Jack Weil Inventor of Bolo Tie

September 3, 2008

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Jack A. Weil, the man who invented the bolo tie, died on August 13th. He was 107-years-old.

The Washington Post described him as “the Henry Ford of the western shirt.” Weil founded a company called Rockmount Ranch Wear in Denver in 1946 and remained the chief executive of that firm until the day he died. He was the oldest Chief Executive Officer of any company in the world,

Weil was selling garters in Denver when he began making western shirts based on designs he saw in cowboy movies. Weil’s company was the first to manufacture western shirts with snap buttons on the front and sleeves. Usually, the snaps are covered with synthetic mother of pearl. The advantage of snaps was that they popped open when pulled and prevented the shirt fabric from tearing, Jack Weil’s shirts also were well known for their slim fit, front and back yokes, and sawtooth pattern flap pockets.

Who Wears These Things

Although the garments are usually called “western shirts” they are worn both by people who can and people who cannot ride a horse. “I learned fast you can’t sell to cowboys; they have no money,” Weil said in an interview in 2001. “You have to appeal to the cowboy in everyone and sell to them.”

Weil’s shirts were worn in movies by Elvis Presley, by Clark Gable in the “The Misfits,” by Robert Redford in “The Horse Whisperer” and by Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain.” Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, and Eric Clapton were also fond of Weil’s designs. Rockmount Ranch Wear designed shirts for Colorado’s House delegation for the Democratic National Convention.

Mr. Weil, however was a life long Republican who insisted that his shirts should be manufactured in America. When Ronald Reagan declared that America had become a “service economy,” Weil wrote the President a letter complaining, “where I come from…servicing meant when you took the mare to the stud.” Reagan, who also liked Weil’s shirts, wrote back that things were “complicated” in Washington.

Defining How Cowboys Should Look

Before Jack Weil, nobody could agree on how a cowboy should look. Cowboys wore pants of various styles and shirts of various styles. They usually wore bandanas. What Jack Weil left the world was a clear idea of exactly what a cowboy looked like.

Jack Weil is survived by a daughter, Jane Romberg of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; five grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. His wife, Beatrice Weil, died in 1990. His son, Jack B. Weil died earlier this year.

The cause of death was not reported.

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