Have you ever seen Texans or Arizonians wearing what looks like a thin leather thong around their necks leading from a buckle at the shirt collar? If so youve probably thought it dates back to the Wild West. Thats what I thought until a little research revealed quite a different story. This neckwear is called a Bolo or Bola and proclaimed the official neckwear for Arizona, making it one of the most original American styles, the Converse All Star being another; ironically its advent was the outcome of an accident. Had it not been for the loss of a hat in the wind and a quick thinking Arizonian, the style would never have come to fruition? Its a bit like the story about the advent of the first school tie, another accidental style, which also involved hats and hat bands and covered in a previous article.
In the late 1940s, a silversmith named Victor Cedarstaff went riding with friends in the Bradshaw Mountains outside Wickenburg, Arizona. When the wind blew his hat off, Cedarstaff removed the hatband, which had a silver buckle he did not want to lose, and put it around his neck.
When his friends complemented him on the new apparel, Cedarstaff returned home, and wove a leather string. He added silver balls to the ends and ran it through a turquoise buckle.
Cedarstaff later patented the new neckwear, which was called the bolo because it resembled the lengths of rope used by Argentine gauchos to catch game or cattle.
Now mass-produced, bolos are usually made of leather cord, with a silver or turquoise buckle. They are common throughout the west and are often worn for business. In 1971 Arizona legislature named the bolo the official state neckwear.
Twenty years before the advent of the Bolo another innovation took shape, when a pioneering Paris fashion designer, Jean Patou, invented the designer tie. He made ties from women’s clothing material including patterns inspired by the latest art movements of the day, Cubism and Art Deco.
Targeted toward women purchasers, his expensive ties were highly successful. Today women buy 80 percent of ties sold in the US. Therefore ties are often displayed near the perfume or women’s clothing departments.
Designer ties made quite a splash in the 1960s, when designers from London’s Carnaby Street devised the Peacock Look and churned out wide, colourful ties in a variety of flowered, abstract and psychedelic patterns. Know mod (for modern) styles were the forerunners of the hippie movement, which often dispensed with neckties altogether, often favouring colourful scarves at the neck, or wearing open shirts with chains or medallions.
Today, designer ties abound. Designers create some themselves, while others are made by manufacturers under licensing agreements. Designer ties are also popular with women, who associate them with high fashion. In fact three out of four ties are bought by women.
These fascinating innovations are what make the evolution of style and the progress of fashion through the ages so unique. No experience necessary; a man creates neckwear after his hat blows off in the wind. Another man decides to make ties from womens clothing material and hey presto two everlasting styles are created.