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  • Writer's pictureJared Brandt

On the Bolo Tie

It seems that the traditional necktie is superior to the Bolo tie.

Obj. 1: The traditional necktie has more opportunities for design and color.

Obj. 2: The traditional necktie hides one’s buttons.

Obj. 3: The traditional necktie has become the cultural standard in the US.

Obj. 4: Certain high-minded schools in the South allow the traditional necktie and the bowtie as parts of the faculty dress code, but do not allow the Bolo tie.

Sed Contra: Matthew McConnaughey and John Travolta have been known to wear bolo ties. Both men have a strong sense of style. Therefore, the Bolo tie is not inferior to the traditional necktie.

I say that it should be said that the traditional necktie is not superior to the bolo tie. Please note that this is not to say that bolo tie is superior to the traditional necktie. I am merely saying that the two are on an equal footing. Insofar as the traditional necktie has a function, the bolo tie is equally suited to perform this function.

In the early days, the necktie (cravat) was used to hold together the collar of the shirt in order to prevent the escape of body heat. According to Le Blanc’s The Art of Tying the Cravat: Demonstrated in Sixteen Lessons, including Thirty-Two Different Styles, forming A Pocket Manual; And exemplifying the advantage arising from an elegant arrangement of this important part of the Costume; preceded by “A History of the Cravat, from its origin to the present times; And remarks on its influence on Society in general.”,

“In 1660 a regiment of Croats arrived in France — a part of their singular costume excited the greatest admiration, and was immediately and generally imitated; this was a tour de cou, made (for the private soldiers) of common lace, and of muslin or silk for the officers; the ends were arranged en rosette, or ornamented with a button or tuft, which hung gracefully on the breast. This new arrangement, which confined the throat but very slightly, was at first termed a Croat, since corrupted to Cravat. The Cravats of the officers and people of rank were extremely fine, and the ends were embroidered or trimmed with broad lace; those for the lower classes were subsequently made of cloth or cotton, or at the best of black taffeta, plaited: Which was tied round the neck by two small strings.”

Clearly, the confluence of the advent of artificial temperature control with widespread adoption of the indoor model of education has rendered this function obsolete.

Le Blanc also refers, in the same verbaciously titled work, to the aesthetic and social functions of the traditional necktie. It serves as an accessory to one’s costume which improves the visual appearance of the costume. In this function, the Bolo tie matches the traditional necktie. It strikes a rare balance between aesthetic pleasure and simplicity of design. Similarly so with the social function. The traditional necktie became a way to display one’s credentials and status within society. Relatedly, institutions made use of the necktie in dress codes to elevate the space. The bolo tie–like its more vulgar cousin–easily enables individuals and institutions to accomplish these social functions, as is clear.

Furthermore, there is a historical precedent for the inclusion of the bolo tie as a traditional part of the male wardrobe in certain parts of the US; namely, the southwest and west regions.

Ad. 1: While aesthetically pleasing, the additional opportunities for design and color serve as a source of distraction. Additionally, they make it more difficult to coordinate one’s outfit.

Ad. 2: While button-veiling is a desirable outcome, it is not necessary. The bowtie also reveals one’s buttons and its inclusion in the faculty dress code is not in doubt. Moreover, the bolo tie allows for the purchase and use of nicer shirts which require the, for lack of a better term, fancy buttons.

Ad. 3: The cultural standard–in the form of the skinny tie–has been approaching the bolo tie for several years. The skinny tie, coincidentally, is an accepted option for faculty dress at the aforementioned high-minded schools. On a related note, the bow tie is no longer the cultural standard in the US, yet these schools allow it as part of the faculty menswear.

Ad. 4: As is clear from what has been said above, these schools should allow bolo ties.

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