From the time that Vineyard Vines began using the iconic whale design in September 2003, and its subsequent registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2005, the company has embraced its pink smiling “Every day should feel this good.” whale logo. Brothers Ian and Shep Murray are happy when they see their pink smiling whale stickers on the backs of people’s cars. They believe that everyone should be able to live a lifestyle which allows them to feel good every day. It’s what that pink whale logo is all about.
History of the Logo
The two brothers grew up in Connecticut, and spent their summers on Martha’s Vineyard. They worked odd jobs to support their time there and eventually quit their traditional desk jobs to pursue their dream—the chance to enjoy a life “filled with the colors” of the island lifestyle they loved so much. Though both admit that they’re “not really clothing or fashion guys”, they came to the notion that they could create colorful neckties with images they loved from Martha’s Vineyard. This would allow the wearers to bring a bit of the summer “good life” lifestyle to work. Ian and Shep listened to their customers and created not only ties- but expanded into clothing as well. They also expanded from their initial shop- founded in 1998- to an empire of 95 stores with sales reaching $476 million by 2016. From then on, the company would continue to grow, adding more stores and increasing revenue until its valuation reached and exceeded $1 billion and counting.
That happy pink whale logo was inspired by a wooden carving Ian and Shep’s dad made by hand. The family always had one of his wooden carved whales over their front door. Ian and Shep realized that Martha’s Vineyard was one of the world’s most successful whaling ports so it seemed a good fit to have the whale become their logo. They decided that the whale should be happy, so a smile was added. Inspiration also came from the Nantucket Reds pants which so many summer visitors wear when visiting the Vineyard and Nantucket. Those pants sport a faded red color which is nearly pink. The pants were sold at Murray’s Toggery Shop on Nantucket. It’s common for folks to also wear navy polo shirts while there for summer, and that’s how the blue color found its way into the whale logo.
The brothers were lucky that their father, the late Stan Murray, was a travel journalist for the Robb Report and other publications. Their experiences traveling with their father and mother gave them business insight. They also had the chance to vacation in some of the finest resorts in Europe and the Caribbean. When they accompanied their parents on a 1997 trip to Anguilla, the idea for their high-end necktie company emerged. They decided their company should represent “the finer things in life”. The hotel manager where they were staying gave the brothers the New York City yellow pages. The two began to call neck tie manufacturers to put their idea into motion. By 1998, they had both quit their jobs to try “something new”. The Murray brothers first sold their neckties from backpacks while biking and boating near beaches. They sold their ties at church fairs, bazaars, and holiday boutiques –pretty much everywhere their vehicles would take them.
The pink whale alone doesn’t tell the entire story of the brand the two brothers created, though. They carefully thought through their company name. Vineyard Vines evoked two main trains of thought in their minds. They had grown up spending plenty of summer time on Martha’s Vineyard, so the “Vineyard” part was a given for them. What is captivating to learn is that their addition of the “Vines” part had to do with their feelings about wearing ties in general. They both felt that neckties-like vines- could “kind of choke you” when they’re wrapped around your neck. So, “Vines” stands for the obligatory work uniform component… neckties. What was genius is that their summery tie images seemed to help workers capture the feeling of summer even though they were suited up and headed out to work. They began with 12 designs for their happy ties and offered them to island retailers to sell on consignment. It was a fortuitous beginning.
Among all the suggestions of casual summertime attitude inherent in the ties and all the clothing products there is still attention to detail which keeps the product quality high. This attention to detail reaches even to the pink whale. According to Connecticut Magazine, the pink isn’t just any old pink… it’s Pantone No. 197—exactly. The pink whale color has significance in that it was part of a focused selection of colors in a palette which is meant to evoke the happy lifestyle. The Murray brothers have always wanted to share the enjoyment of good things with their customers.
These days, the pink whale appears on an enormous variety of items ranging from belts to bathing suits. It can be seen printed, painted, embroidered and sewn. It’s seen all around the world, too. It’s popularity probably outranks the company name. Ian and Shep reach out even to those who cannot shop in their stores. Their whale has been present for a myriad of charitable fundraising events. It’s possible to get a free whale sticker by simply sending an email to TieGuys@vineyardvines.com and if that isn’t possible, fans of the pink whale are welcome to send a written sticker request along with a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope directly to the company location. Senders are encouraged to address their envelopes to Vineyard Vines Sticker Request at 181 Harbor Drive in Stamford, CT 06901.
It’s truly remarkable that the Vineyard Vines logo has captured the imaginations of so many. To think that the company has come to stand for the casual fun of longed-for endless summer is an accomplishment indeed. To create a logo that immediately creates such an emotional response is more than remarkable – it is exceedingly difficult to accomplish. But Ian and Shep have managed to capture the essence of what summer means to them and successfully share it with vast numbers of others who also understand the fleeting wonder of summer days. That pink whale still smiles… and it is nearly impossible to not smile back.