Have you ever heard of a bolo tie? If you live in the West or Southwest, I’m pretty sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t and the words, “chaps,” “wrangle,” and “tack” are also foreign to you – you may be thinking that a bolo tie is some sort of newfangled knot – or maybe a kinky sex act. Come to think of it, “the bolo tie” would be a great name for a kinky sex act! Perhaps I’ll have to try it out once I start dating and get to that point with a new fella: “So darlin’, why don’t you come over to my place this evening? We could give the bolo tie a go – it will blow your mind…and other things.” *sexy wink*
The bolo tie I’m talking about (for the purpose of this post anyway) is the official neckwear of New Mexico. Arizona beat us to the punch, proclaiming it their official neckwear in 1971. Texas was kind of late to the party, but decided in 2007 it should be their official neckwear as well. And here is something I didn’t know – apparently, bolo ties made their way to the United Kingdom in the 1950’s, where they are known as “bootlace ties.” That name actually may make more sense than “bolo tie”, as it describes them pretty well. Basically, a bolo tie is just a long piece of leather cord with metal tips on the ends. That cord is threaded through a metal piece (the slide) that usually has a decorative top. You place the loop over your head and then move the slide where you want (most people wear it at the base of the neck – right where the knot of a traditional tie would sit).
As you may recall, in an effort to have a more frugal Christmas, I decided to make my loved ones fused glass jewelry – an easy enough prospect for the women – but what to make for the men in the family? I couldn’t see my dad or my brothers flaunting a stunning pendant (well, maybe my brother – because he is really pretty – but then his wife might steal it, arguments would ensue, and before you knew it, they would both be demanding I cover the cost of marriage counseling since I was the catalyst for all of their problems). I thought about tie tacks, or cuff links, or a tie bar – but then on a recent trip home, I saw my dad wearing a bolo tie and realized that it was the perfect, manly display for my fused glass. How hard could it be?
Not hard at all, it turns out. And the brilliance of a bolo tie is that you can use anything to decorate the slide! Great Aunt-Martha’s Victorian brooch? Sure! That ancient obsidian arrow-head you unearthed while hiking in the woods? Absolutely! A freakishly large button? Why not?
In fact, the only difficulty I had was finding the supplies I needed. The leather cord was easy enough to procure – any hobby shop carries them for a reasonable price. But I couldn’t find the metal slide or the metal tips at the craft store or even at the jewelry supply store. Then I stumbled across Rocky Mountain Western – an online shop that not only makes custom bolo ties, but sells all of the supplies so you can make your own.
I ordered a couple of bolo slide backs for the astronomically expensive price of…$1.12 each. I also nabbed a couple sets of the metal tips for the cord – mine rang in at $2.15 a set. I placed the order late one night – and my neatly packed padded envelope arrived just two days later.
Let me walk you through the process – just in case you have something like an antique coin you’ve been dying to find a way to turn into wearable art.
Here are the supplies you’ll need:
Step one: Cut about 36” of leather cord. You may find that it seems hopelessly kinked or coiled from the packaging – but don’t panic. Just dip the cord quickly in warm water and then draw it through your fingers a time or two, giving the kinks a little extra massaging until, like very tense shoulders, they give a little sigh and relax. If you still have more bendy parts than your comfortable with, you can always attach a weight at the bottom (I used a clamp) and then hang it up overnight. That should do the trick.
Step two: Glue your decorative whatever to the bolo slide back. Put it somewhere your kids and pets won’t find it and don’t mess with it for about 24-hours – that gives the glue time to dry and bond. If your kids or pets find it before then, your decorative whatever might end up bonded to their forehead or nose – and while attractive, it will probably hurt like a bitch when you have to tear it off of them. So really, put it in a safe place where the decorative whatever can get very cozy with the bolo slide back – in private.
Step three: When the two halves of your bolo slide have committed to staying together for life, thread the leather cord through the bolo slide and then glue the metal tips on the ends. Again, allow a day for the cord and tips to get to know each other. I can practically hear you now – “I have to wait another 24-hours? This is taking forever!” Well, I told you it was super easy – I never said it was super speedy. Besides – that’s it! You’re done! You are now the proud owner of a custom-made bolo tie for yourself or your favorite person.
In this case, my favorite person is my dad — come Christmas morning, he’ll be looking dapper in his new bolo tie! Mom, if you’re reading this….shhhhhh! It’s a secret!