Screw Novelty Ties! Bolo Ties are the Trendy Accessory for 2012
I'm going to be completely honest - I have not always been a fan of bolo ties. Worn only by the elderly and with traditional western clothing, bolo ties came to mean "Retired Texan" in my mind.
My perception has changed after my latest visit to Tokyo. I always like buying accessories in Japan since they typically gain popularity there before becoming hits elsewhere (which makes me ahead of the trend curve in the States), so I stopped by a bunch of shops in Shibuya and Harajuku to hunt for some new additions to my collection. Bolo ties WERE EVERYWHERE.
While bolo ties are traditionally worn by men (at least in the States), the ties I saw in Japan were all in shops selling women's accessories, and most of the people wearing the ties out on the streets were female.
So it looks like Tokyo-based fashionistas are putting a whole new spin on the bolo tie! Let's have a closer look at the accessory and this recent development.
What is a Bolo Tie?
A bolo tie forms the same purpose of a necktie, and is meant to serve as a decoration around the collar of a button-up shirt. Bolo ties are also known as shoestring ties, bola ties, and bootlace ties (in the UK).
Bolo ties are made up of three basic components:
- A cord or piece of braided leather
- Decorative metal tips (also known as aiguillettes or aglets for short) at the ends of the cord
- A clasp or slide
The Origins and History of the Bolo Tie
To better understand the bolo tie in a contemporary context, let's have a look at where it came from.
Bolo ties have origins in the American West (where folks are too darn rugged for cravats, bowties, and neckies, dagnabbit!!). Elements of the bolo tie (e.g. the silver tips and clasps) have origins in various Native American styles- particularly those from Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi tribes and their silversmithing methods and styles. Bolo / bola ties' names are derived from the word boleadora, which is an Argentine lariat.
Though some say that the bolo tie existed as early as the 1860s, a silversmith named Victor Cederstaff was the first to patent bola ties' slide design (in the 1940s) and also claims to have invented them. Apparently the tie was adapted from a silver-trimmed hatband that Cederstaff tied around his neck on a windy day (to keep from losing it).
During the 1950s, bolo ties were adopted as a must-have accessory for Teddy Boys and were typically worn with drape suits. In 1971, the bolo tie was named the official neckwear of Arizona, and in the '80s, shoestring neckties became incorporated into the Rockabilly look. Bola ties saw renewed popularity in 1988 and a bit in the early '90s, but have been (until now) mostly relegated to niche enthusiasts and Americans going for the Western look.
Bolo Ties as an Accessory for Women
Though bolo ties are traditionally worn like normal ties- around the collar of a button up shirt, it looks like the modern iteration of shoestring ties can be worn as a simple necklace instead!
I think it's much easier to rock a bola tie as a necklace if you're a girl, since girls are already free of the traditional preconceptions surrounding the accessory... and it would just look really weird to see a dude wearing a bolo tie as a choker or necklace.
That said, girls can also wear shoestring ties as ties- around blouses or even turtle necks- if they please. I saw people do it both ways in Tokyo.
One of the reasons why I think bolo ties caught in in Japan is that they offer so much room for creativity. I saw a huge variation in the sorts of clasps and slides and can totally see the similarity between shoestring ties and other addictive collectable accessories like charm bracelets.
Some common clasp styles I saw included letters, initials, and skulls, though in the States, you're more likely to see Native American-influenced patterns.
What's your bolo tie status?
Do you have a bolo tie?
Have fun with them!
If you have some bolo ties tucked away in a drawer, now is the time to break them out! If you're a gal and never wore bolo tie before, consider nabbing some old favorites from your grandfather / dad / uncle / brother / husband! Nabbed accessories are infinitely more fun to wear.
I'm very curious to see if their popularity spreads from Japan to other areas of the world, including non-Western-style cities.
Only time will tell!