A bolo tie, also known as a bola or shoestring tie, is produced by the braiding of sturdy cord or leather strips, with both ends of the tie sealed and decorated with metal tips. The cords are threaded through a slide or fixed with a movable clasp and often adorned with ornate, typically "Western" designs. Still, bolo enthusiasts from around the United States insist the tie, if worn thoughtfully, can make any ensemble more distinctive.
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Choosing a Cord
Bolo cords can be purchased in any Western wear store; their lengths, however, vary. Many prefer the bolo cord ends to land about 3 or 4 inches below the breastbone. As such, wearers of the bolo that are 6 feet tall with an average build are advised to purchase cords between 36 and 38 inches in length, while taller individuals or those with heftier builds often prefer cords between 40 and 42 inches. That said, individuals who favor precision can use a measuring tape or length of string to decide what length looks best before heading out to make any purchases.
Adjusting the Bolo Tie
Traditionally, bolo ties are to be worn much like fabric neck ties, with the bolo's ornamental slide working in place of a fabric tie's knot. When wearing a button-up shirt, the slide can be raised high and tucked just beneath the collar. Bolo tie enthusiasts note that the higher a man wears his slide, the more formal his appearance. In turn, lowering the slide offers both a figurative and literal "looseness" in appearance.
Pairing the Bolo With Shirts
Bolo ties are usually paired with Western-style dress shirts or simple collared button-down shirts. However, some individuals wear bolo ties with T-shirts. This particular look works best when the wearer has chosen a unique or non-traditional bolo tie or bolo slide and matched it with an equally unique T-shirt collar shape, such as a V-neck. Still, the consensus among bolo fans largely remains that the tie can be worn with just about any kind of clothing, from denim work-clothes to tuxedos.
Stones and Ornaments
The clasp or slide that moves up the bolo tie can be made out of just about anything, though flatter objects tend to be easier to wear. Homemade ties were originally pinned with found objects like pieces of quartz, galena or turquoise, seashells, bottle caps, coins or women's jewelery. As bolos became more acceptable, some slides became more formal, sporting precious gems, silver and gold. While craftspeople continue to create ornate clasps for the bolo tie, today, most middle-of-the-road bolos feature sterling steel or silver tips and slides that look like miniature belt buckles. In turn, it is up to the wearer to decide what kind of slide best suits the occasion to which the bolo will be worn.