Fans of the K-pop band Stray Kids held an event at Heere Tea in Fullerton Sunday afternoon featuring cup sleeves— a cheap and creative way to create unique fan-made merchandise.
K-pop is beginning to gain some traction in the United States, and the result is fans celebrating their favorite acts in ways that may seem foreign. In many Asian countries, fans of K-pop hold gatherings called cup-sleeve events.
Cup-sleeve events are a particular celebration of a special event within K-pop groups. The event’s subject ranges from anniversaries, birthdays or even celebrating a tour. Most occur either at a boba shop or café that is supportive of the genre and involves selling different trinkets, such as pins or photos with the band member’s faces on them, but the event’s star item is the cup sleeve itself.
“A lot of the time, while fans are waiting for those events, they will have little items like the cup sleeve to trade with other fans, and that kind of helps to create a stronger fanbase as well,” Laarnie Barcelon, a former Fullerton College student, said.
Barcelon has helped host several different K-pop events, including several cup-sleeve events. One of the main reasons she helps organize cup-sleeve events, in particular, is to help cafés during the pandemic.
“When working with a café I can help them earn money because COVID-19 has really hit a lot of places,” Barcelon said.
According to Barcelon, anyone can be involved or set up one of these events however, COVID-19 restrictions, permits and locations where the event is hosted are things that should be kept in mind. She advises keeping in mind the location that will be hosting and how many are planning to attend as well.
While other fanbases may host meet-and-greets, cup-sleeve events are almost exclusive to the K-pop community. There are some reasons for this— copyright infringement being one of the biggest.
Other fanbases have their ways of celebrating their celebrities. The anime fanbase typically will host entire conventions such as Anime Expo.
The event Sunday was in celebration of two birthdays and the third anniversary of the group Stray Kids coming together under the entertainment company JYP. The birthday celebrations were for band members I.N. (Yang Jeongin) and Hyunjin (Hwang Hyunjin).
The café played K-pop music while the staff was hard at work trying to fill everyone’s orders. Not everyone who came into the shop was attending the event. In fact, most people coming in were normal customers getting their tea; but this didn’t stop them from stopping and taking pictures of the displays on the tables and walls of the café.
The event lasted from 1 to 6 p.m. in blocks of one hour. During each hour, 15 people who RSVP’d online were allowed into the shop for the event. Everyone was required to wear masks and follow the shop’s COVID-19 guidelines.
While it was limited, almost every RSVP was snapped up by Saturday.
This is not the first time that Heere Tea has hosted an event like this. The cup-sleeve event brought in nearly 75 people, but Barcelon said other events she’s been a part of had more than 200 people in attendance.
“Usually you can turn to social media for these types of events,” Barcelon said. “There are also accounts out there depending on your area that you can find if you use certain words like ‘California Cup Sleeve’, ‘K-pop’ or ‘SKZ Cup Sleeve LA’.”
View highlights of the day and get K-pop event updates on Barcelon’s Instagram @rikachuuable.