On My Soap Box: Cutesy Ties


To avoid repeating things already said I recently flick through some past articles by fellow columnists.

I was particularly struck by Winston’s harangue of men who wear Printed T-shirts. I have some sympathy for his point of view, but it would be hypocritical of me to fully endorse his stance given I have previously championed, and still do, London based Weadmire.net.

However, it did bring to the surface my own latent hatred for one item of clothing in particular. No, not those jeans which require your arse to be hanging out over the waistband and the belt ratchet around your thighs to stop them meeting your ankles. No, my own personal loathing is for a garment which many men may already have sitting in their wardrobe.

I’m speaking of cutesy printed ties with animals, plants and all manner of childlike crap upon them; the sort frequently offered up by Hermes, Thomas Pink and most notably Vineyard Vines.


I’ve always thought of a tie as part tool and part expression of personality. The problem I have is that as a tool to building a look I just don’t get the aesthetic, even from a distance. As an expression of personality I’m even more perplexed, just what exactly is it you’re trying to say: I’m a child at heart, I like hippos, I’m wacky, my wife buys my ties!

Even as an act of rebellion I’m sceptical that it works. If you care not about fashion, style or dress why not simply wear plain black or blue ties. You can’t get much simpler. Ultimately such an excuse is a lie given that these ties are for the most part brightly coloured, and you must possess some interest in clothes to able to match with anything.

I have wondered, given the success of Vineyard Vines in particular, whether there was some cultural significance that I was missing.


There is a respectable tradition in the UK of sporting motifs on ties, intimately bound up in British class consciousness. Typically, patterns incorporate stags, foxes, pheasants, fish and horses, all highlighting country pursuits, and natural accessories to tweeds and country clothing. Good examples of these can be found at the excellent A. Hume with their Atkinsons Irish Poplin, Farlows, Roderick Charles and London’s Polistas.

While this latter illustration is an aesthetic I can appreciate, it isn’t one I necessarily practice; and I’m willing to accept that to those living beyond the shores of England it may seem as baffling as Vineyard Vines is to me. But fundamentally, I struggle to understand why a grown man would do such a thing to himself.


Andrew Williams blogs at BespokeMe and is based in London. His clothing label Bulldog & Wasp represents his philosophy that style is a frame of mind not just a state of dress.


  1. Derrik Ollar says:

    I agree with you Andrew. Ultimately, a man has to decide how he wants to be seen by others. Do you want to be seen as a serious smartly dressed man or as the “goofy tie guy.” I wonder which guy will land the big account, get the big promotion, or be treated with extra respect by others he comes in contact with? As to Hermes, remember, when it comes to the French, they also think Jerry Lewis is great fun.

  2. Good point Andrew. The cutesy tie is a bit of fun and personality in what might be a stuffy corporate world. But I totally agree with both you and Derrik. At some point you have to decide which guy you want to be. The fun guy or the respected guy.
    From a female perspective, the smart well-dressed man wins every time, over Mr Goofy. Maintain your personality and your sense of humour, but don’t use it to ruin your winning look. The winning look is what attracts our attention. You’ve got plenty of ways to keep our attention after that.

  3. Timothy says:

    A whimsical tie, as part of an outfit, is to add a light-hearted appearance to an otherwise somber ensemble. This look is particularly effective when used by a clinician, such as a pediatrician,in a client based setting where one wants to put another at ease in a potentially intimidating situation. In a social setting,a whimsical tie, as part of an outfit, may signify the recreational aspect of the affair as opposed to a business setting.

  4. These ties, which I love but which I wear in only very special circumstances, reflect the American trad GTH demeanor. So when it’s summer, and it’s 90 degrees, I’ll wear a whimsical Vineyard Vines tie with a seersucker suit. I generally get complimented. Now I also have a few club ties with motifs such as ducks, which my wife hates. Indeed, while wearing one at an event at which I had to give a talk, she leaned over to me just before I stood up and said, “you know, I really hate those f**king ducks.”

  5. I agree to a certain extent. ‘Novelty’ ties are horrendous, but ties with a discrete and attractive motif, especially one that is not visible except up close, can be ok (in my opinion). You may be sorry to know that you’ve accidentally inspired me to buy a nice maroon tie with little pheasants on from Roderick Charles. It will go perfectly with my new tweed suit!

    Still, great post as ever.

  6. Agree with Jake: Novelty and cartoon ties, esp. with big garish motif that is only only revealed on the blade – ostensibly when opening ones jacket – are a major faux-pas in my book. The head of Homer Simpson or Donald Duck are examples of objects that should be cut off with blunt scissors on sight! But a repeated small motif which is meaningful (to the wearer) or just pretty, this does not have to be bad. I have one with colourful stirrups (for saddles/riding) which look deceptively like babies’ dummies, and at a wedding on Saturday, somebody had a small tophats on his tie with morning dress. All fine, if you ask me.

  7. Michael Poplawski says:

    I can see your point about the cutesy child-like crap on these ties. I do have some of these whimsical ties myself, but do not wear them that often. If I do where them it is usually in the summer. I see them on sale everywhere and yet rarely see any men actually wearing them. How about those ugly printed ties that look like they came from a shirt and tie set? They always seem to have chains or interlocking loops on them. Those should be banned.

  8. Raoul Duke says:

    A Vineyard Vines tie or Hermes works with very specific summer casual dress in the States (example: seersucker, cotton or linen summer suits). If the event does not call for a jacket and tie, one can look too stuffy in traditional gear. A VV tie is a nice compromise.