The Rise of Rae Dunn

Sarah McMahon
4 min readMar 10, 2022

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

My boyfriend has a Rae Dunn mug that says “you grow girl” on one side and a cactus on the other. He didn’t know when he bought the mug that it was a Rae Dunn mug. To be sure, I’m not sure why he bought a “you grow girl” mug in the first place, but that’s a topic for another day. Rae Dunn is ubiquitous, equal parts loved by middle class suburban mothers and despised by TJ Maxx employees. I personally don’t understand the appeal of a coffee mug that says “coffee” or a bowl that says “jelly beans” or a cat dish that says “meow.” But, I am fascinated by the way the brand has gained traction in recent years, and I’m here to distill what exactly is so appealing about the white, dimpled, ceramic goods with kitschy comic sans adjacent lettering.

I first heard about Rae Dunn online. Videos like this one started surfacing on Tik Tok, exposing hordes of women (and a few men) descending on Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods every restock morning, hoping to get their hands on some Rae Dunn. Scoring the best piece is a badge of honor. What constitutes the best pieces is a grey area but generally, the seasonal, limited edition items are the hottest. Store employees have complained at length about the way Rae Dunn connoisseurs conduct business. From hiding goods throughout the store, to pestering them about delivery dates, to straight up fighting with each other over pieces. There are entire Facebook communities of people looking for Rae Dunn pieces, and a whole community of people buying and re-selling the goods at incredible margins, sometimes listing pieces for twenty times their original value.

The most compelling thing about Rae Dunn items is that they’re not extremely expensive. Mugs can cost five to ten dollars, especially the most common ones (the “but first, coffee” mug comes to mind). Collecting Rae Dunn doesn’t have to break the bank, which I’m convinced is part of its widespread appeal. Any suburban housewife can afford a few Rae Dunn pieces. The dark underbelly of collecting Rae Dunn is when it becomes an obsession. One women went into debt close to $15,000 to feed her obsession, causing marital problems and isolating her from her children.

It might be tempting to dismiss the “Rae Dunnies,” as they call themselves, for their enormous devotion to kitschy pottery, it’s…

Sarah McMahon

Blogger | Poet | Freelancer | Ultra Runner IG: @mcmountain email: