Water, Water Everywhere (Bottled, That Is)

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Forget the cell phone, the beeper and the computerized Rolodex. Forget the Filofax, the Discman and the camcorder. To be called a true Angeleno, you need only one accessory, and it’s pretty low-tech: a bottle of water.

Look around--practically every other person you see is lugging a plastic receptacle filled with H2O. It might be one of those ribbed imported “designer” water bottles (Evian), a good domestic (Arrowhead), or one of those big plastic promotional tumblers advertising anything from sports equipment to a used car dealership that very well could be filled with hose water.

We take them to work, to school, to parties, shopping, driving and, of course, to the gym, where this whole thing probably germinated. We are urban nomads and we cannot be parted from our water source for very long.


Steve Valentine knows this. The L.A. publicist, who never carried a bottle until he moved to L.A. in 1985, now totes one practically everywhere he goes. He likes the big size; “It makes more of a statement. But not the gallon jug size. That’s really trashy. People who carry those usually have bad hair, too, like bad perms.”

He draws the line at carrying water into a restaurant, but has no problem “swigging from a bottle of water during a meeting. I would not discriminate. My favorite new water is Panna. If I have that, I’m having a really good day. I had a whole case in my trunk, and I felt somewhat of a loss when it was gone. It was a detachment thing.”

Sharon Segal, owner of Fred Segal Santa Monica, carries water (usually Evian, the medium-sized bottle) “everywhere. I do. I’m crazy. I always have one in my tote bag or my backpack. I carry them to the mart when I do my buying. I just went to New York and I brought my own bottles of water on the plane.”

She kicked her diet soda habit a few years ago and started drinking “tons of water. I think my dad got me started. We’d bring cases of water into the house, and he’d always say, ‘Don’t leave home without your water!’ And now my skin is so much better. I just feel tons better.”

According to the International Bottled Water Assn. (yes, there is one, based in Alexandria, Va.), California is the most hydrated state in the union, consuming 788.2 million gallons of the bottled stuff in 1995 (both sparkling and non-sparkling, but not including seltzer or club soda). Florida comes in second at a mere 176.6 million. National consumption of bottled water went from 1.1 billion gallons in 1985 to 2.7 billion in 1995.

The eight-glasses-a-day regimen that most doctors and diet gurus recommend has turned into an entire aquatic lifestyle in this just-say-no-to-anything-that-even-hints-at-being-unhealthy age. True waterholics don’t even blink at spending twice as much for a liter of water as for a gallon of gas.


But if you’re going to lug chichi water around, you have to have the appropriate vehicle. Ergo, the holster, that cylindrical carrying case with a strap for slinging, canteen-style, over the shoulder.

They’re hot commodities at the Container Store in Costa Mesa, says manager Lynn Langit, where four versions of the holders are available. The typical buyer, she says, is “your athletic California customer who maybe used to go to the gym and do step, and now walks. They’re also great for biking, the beach and in-line skating. When I opened the store here [in June], I made sure we had a lot of these because I always noticed people carrying water.”

Water bottle holders are the top-selling items at LBU Inc. in Carlstadt, N.J., which also manufactures laundry bags, backpacks and tote bags. The company sold 3 million of its nylon mesh and neoprene styles to retail stores and as business promotional items during 1995-’96. Sales manager Fred King explains their popularity this way: “Water is fashionable, it’s healthy, and it’s a salable item.”

Gucci in Beverly Hills completely sold out of its designer holsters, and pity the fools who didn’t snatch up an embossed leather one ($125 for the small and $150 for the large). Gucci doesn’t make them anymore.

To holster or not to holster, that is the question.

Fashion designer Elaine Kim of Product thinks holsters are “annoying. I really don’t relate. I’m sure it’s a part of health consciousness, but it’s not a part of my lifestyle at all.”

And what if she spotted a woman in a great-looking outfit with a bottle slung over her shoulder?


“I think that would ruin it for me. I’m just really surprised that this is a fashion accessory. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. I’d rather see better options for [carrying] laptop computers instead of holsters for water bottles.”

Valentine shudders at the thought of a carrying case for his precious Panna.

“Oh my god, that would be--oh--I don’t know, that’s horrifying. That is so disgusting. It’s too much baggage, mentally and physically. And it’s got to be a fashion violation.”

It may be at the very least an etiquette violation to carry a bottle, holstered or un-holstered, according to etiquette columnist and author Peggy Post.

“I don’t think it’s terrible having a water bottle--there are a lot worse things people could be doing,” she says. “But I think the guidelines really dictate what’s considerate of other people. At a restaurant or people’s homes, it’s better not to bring it in, since it’s not courteous to think that your host wouldn’t serve you.”

Should you swig in a business meeting?

“If it’s an informal, internal meeting, I think that’s fine. If you’re with clients or in a formal boardroom, see what the situation is before you lug out your bottle,” Post says.

But any situation might not be OK with Billy Riback, a former stand-up comedian who’s currently a television writer and producer and is appalled by the very notion of water bottles.


“It’s pathetic,” he says. “It’s become sort of a third appendage now--well, a fifth, I forgot the legs for a moment. Maybe people carry them because they were scarred in childhood, they went to the water fountain and it always had gum in it and then they got sprayed in the head. It’s fairly clear that’s not going to happen if you have your own bottle.”

He points out that “Evian” spelled backward is “naive,” and suggests the connection could be monumental.

“Basically they could have called it, I don’t know, whatever ‘stupid’ is backward, or ‘you’re an idiot.’ Maybe they’re trying to say, if you can read the bottle backward, maybe you’re smart enough to realize what you’re doing.”