup. Or wait the 30 minutes to arrive wherever it is you’re going.

Bottle fashion: clutch, bowler, and tote
Now that the habit is established (or maybe because of it), the design floodgates have opened. No longer do we see unwieldy tin canteens with leaky white plastic stoppers attached by a stiff, short chain with triangular links that screw with the screwing.

Water-bottle design has crossed into full blown accessory-land. The shapes range from cylinders long and lean to stout and stocky. The finishes dazzle with sleek, faux brushed nickel and wood-grain, or firm, smooth rubber in colours like Tesla matte grey, organic fair-trade chocolate, or 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters green. You can even customize yours with a sticker from the café at that rustic, woodsy retreat in Bali with the eight-dollar lattes.

And, of course, they come with the price to match. I now need forty dollars to carry around something that contains something I can get almost anywhere, or at least wait a short time for.

Eau de source anxiety and depression
Now, hydrating is important. And handy hydrating opportunities only improve our health, to be sure. Perhaps the great health scourge of the 70s through the 90s wasn’t cancer or heart disease. Maybe it was dehydration.

On the flip side, the rise of the water bottle as constant companion seems to follow the same curve as rates of depression and anxiety. If these afflictions can be tied to our consumer culture aided and abetted by social media sites’ presentation of others’ perfect lives, then water-bottle envy could very well feed those feelings of inadequacy.

It’s lucky, though, that some of the treatment options for these issues include exercise and pills because, hey—water bottle.

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