The Red Solo Cup holds a place in many hearts as the beginning and end of a good time. Last week, 2016 claimed yet another sacrifice on its way out: Robert Hulseman, who invented the iconic cup in the 1970s, died at the age of 84, the Associated Press reports.
Hulseman wasn’t looking to create a party symbol and cultural icon. He just needed a cup for family picnics. But the genius of the Solo Cup’s simplicity took off and it transformed into the standard vessel for tailgates, keg parties, and drinking games. Solo Cups, the red ones in particular, earned a permanent place in American culture with Toby Keith’s 2011 hit song “Red Solo Cup.”
We all know the Solo Cup. Your first time seeing one might have been on a beer pong table the first time you snuck out of your parents’ house for a party. People around the keg still chant the lines and sing the praises of the cup that is cheap and disposable, and in 14 years decomposable. Perhaps that’s because Hulseman’s cup truly is “the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals.” More likely it’s because the cup has become more than just a simple holder of liquid or a target to sink a ping pong ball into.
When the next Andy Warhol comes around, his muse will be Red Solo Cups, not Campbell’s Soup cans. It’s one of the few products that people around this fractured and divided country use equally. It’s the one standard you can count on when you walk into a party and are confronted with a plethora of new beer pong house rules.
Hulseman’s son, Paul, told the AP that his dad was never hip to how much of a pop culture icon his product became. He also added that the “product was never intended for keggers,” and that he liked the blue ones best.
You might not have known his name, but you know Huselman’s product. So pour one out for Hulseman and the others as the year comes to a close; just make sure you pour it out of a Solo Cup.