A bolo tie with a turquoise stone on it.

Bolo Ties are Still a Favorite Accessory

A woman holding an object in her hand.
On display at the Heard Museum

If anything tells us about the originality and character of the southwest, it is the Bolo Tie.

According to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona,  “The bolo tie’s road to becoming Arizona’s official neckwear took place over several years. KOOL Channel 10’s anchor Bill Close and five other bolo tie enthusiasts met in 1966 at the Westward Ho Hotel in downtown Phoenix. From the beginning, their intent was to make the bolo tie a state emblem.   After several unsuccessful attempts, a bill was finally passed on April 22, 1971 making the bolo tie the official state neckwear. The bolo tie is also the official neckwear of New Mexico and Texas, although Arizona was the first state to designate it as such.â€


History of the Bolo Tie

In 1978, Bola Bill Kramer author of “‘Bola Tie: New Symbol of the West”  wrote how the bolo tie began.  According to Kramer, “Victor E. Cedarstaff, a silversmith who lived in Arizona in the 1940s and some of his cohorts, were chasing after wild horses when Cedarstaff’s silver-bordered hatband slipped off, making his hat fly away as well. He caught up with his hat band and slipped it over his neck for safekeeping. His friends noticed his look and complimented his new tie. Cedarstaff decided to create a line of ties inspired by the incident. He braided leather, placed silver tips on the ends to keep them from fraying and then joined the strands with a turquoise stone to be used as an adjustable clasp. He applied for a patent, calling his creation the bola tie, named after the boleadoras cords worn by Argentine cowboys.â€

A woman holding an object in her hand.
Grand Tetons Bolo Tie by Jesse Monogye

Since 1940, the popularity of this distinctive tie spread quickly throughout the west and many other parts of the country.  Although a bolo tie can be created from any material, you will find that many in Arizona, especially the ones created by Native American artisans are exquisite expressions of individuality and ingenuity.  They are made mostly from silver and turquoise.  Both gemstones are found abundantly in Arizona. When western wear was popularized in the 1950’s through television shows and movies, bolo ties represented the casual nature and somewhat ruggedness of the West.

TV and movie personalities such as Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers made scarf slides and bolo ties more known.  Therefore, the bolo tie was seen being worn more and more even on business attire, which marked a different style and a different way of life. A woman holding an object in her hand.


How to Wear a Bolo Tie

Like a traditional tie, it is placed beneath the shirt collar.   A bolo tie consists of thin, string-like material, which may be like lace or may be braided. The bolo tips, or ends are strung through the bolo slide with ease. The bolo slide is the area of most variation, because it is the most noticeable part of the tie. It may be comprised of stone, metal or plastic. Some slides are geometric while others are shaped like people, animals, natural wonders or abstract shapes. The surface may be engraved, textured or smooth.

Who Else Wears Bolo Ties?

Both men and women, Maria Sharapova, Patrick Swayze, Ansel Adams, Johnny Depp and Robin Williams are among some of the stars spotted wearing one.  My dad also wore a bolo tie at church services instead of a traditional tie.

Anyone in your family that prefers the bolo tie?

Turns out there are several places that have exhibitions throughout the year and with Christmas just around the corner, wouldn’t this make a cool gift for the person who has everything or perhaps those that just like to dress a little differently?

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