SINGAPORE (Sept 17): Bolos, the official neckwear of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas and the ne plus ultra of the Western cowboy for over 60 years, are having a moment on fashionable young necks. In Paris, Balmain featured US$550 ($756.50) gold-toned bolo ties in its spring 2018 menswear show — and promptly sold out. On Instagram, the #BoloTie hashtag has 50,446 posts and counting from both guys and girls being equally ironic and serious (or, seriously ironic) in their style choice. On the internet, searches for “bolo tie amazon” have increased 120% over the past 12 months, according to Google Trends.

The word “bolo” is derived from boleadora, an Argentine lariat, or rope used to lasso, although the neckwear’s actual origin is a mystery. One fella, Victor Cedarstaff, claims he is the creator: Back in the late 1940s, his hat flew off while he was riding his horse; so as not to lose his hatband, he simply slung it around his neck, and an iconic accessory was born. And so it goes.

The neck lasso — or bolas, bootlace or shoestring ties, as they have also been called — made it into mainstream fashion in the 1980s, when it was coveted by Rockabilly and New Wave bands. It has continued to pop up on eccentric celebrities ever since, including Billy Murray, Johnny Depp, Ed Ruscha, Bruno Mars and, of course, Macklemore. And like the resurgence in ugly sneakers and all things archival, that brings us to today.

“This summer, we definitely have seen a lot of grooms purchase these for their groomsmen and/ or themselves for their big day,” says Hayley Faw, co-founder of the jewellery brand Apse Adorn. It has been making bolos for about two years now. “We even designed seven custom bolos for one groom who wanted each of his groomsmen to sport a different pendant style.”

As to their appeal, Faw thinks men in particular are getting more adventurous with their style. “Bolos are a really simple — and meaningful — way to test the ‘accessory waters’ without going into fullblown jewellery,” she tells Bloomberg.


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Designer Gogo Ferguson has seen this trend before. “Bolos seem to come and go like the tide,” she says, “but I have held that they are a unique twist to an otherwise-boring tuxedo!”

Evan Ratner, an investment analyst, and Vinnie Buehler, an associate at a law firm, launched Caliny this summer. The brand uses interchangeable pieces so guys can match their bolo with their outfit. They call it the “Urbolo”. And yes, booze was involved.

“I am in my early 30s and don’t feel I can pull off the Southwest look on a daily basis, so we created a bolo with an urban edge,” says Buehler. He recounts how the idea came together last summer over drinks at Manhattan’s Union Square, when he was listening to his friend (now business partner) vent his frustration on the lack of neckwear options for men.

“We’ve noticed that people enjoy wearing them around their neck for more formal occasions,” adds Ratner, “but friends have also enjoyed loosening them up and wearing them with a tee.” Breaking the chains of the necktie monopoly, one bolo at a time.

While Western design still dominates the bolo market, here are some classic and contemporary pieces you may see popping up on your social feed, from US$45 to more than US$3,000. — Bloomberg LP

This article appeared in Issue 848 (Sept 17) of The Edge Singapore.

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