Bola & Bolo Ties

Not too many people know, but Arizona has an official state neckwear, and that is the fabled Bola tie (often referred to as the Bolo Tie). If you picture any stereotypical cowboy and imagine anything other than a bandana around their neck, you probably know what the Bola tie looks like. Being in Arizona, I took it upon myself to learn more about this neckwear (I am a bit of a tie nut myself) and to find one to call my own.

Bola History

The Bola tie is pretty simple in its design: You have a cord that wraps around the neck, with two metal bits on the tips, that is held in place with a metal clasp. The clasp tends to be the most focal point: it can be large and ornate or small and understated. For Arizona Bolas, most use turquoise, which is the state gemstone. This is considered the standard Arizona style, but of course, there are many more than just this one design. A silversmith by the name of Victor Cedarstaff claims to have invented the tie style in the 1940s, but others (who I cannot find citations for, unfortunately) claim that they date back as far as between 1866 and 1886. The name Bola comes from the Argentinian word boleadora, or the Spanish bola (ball), which is a type of lariat that has two metal balls at the ends of a rope to help trip and catch animals. It became the state neckwear of Arizona in 1973.

Bolo Ties - Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com
Bolo Ties (courtesy of Heidi Pollock via Flickr CC)

Native American Ties

Look at that great tie pun! Native American tribes, such as the Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni tribes since the middle of the 1900s. There is a rich tradition of design and artistry associated with the creation of a Bola, with some designs running into the thousands of dollars. There have also been entire museum exhibitions dedicated to the notable neckwear.

I tried my best to find the perfect Bola before having to leave the state, but sadly, my time ran a bit too short. I would recommend checking jewelry gift shops, be they in Sedona, Flagstaff, or Phoenix. There were some very nicely crafted ones right on the main strip in Sedona that were anywhere from $75 to $300 dollars. The Heard Museum has some incredible ties if you have cash to burn and the Old West Gallery has a pretty good selection for a price far less than the Heard.

I hope to return to Arizona one day to add the Bola to my personal neckwear collection. Arizona has a lot of unique things going on for it and I wouldn’t mind having a little piece of it to share with those around me.

 

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