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Bolo Tie – Guide to History, Style, Options, and Fit

I was looking into leather fashion and learned a lot about bolo ties. Let’s explore some interesting facts about the “official” tie of the Wild West.

The bolo tie is a fashion accessory that is worn around the neck, consisting of a leather cord, and secured in place by a metal slide clip (bolo). The style originates with Native American accessories in the 1900s, and soon spread as popular fashion in the Western United States. Bolo clips are available in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles.

So let’s explore more about the enchanting world of bolo ties, what to look for, and how to pick a great one out to wear.

What is a Bolo Tie?

Bolo ties have a unique look and are an elegant choice for a variety of events. They are usually made of metal pins, engraved magnets, polished stones, or ancient coins and are secured with a metal clasp on the back. The adjustable buckle has a cord running through it to adjust the size of the tie. The cord is usually made of braided leather with metal tippings.

Often associated with Western American culture, Bolo ties are now rapidly gaining popularity around the world; in 2018, Bolo ties were featured in Balmain’s spring men’s collection. At the Paris show, Bolo ties were so popular that their stock sold out quickly.

These ties are a fascinating fusion of vintage and western. They have always been an integral part of American pop culture. Do you remember John Travolta in Pulp Fiction? You know the story, don’t you? The legendary actor wore a bolo tie and danced gracefully with Uma Thurman. Similarly, the charm of Colin Farrell’s character in True Detective was enhanced by the combination of his impressive moustache and vintage bolo neckwear.

Green Stone Bolo Tie - Bolo Tie - Liberty Leather Goods
Green Stone Bolo Tie

The Origin and History of the Bolo Tie

To be honest, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact history of the bolo tie. However, Victor Cedarstaff claims that he came up with the idea in the late 1940s when he dangled his hatband around his neck. It is said that Victor’s hat once fell off while he was riding a horse. He didn’t want to lose his silver-carved hatband, so he donned it around his neck. That’s when he came up with the idea for the tie. The cowboy later patented the invention to his name. The term bolo originated from an Argentinian word – boleadora (bolas in Spanish) which is a strong cord connected with heavy balls at both ends. Therefore, the common bolo tie also has a heavy metal trim on the ends.

The original pateny from July 28th, 1959 has a lot of great and interesting details. Click here to view the Bolo Tie patent at the USPTO.

How to Wear a Bolo Tie

Traditionally worn like a regular tie with a collared shirt, modern stylists suggest wearing it with a T-shirt too, as a fashion accessory. Bolo ties are cool enough to complement formal dresses, semi-formal outfits, and even casual attire.

For a more unique look, I would suggest one go with some bold adornments. While for a cool evening look, you can choose the one embedded with a shiny stone set inside a metal piece. However, if you want something retro then grab a vintage bolo tie and wear it with clothes to match.

Silver and Gold Animal Bolo Tie - Bolo Tie - Liberty Leather Goods
Silver and Gold Animal Bolo Tie

What to Look for in a Bolo Tie

There are various things to look for when it comes to having a bolo tie. Endless designs of adornment/medallions need to be mixed and matched with appropriate quality, color and length of the leather cord to create a masterpiece.

Leather Color

The color of the leather cord can greatly affect the overall aesthetic of the tie. In general, darker colored leather cords are worn more often. However, with the advent of modern faux leather, it is now possible to tie a bolo with leather straps of any color. However, the quality of faux leather is questionable as it wears out easily. Hence, it is advisable to compromise on the color and choose a good quality leather cord that might be available in a limited number of colors.

Length

Bolo ties are available in two basic cord size lengths – standard and extra-long. Classic bolo ties come with a long cord length that gives them a vintage look. Contrarily, modern bolo ties are relatively short and have a funky look. Taller people should choose the extra-long size, while normal-height people can choose the standard length to match their size.

Standard Length

A standard bolo tie is about 38-40 inches long. This length is between the two end knots, except for the inches added by the silver tips.

Extra Long Length

Extra-long bolo ties range between 42 and 44 inches in length, without the addition made by metal tails.

Slide and Tip Color

Typically, the medallion and the tail-tips bolo ties are made of sterling silver. Therefore, they usually come in silver color only. However, there is always an option of spicing things up by going after a gold adornment and metal tips.

Slide Style and Adornment

Bolo tie slides come in a variety of styles, including gripping clasps and pull sliders. You can add anything to these slides as an embellishment. Most of the embellishments I have come across are metallic. However, non-metal slides are also available, usually made of resin, wood or stone.

Silver Eagle Bolo Tie - Bolo Tie - Liberty Leather Goods
Silver Eagle Bolo Tie

Types of Bolo Ties

It’s incredible to think that you can find so many types of bolo ties, with men’s bolo ties, bolo tie necklaces, western bolo ties, vintage bolo ties and wedding bolo ties being some of the popular ones.

Men’s Bolo Tie

Modern-day bolo ties are usually unisex – both men and women can wear similar styles. However, some styles and designs are men specific. Men’s bolo ties have a large medallion with a long strand. They also have a distinctive rugged look that is reminiscent of the Wild West culture.

Bolo Tie Necklace

Bolo ties were historically associated with the cowboys of the Wild West and, as such, were previously adopted only by men. However, I have found that women also welcome this unusual cultural intricacy. Women’s bolo ties, also known as bolo tie necklaces, are shorter and snazzy than men’s bolo ties. They have an elegant pendant design and lovely cord ends. Generally, the adornment in a bolo tie necklace is a stone engraved on a metal clasp.

Western Bolo Tie

All bolo ties are western bolo ties because of obvious reasons. It has been granted the status of official neckwear by the states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.  However, modern designs have largely changed the good ole spirit associated with the bolo ties of the cowboy.

The traditional bolo tie is dynamic in design and imposing in appearance. They are worn in the western states of the United States, not out of fashion, but out of tradition. Western bolo tie medallions are made with specific designs – such as a bullhorn, showcasing the cultural ethos of the West.

Vintage Bolo Tie

Vintage bolo ties have a comfortable and classic feel. The medallions used in vintage bolo ties have a retro feeling about them. Their designs are usually consistent with the historical jewelry once worn by the Native Americans. However, many vintage bolo tie designs have also evolved with the tides of time.

Bolo Ties for Weddings

For me, all bolo ties are perfect to be worn at a wedding. Depending on the overall theme of your event, you can select the appropriate combination of leather color and medallion design. If you ask for my advice, I would suggest a turquoise embedded silver bolo tie strangled onto a black leather cord.

Polished Stone Bolo Tie - Bolo Tie - Liberty Leather Goods
Polished Stone Bolo Tie

Best Bolo Ties

1. Turquoise Classic Cowboy Bolo Tie from Ricky Mountain Western

The turquoise classic cowboy bolo tie from Ricky Mountain Western is a true gem. A beautifully polished stone is embedded into a gold, silver or copper medallion, added with the cord of your choice. It entails detailed etching on the shiny metal pitch, reflecting a true herdsman persona in your personality.

2. Western Silver Steer Skull Bolo Tie from Wild West Living

A profound detailed cow-skull batch is added to a braided leather cord with shiny tail-clippings, making it a unique piece. It is skillfully crafted for true bolo lovers by Wild West Living. The skull-shaped tie is 15/8 inches in size and contains no traces of lead or nickel – only pure silver.

3. Black Onyx Silver Plated Vintage Celtic Bolo Tie from The Old West Gallery

This is a beautifully crafted silver-plated vintage Celtic bolo tie, with a black onyx studded at the center. The cord is made of pure animal leather while the stone mount is plated inside high-quality silver.

How to Make a Bolo Tie

Making your bolo tie is very easy once you have the right tools and materials. All you need to do is to thread the leather cord through the metal clasp, attach it to the back of a medallion by applying super glue. Add metal tips at both ends of the cord using a plier. And with these simple steps, your bolo tie is ready to adorn your personality.

Bolo Tie Supplies

Very limited items are included in the list of bolo tie supplies. What you will need is a leather cord, a metal buckle, a pendant of your choice, and a pair of cord-tail metal tipping. These supplies can be easily purchased from various e-commerce platforms such as Esty, Amazon, and eBay.

DIY Bolo Tie

When it comes to bolo ties, there are many DIY options. Making a bolo tie is a rewarding hobby. You can experiment with your artistry by painting a bolo medallion. You can also get creative by braiding leather strings into a bolo tie cord. So, you can undertake numerous DIY-ing projects with bolo ties that are creative and fulfilling for the soul.

Here is an insightful video on how to make a bolo tie:

Helpful Insights

Many people might hesitate in wearing a bolo tie to work. But never forget that bolo ties are a creative and stylish alternative to regular neckties. There exist plenty of individuals who proudly wear their bolos to work, parties, weddings, and official meetings. Let me give you some helpful insights to set things straight.

Is wearing a bolo tie cultural appropriation?

There are differing opinions on this issue. Many people believe that wearing a bolo tie is cultural appropriation. This sentiment is particularly high in the Native Americans, who find bolos as a part of their centuries’ old traditions. As for me, I have no problem with anyone wearing them. I love to see people wearing them around.

Where did Philip Rivers wear a bolo tie?

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers wore an elegant bolo tie to his post-game interview. It was made of elk antlers embedded with a polished stone. This is because the head coach, Mike McCoy, has made it mandatory for players to wear a tie and a jacket in post-match conferences. So instead of the usual tie, Rivers wore this cool bolo tie.

What is a Texas tie called?

The Texas tie is another name for the bolo tie. It is the official neckwear of the state, and poepular in several other states in the Southwestern USA.

Is it OK to wear a bolo tie?

It is perfectly acceptable to wear a bolo tie. Bolo ties are a stylish aesthetic, as long as they are worn with the appropriate clothing and in proper settings, wearing a bolo tie can be an excellent choice.

Are bolo ties Native American?

The origins of the bolo tie are difficult to trace. Many people associate the bolo tie with Native American culture. However, many believe that it was invented by Victor Cedarstaff in the 1940s.

Who wears a Bolo tie?

Everyone wears them in the West, but generally, they are associated with the cowboys of the region. However, it has also been adopted by hipsters and popular artists (Nick Jonas, Post Malone, Quavo) as a high fashion accessory. These ties are also popular among women too.

How long is a bolo tie?

Bolo ties come in a variety of sizes. The standard size for a bolo tie is around 38 inches, while the extra-long size is 42 inches approx.

How should a bolo tie be worn?

It goes perfect with a button-down oxford worn with a pair of chinos or jeans. Wear some high-quality leather shoes underneath and put on a hat as a cherry on top.

Are bolo ties cool?

Yes, bolo ties are very cool. They are a perfect blend of tradition and fashion and personality, and can be work to make a unique look in informal and formal settings.

Cowboy Hat-Shaped Novelty Bolo Ties - Bolo Tie - Liberty Leather Goods
Cowboy Hat-Shaped Novelty Bolo Ties

In Closing

I enjoyed studying the beautiful history of bolo ties. I see them as a form of art and expression. The style of a bolo tie not only reflects your personality but style, while reflecting history. Choosing one can show personality and be a really fun addition to a wardrobe.

Related Topics 

Where were bolo ties invented?

They were invented by a local cowboy Victor Cedarstaff in Arizona in the late 1940s. The inspiration for the style came from Native American accessories that were worn since at least the early 1900s.

How do you straighten a bolo cord?

Leather cords are coiled around a spool that sometimes distorts their shape. Simply hold one end of the cord with your right hand and bend it back and forth with your left. This will gradually straighten your bolo cord.