History of the Bola Tie
The Gaucho is a South American cowboy and the strange device or weapon he uses is called “boladora” – translated, the word means “balls” for literally that is what the “bola” is, three balls attached to the ends of three throngs of braided leather or rawhide which in turn are joined together at their common ends. The three balls are usually of stone or lead sewn into pouches of leather of rawhide. In use, one of the balls is gripped in the hand and the contrivance is whirled in an arc overhead. It is thrown with incredible speed at a fleeing animal. The story of how this unique object lent its name to the popular and well known piece of neckwear, the “bola tie”, is one that bridges two continents through the determination and ingenuity of one man, who had a penchant for creating something new. Some fanciful claims have been made as to the origin of that popular piece of neckwear, the bola tie, and its relationship to the bola.
The story – which has prevailed against all others and as far as is known, has never been challenged – takes us to Wickenburg, Arizona in 1949. Here, Victor E. Cedarstaff, a resident, designed and made the first bola type of necktie.
As Vic tells the story, he was out horseback riding one day and sudden gust of wind blew his hat off. Picking up his hat, he found that the band had become detached. Rather than try to replace it on the spot, he just slipped the band over his head and let it hang loose around his neck. After awhile his riding friend noticed it and remarked. “Nice tie you’re wearing, Vic!” This remark turned out to be more than casual; it sparked an idea.
Being a silversmith, and having taught leatherwork, Vic went to work and designed something new and distinctive in this field. In a day or two, he had fashioned a tie from some leather lacing and trimmed the braid ends with silver balls. To this, he fastened a small silver slide adorned with a piece of turquoise. The tie attracted a good deal of skeptical attention from friends, however, orders soon began to arrive.
Vic’s problem was that there seemed to be no good way of attaching the slide to the braid, one that would not slip or damage the braid. However, in due time, he succeeded toward this end by designing a triangular shaped slide, which he named a yoke. Unlike most conventional slides, which contain a variety of clips and locking devices to hold the tie in place, this yoke had none and it eliminated the necessity of having to slip the tie on over the head. He succeeded in creating something new and original and on this basis he was issued a patent.
Searching for a suitable name for the tie, he settled on one that was truly western. He called it a “Piggin Necklet” naming it from the piggin-string that the cowboys use for tying the legs of a calf. Sometime later, Vic was visiting with a friend in Wickenburg, who had been in Argentina, South America. The friend showed him a device, which he had brought back with him. He called it a “bola” and explained that the Gauchos of that country used it for catching cattle. It bore a strange resemblance to the tie, which Vic had designed; in the way it was braided and had terminals similar to his tie. Vic decided to drop his original name for the tie, and call the tie “bola”. The name change proved almost magical. Soon others began making similar ties and marketing them under various trade names. However, the name “bola” seemed to be the one, which endured, and in the end it has become the universal name for the tie.