UC Davis Magazine

The tie guy

An electronic fashion revolution?

That's what Chris Verrill is attempting with his Wild Ties Internet tie store. The e-mail-order neckwear store grew out of Verrill's fervent belief that "If you've gotta wear a tie, you might as well wear a fun one." Oh, and also from projections that the Internet will expand between 200 and 2,000 percent this year alone.

The ties themselves are outrageous by business-world standards--top sellers include The Three Stooges, Van Gogh's Starry Night and a bottle of Tabasco sauce--and warmly familiar by pop culture norms. But it's not the product as much as the unique way of marketing them that caught the eye of "The Tie Guy": "I'm selling ties because they're fun, but the chief idea I had was just to put a business on the Internet. Obviously use of the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds; at this point computers are outselling television sets." Verrill does the design, photography and copywriting for the site (which includes bad poetry à la Burma-Shave) before turning it over to a professional Internet programmer. Says Verrill, "Yes, I am responsible for and proud of the bad sense of humor. I think it helps sales, but even if it doesn't, if people have fun reading it, all the better."

Because Verrill doesn't have to print thousands of catalogs and the products themselves are relatively flat and cheap to ship, he can sell the ties for nearly 30 percent below retail, he says. That affordability has drawn international customers, including a Canadian family who e-mails Verrill on a regular basis ("I talk about ties in California, they talk about snow in Nova Scotia").

Says Verrill of his mission, "Women have many more choices in fashion than men do. I think ties for men address that problem. And if they don't, then I do." Sadly, Verrill can't sell his personal favorite because, as far as he knows, it's a one-of-a-kind item. His sister bought the brightly flowered paragon on a street corner in Manhattan, and Verrill loved the responses it got from co-workers, commenting, "I've never worn anything boring since."

You can check out WildTies at http://www.branch.com/wildties/home.htm

-- By Clare Homan

Photo by Jeff Klagenberg '88

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