The Origin of the Bolo Tie

Origin of the Bolo Tie

Silversmith Victor Cedarstaff of Wickenburg, Arizona, claims to have invented the bolo tie in 1948.

According to an article in Sunset magazine:

Victor Cedarstaff was riding his horse one day when his hat blew off. Wary of losing the silver-trimmed hatband, he slipped it around his neck. His companion joked, “That’s a nice-looking tie you’re wearing, Vic.” An idea incubated, and Cedarstaff soon fashioned the first bola tie (the name is derived from boleadora, an Argentine lariat).

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Boleadoras or bolas (from Spanish bola, “ball”) are throwing weapons made of weights attached to the end of cords.

However, it is also said that the bolo tie is a North American pioneer creation that dates back to between 1866 and 1886. There is a bolo tie on display at a trading post in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, said to date back that far.

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A recent exhibit at The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona entitled Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary generated renewed interest in bolos.

This is from the Heard Museum:

The distinctive tie originated in the Southwest, and its popularity quickly spread throughout the West and in many other parts of the country. The necktie has been made even more distinguished by contemporary American Indian artists in Arizona, who make bolo ties that are exquisite expressions of individuality and ingenuity.

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Bolo ties, representing the casual nature and somewhat rugged milieu of the West, emerged as a form of men’s neckwear in the 1940s. They directly countered business suits as well as the formality suits represented, and instead marked a different style and a different way of life. In particular, American Indian jewelers and silversmiths brought individuality and creativity to this art form, offering a broad range of unique and artistic options.

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Western wear, including the bolo tie, was popularized through 1950s television shows and movies. Some TV and movie personalities who brought scarf slides and bolo ties into the everyday vernacular include the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers. Bolo ties have been created by American Indian jewelers since the late 1940s and they continue to create them today.

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The bolo tie’s road to acquiring the status of 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. Perhaps to help the cause, Arizona Highways Magazine devoted several pages of its October 1966 issue to Southwestern jewelry, including bolo ties. Help arrived when Governor Jack Williams proclaimed the first week of March 1969 as “Bolo Tie Week.” After several unsuccessful attempts, a bill making the bolo tie the official state neckwear was finally passed on April 22, 1971. The bolo tie is also the official neckwear of New Mexico and Texas, although Arizona was the first state to designate it as such.

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4 thoughts on “The Origin of the Bolo Tie

  1. Interesting, but well-known history about the bolo tie. When in Santa Fe…go the the Governor’s Palace (the Portal System) – where the selection of bolo ties is not great. However, you can find a person who can make you a bolo tie of your design, as I have done. Avoid the plaza shops, (like Ortega’s and Packard’s)….where the prices are exorbitant! The bolos at those 2 shops are 100%++++ marked up over what the artist actually receives.
    Dr. Doug

  2. Pingback: Native American Indian Art Bolo Tie – 059 | ShareAsell.NET

  3. I have a bolo tie that belonged to my father. We lived in Albuquerque from 1948 to 1955, and my parents had quite a collection of pawn jewelry. Do you have any suggestions ofor how a woman might wear or repurpose the jewelry part of the tie? I have almost nothing personal from my father, but I don’t believe in leaving things in the back of a drawer either.

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