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Arizona's Official Neckware - The Bolo Tie


The Bolo Tie
Arizona Bolo Tie
© Heard Museum, used with permission
A special exhibit at The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona held from November 2011 through September 2012 entitled Native American Bolo Ties: Vintage and Contemporary generated renewed interest in this uniquely American accessory.

The Heard Museum graciously shared this short history of the bolo tie:
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.

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.

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.

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.
Although one can create a bolo tie from any material, you will find that many in Arizona, especially the ones created by Native American artisans, are made from silver and use turquoise as the gemstone, both of which are naturally and abundantly found in Arizona.

Who else is wearing bolo ties? Both men and women, for one thing. While perusing some celebrity photographs, I noticed bolo ties being worn at one time or another by Dwight D. Eisenhower, David Fienstein, Maria Sharapova, Patrick Swayze, Ansel Adams, Robin Williams, Viggo Mortensen, David Carradine, Val Kilmer, Richard Pryor and Johnny Carson.

The Heard Museum has more than 170 bolo ties in the permanent collection. It is located near downtown Phoenix and is accessible by METRO Light Rail.

About the photo -
Artist: Norbert Peshlakai (Navajo). Silver seed pot bolo tie, 2008, 3 1/8” height, stampwork and hammered texture silverwork with stones including coral, jade, and shell, with wire fittings. Hallmark is artist’s logo. Peshlakai was one of the first artists to make a silver seed pot around 1976. He excels in the art form and based this shape on one from the cover of the book "Old Traditions in New Pots."

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