Allyson Kolan has six Nalgene bottles, most of them themed and covered in decals, stickers and random objects: Here’s her horror-movie Nalgene; another memorializes the music festival where she saw – omigod – Nine Inch Nails. Another bears tribute to a My Chemical Romance concert, including the penny, fastened with tape, that she found there.
What’s on your Nalgene? On today’s college campuses, you are what you
drink from, and a flimsy Arrowhead throwaway just won’t do. Even in the silence
of study hall, what you put on it screams volumes about you to anyone interested.
Somewhere along the way from simple thirst to obsessive hydration, the polycarbonate
water bottle became a campus staple, a fashion marker wielded by students who’ve
since gone a step further by personalizing their bottles with photos and stickers
touting anything from Young Life, a Christian youth camp, to the indie band Death
Cab for Cutie.
But the Nalgene bottle in particular has inspired a fanatical following, with
cyber-disciples waxing aquatic about their "Nalge" on the Internet,
"Nalgene bottle decorating" workshops at youth centers and kids who
take the brand’s unbreakable reputation as a dare.
With college a time of self-definition, students are apt to bare souls on anything
they spend time with: laptops, guitar cases and backpacks (now with water bottle
pouches). It’s also a good way to keep track of your stuff.
"In my sorority, 70 people out of 80 have water bottles," says Molly
Kane, whose blue widemouth Nalgene bears her sister’s company insignia. The
logo is "a way to identify it."
The Nalgene story began a half-century ago with a humble laboratory pipette holder
and other containers rumored to make swell hiking gear for company scientists.
Years later, a company president took notice and, after his Boy Scout son used
the bottles for everything from shampoo to pancake mix, Nalgene Outdoor Products
came to be.
The 32-ounce gray widemouth with blue cap is the classic edition, but sizes now
range from 16 to 48 ounces and, depending on the model, come in colors like sapphire
blue, pretty pink and fire-engine red. Having tapped mainstream, the company has
uncorked a few other liquid containers, too.
Seattle Pacific University, along with other schools like Bastyr University, have
embraced the trend by offering students the chance to buy Nalgene-brand bottles
festooned with the names of their alma waters. "I reorder every quarter,"
says SPU Bookstore manager Adina Shewfelt.
Still, the whole Nalgene thing puzzles her.
"Unless you’re actually scaling a mountain, I don’t know why you’d
need a bottle that’s pretty much unbreakable," Shewfelt says.
And that’s the thing: While others emulate Nalgene’s bright colors and
portability, purists claim nothing matches it for sturdiness. Students report
seeing Nalgenes run over by everything from Daewoos to Ford Explorers and suffering
little more than dents.
"One kid tried to smash his in the garage and ended up smashing the back
window of his mom’s Lexus," says Nalgene Outdoor division spokesman
Their celebrity has even spawned The Bottle Cult, bottlecult.tribe.net, an online
group of Nalgene worshippers.
"My beautiful Nalgene with the beautiful Lotus Om sticker is nowhere to be
found," writes one member who forgot her bottle at dance class. "I am
a failure. I have shamed the tribe. "
Another member consoles: "While it is a deep loss to lose one’s Nalgene,
it does bestow the rare and exciting opportunity to buy another."
And with popularity comes backlash. One Notre Dame student newspaper columnist
scorned them as "clearly the coolest thing invented since the sleeveless
"It’s become a lot more of a fashion statement in the last couple of
years," says University of Washington student Kari Thomas. "It makes
me almost embarrassed to have one."
© 2006, The Seattle Times.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
News: Campus News
Me and My Nalge: Bottle Becomes a Campus Fashion Accessory and Personal Billboard
By Marc Ramirez
Article posted on 3/13/2006
This article has been viewed 2154 times.