June 22

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Why Are Most Coffee Mugs Left Handed

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Have you ever picked up a mug and realized that it just doesn’t fit right in your right hand? Instead, the mug only feels comfortable in your left hand, at least if you’re holding it properly. 

Many coffee mugs are left-handed because most people are right-handed. If this sounds counterintuitive, it’s not. Instead, left-handed mugs allow all the righties in the world to do other tasks while holding tight to their morning brew. 

In this article, I’ll be discussing why most coffee mugs are left-handed and looking into whether or not this is the better option after all. Let’s get started!

Why Most Coffee Mugs Are Left Handed

This topic is a little bit off-handed because it’s not something you’d typically think about. I’d be willing to bet you’ve stumbled across this article accidentally because it’s not been more than a fleeting thought here and there. Nonetheless, the question needs to be answered, so let’s talk about why coffee mugs are often left-handed. 

You may think, “It doesn’t make sense for a mug to be left-handed unless it’s made specifically for left-handed people.” Maybe… or maybe not. Manufacturers have found that most right-handed people prefer left-handed mugs. Let’s look at why this is the case.

How often are you hanging out in the morning with a coffee cup in one hand and a pen or a book in the other? If you think about it, you may realize that it happens more often than you’d expect. In fact, people are almost always doing another task while drinking their morning coffee. 

Think about driving to work in the morning while drinking your coffee. If this sounds familiar, you might note that you typically will drive with your dominant hand. Since 85% to 90% of people in the Western world are right-handed, I’d bet you’re holding your coffee with your left hand and driving with your right. 

The biggest reason coffee mugs are left-handed is that they sell better. I’ll get more into this shortly, but for now, you should recognize that people are used to purchasing left-handed mugs and will continue to do so. 

In Western society, having a left-handed mug makes sense since we maintain very busy lives. Since most people are right-handed, left-handed mugs end up being significantly easier to use. 

What Does It Mean for a Mug To Be Left Handed vs. Right Handed?

Apparently, mugs are, in fact, left or right-handed. So, what does this mean? 

Essentially, whether a mug is left or right-handed depends on what side the handle is placed on in relation to the decal on the cup. Unless, of course, you have a plain cup with no art or words on it. Then it’s probably what some people call an ambidextrous cup. This is just a fancy way of saying it doesn’t really matter what hand you hold the cup in.

“Why does it matter anyway?” – you may be wondering. You can hold your mug however you want to, and it will perform the same function. However, our brains seem inclined to want us to hold the cup the “correct” way, so we end up holding it in whatever hand the handle is located on. 

What About All the Left-Handed People in the World?

If we tend to do more tasks while drinking our morning coffee or tea, what about all the left-handed people? If they’re holding their mugs in their left hand, they’re probably not doing very much. So, are they just holding their mugs backward all the time? 

As it turns out, most left-handed people do just that. However, more and more companies are now making mugs that are right-handed so that left-handed people can still get things done at the same time as they’re drinking. 

The History of Mugs

The earliest coffee mugs date back to 10,000 BCE and were recently unearthed from what is now China and Japan. These mugs were carved out of bone. Fun fact, they didn’t have handles. 

As mugs began to progress and men learned to make pottery and use metal more often, our more traditional mugs began to appear. So, when did mugs begin to turn into the ones we know today? 

In the 1700’s m first began to come out with handles. Before this period, there weren’t adequate ways to heat anything. Once we got to the point of heating our beverages consistently, we started burning our hands on cups. Thus, teacups were born. Interestingly enough, most British tea cups did and still do maintain the handle on the right side of the cup. Perhaps they aren’t doing a whole range of activities while drinking their tea.

The introduction of the first traditional coffee mugs happened in the 1940s when an American insulator manufacturing company, Victor Insulator, created the infamous white mugs we know today. While these mugs aren’t so popular anymore, they were enormously popular at one point. 

These white mugs were seen on dainty tables, military vessels, and everything in between. As time passed, the Victor Insulator mugs became the standard for coffee mugs. In fact, almost every mug design we use today is based on these original white mugs. 

During the Industrial Revolution, mugs began to adopt other designs rather than plain white. Transfer painting became more popular, and more manufacturers began using this technique to design porcelain. Suddenly, we had a mass production of coffee mugs loaded with various designs. 

Today, we’ve ended up with a seemingly variety of mugs. You can choose various materials, shapes, sizes, designs, and so on. Luckily, you can find plenty of right handed mugs too, even if it might take a little bit of extra research. Therefore, no matter your preferences, you’re bound to find an option that fits your needs.

So, now that you know how we got modern mugs, let’s answer the question that’s probably burning in the back of your mind.

Is It Best To Put the Handle on the Left Side?

Is it the best option, after all, to put the handle on the left side of the mug? Well, it depends on who you ask. 

To answer this question, we first have to look at how a mug is designed to be held. Mugs are typically designed to be held by the handle, though we can all agree that wrapping both hands around a cozy mug in the dead of winter is the best feeling. 

Moreover, the decal is meant to be shown to the rest of the world. After all, if you went through the trouble of purchasing a mug with a funny saying or cartoon, you did it so other people could see it and enjoy it, right? That said, it’s ultimately up to you to choose the layout that you prefer. Do you hold the left-handed mug in your right hand and hide the decal? Or do you hold it in your left hand and let everyone else see it, even if it’s obnoxious to you? 

The reality is quite a few people find it annoying that mugs are almost always left-handed. There are plenty of times when you aren’t trying to do something else, and it would be nice to just use your dominant hand to hold the mug. So, what’s the solution?

One option may be for companies to print the decals on both sides of the mug. This would make it where it doesn’t matter what side the handle goes on. Actually, several companies are already beginning to do this. However, it can and does result in higher costs for the company.

Another option is to simply create more variety with coffee mugs. Put some handles on the right and some on the left. You know, let’s just go crazy and put one directly in the middle! Okay, that’s taking it too far, but I think you get the point. 

Diversity is life, and creating products that go against the grain is important. Yes, this even includes coffee cups. 

So, is the best option to continue to make left-handed mugs? Probably so. We can speculate about how life would be different with other types of mugs, but in the end, people are used to mugs that are left-handed. If all kinds of manufacturers started making right-handed mugs, then they would not likely sell. At least not initially. 

People tend to continue using the same things they always have and do the same things they’ve always done. Here’s an interesting article on that topic, by the way. Coffee mug manufacturers know this, so they aren’t likely going to change things up. That’s the simple truth of the matter.

If you drink your coffee in a glass mug, remember that not all glass mugs are microwave safe. I’ve written a guide on how to test whether your mug is microwave safe. [Are Glass Coffee Mugs Microwave Safe?]

Conclusion

In the end, the reason why most coffee mugs are left handed is a mixture of several causes. 

  • They sell better that way.
  • They are more usable with the handle on the left.
  • People prefer repetition. What has been will continue to be.

Whatever the reasoning, most people agree that making left-handed cups is the better option after all. However, if you’re right-handed and prefer to have a right-handed mug, there’s definitely something out there for you too.


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