Camp shorts began to appear in America in the 1960s. They were one of the more popular styles in America at a time when American boys wre just beginning to more commonly wear casual short pants. For some boys it was the first pair of short pamts that they erver wore. I first remember seeing them in 1961, but they may have appeared earlier. They continued to be worn through the 1980s. All the major mail order companies offered them, including Pennys, Sears, and Wards. They were so named because they were a handy style to wear at camp. The large pockets provide ample space for a boy to squirle away rocks, leaves, and even a spare frog he might come across. This was one factor in their popularity with boys. Although named for camp wear, more often they were sinply summer play wear at home. Camp shorts were generally cut at mid-lengths. The most common material was woven polyester-and-cotton denim. Camp shorts had many distinguishing features. The most obvious were large cargo pockets, usually at least one that closed with zippers. They normally had belt loops, with half-elastic back. Fabric utility loop, metal clip for knife or whistle. They were normally worn in sizes 8-16 years, but they were also made in larger sizes. They were primarily available in dark green, blue, and khaki--but HBC has noted other colors as well. Camp shorts appear to have been primarily an American style. HBC has not noted them being worn in other countries to any great extent. They appared to have influend the American Scout uniform which was introduced in 1980 as it had cargo pants for the first time.
Camp shorts began to appear in America in the 1960s. The first I noted them was in 1961. We believe that they may have appeared earlier, but have no details at this time. They were one of the more popular styles in America at a time when American boys were just beginning to more commonly wear casual short pants. For some boys it was the first pair of short pants that they ever wore. I first remember seeing them in 1961, but they may have appeared earlier. They continued to be worn through the 1980s. HBC has not, however, noted them in the 1990s. A reader asks, "Can you tell me why no one carries camp shorts anymore?" HBC is not quite sure. Like all fashions, certain styles come and go. Camps shorts by the 1980s were beginning to be seen as a bit dated and boys apparently wanted more trendy styles by the 1990s. Of course, camp shorts have not totally disappeared as the styling can be seen in modern cargo long and short pants. A HBC reader, however, reports, that camp shorts in 2002 are still the most popular shorts for American kids. They range from just above the knee to halfway between the knee and ankle. HBC would tend to call these pants cargo shortys rather than camp shorts, but admittedly the styles are related. They are currently being made in denim, kacki materials and nylon with all kids of different pocket combinations along with the standard ones. Nylon styles are especially popular and a long pant cargo pant with zip off pant legs(around the knees) is very popular in California. Black seems to be to color of choice.
We have no informtion on manufactueres at this time. We do have information on the retailers. Most important stores handled camp shorts. All the major catalog stores offered them: JC Penny, Sears, Speigels, and Montgomery Wards. The major chain stores also offered them: WT Grant, Kresgies, Gimbles, Kauffmans, K-Mart, Maceys, and GC Murphys. Local and regional department stores also offered them: Bens, claybors, Harts, Hills, Hornes, Kelly & cowen, Micheals Childrens Store, and Sauls Army Navy Store. We are not sure which company first offered them and when. The earliest we have noted is a Sears catalog in 1961. W do not note them in 1950s catalogs, but our information is incomplete. We have some information on 1960s catalogs, but many companies offering them in 1970s catalogs.
Camp shorts were a casual style of short pants. Camp shorts were so named because they were a handy style to wear at camp. The large pockets provide ample space for a boy to squirle away rocks, leaves, and even a spare frog he might come across. This was one factor in their popularity with boys. They were worn at camp, but boys at camp wore a wide variety of pants, both short and long pants. Although named for camp wear, more often they were simply summer playwear at home. We also notice boys in the 1970s and 80s wearing them to school. While primariy considered a style of play or casual shorts, we have notice some mothers using them with a white shirt for church/sunday school ot other moderately formal event.
Camp shorts varied in length. Generally they followed the fashion for other sttyles of short pabts. The earlies camp shorts we note in the 1960s had relatively long legs. An example here is the Sears camp shorts in 1961. Camp shorts by the late 1970s and early 80s were done at rather short lengths.
The most common material was woven polyester-and-cotton denim.
Camp shorts had many distinguishing features. The most obvious were large cargo pockets, usually at least one that closed with zippers. They normally had belt loops, with half-elastic back. Fabric utility loop, metal clip for knife or whistle. I think the clip and zipper pocket appealed to boys. One feature common with most camp shorts was the elastic back. A reader writes, "I always thought that camp shorts were introduced by Penney around summer 1972. Or, that if they existed before that, they were an "older" style without elastic in the back because I had also been of the impression that noone made shorts or pants for "older" teen boys with elastic waists before the mid-to-late 1970's and that, therefore, Penney camp shorts had pretty much created that trend. However, HBC has demonstrated that camp shorts existed, with elastic in the back, clear into the 1960s and, probably, into the 1950s. Additionally, HBC have shown pants and shorts in "older" boys sizes with both elastic in the back, and elastic all around (boxer waist) clear back in 1952. So, obviously, I was wrong about the earliest existence of both camp shorts and elastic waist pants for older boys. I don't know how popular these were in 1952, or how popular camp shorts were in the 1950s or 1960s. It probably is "my" generation that made camp shorts and elastic waist pants popular, during the 1970's and 1980s.
They were normally worn in sizes 8-16 years, but they were also made in larger sizes.
Camp shorts were primarily available in dark or forrest green, navy blue, and khaki/beige--but HBC has noted other colors as well. Sonme of the other colors we have noted were charcoal grey, grass green, sky blue, and ecro white. The khaku shorts were by far the most common, but a lot of boys also wore the navy blue and forrest green shorts.
The Sears size range was 8 to 22. Eventually they were made in youth sizes up to 36. They were most popular, however, for boys up to about age 14.
Camp shorts were made with a variety of waists. Somne had trafitional waists with belt loops. Others had elastic backs.
Camp shorts appear to have been primarily an American style. They were very popular among American boys during the 1960s and 70s. They were an important feature in American catalogs such as Sears and Wards. The Sears camp shorts were made in the United States. HBC has not noted them being worn extensively in other countries to any great extent. Available information from opther countries suggest that camp shorts were of miunor importance in other countries with the possible exception of Canada. Although we have noted them advertised by the British retailer Colts. They do not appear, however, to have been widely worn in England. One reader notes that camp shorts were sometimes made in other countries. He mentions Japan and China, but HBC can not confirm this at this time. We do note occassioinal images of boys from various countries wearing them. Our information is still quite limited. Hopefully reraders from other countries will provide some information.
They appared to have influend the American Scout uniform which was introduced in 1980 as it had cargo pants for the first time. Modern cargo pants are another obvious influence.
Cargo shorts which evolved from camp shorts are very popular in California in the eraly 2000s. The style is found on khaki cotton twill, cord, nylon, and blue jean shorts. A California reader reports that in 2001 that cargo shorts were the most popular style of short pants. They vary in length from above the knee to halfway down the shin. They are popular with men as well as boys, although most men don't like the longer lengths.
HBC is collecting accounts from readers who wore camp shorts as a boy or who recalled them.
I never wore camp shorts as a boy, but I did commonly wear Bermudas as casual wear. The first time I noted camp shorts was in 1961 when I worked as a counselor in a YMCA camp in Maryland. There was no uniform, but most of us councelors had "Y" T-shirts. I remember that one of my campers, one of the older campers about 11 years old showed up in green camp shorts and green kneesocks. Many but not all of the boys wore shorts, but he was the only boy wearing kneesocks. I think his mother bought them for him, thinking that camping required a Scout like uniform. He was a bit spoiled and went home after only a week. I think he went to a private school and had a short pants suit which he wore with kneesocks.
Growing up with campshorts, I fondly recall wearing campshorts as a boy/ I grew up in the 1960s and late 70s. I got my first two pair when I was 11 years old. My mom got them for me out of a Sears catalog. I really did not want to wear them at first, as they were somthing new to me--you know all the pockes and zippers. They seemed really short. I thought for sure the other kids would poke fun at me. They sat on my dresser for 2 weeks until one warm summer night I got brave and put on a pair.
I remember wearing camp shorts when I was about 7 years old (1959), all the way through teenage years. This style of shorts was well liked; almost all the boys I remember from school or the neighborhood wore camp shorts and other styles of shorts. Khaki was the
most popular color far and away, but navy and forest green were other well liked colors. The camp shorts we wore all had belt loops and were partly elasticized. One cargo pocket up front was snap-closed, and it seems like the other was closed by a zipper. There
were two open side pockets, as well. On the right side of the shorts, attached to the belt loops was a metal "utility" loop, handy for attaching a pocket knife for camping, or a keychain and keys, if you wanted. The back pockets were the same as other shorts or
I first became aware of camp shorts in the summer of 1972, when I was 11, after a couple friends of mine got them. I had never seen them before and always thought until reading HBC that this was when they originated. They were the classic Penney style and, very soon after I saw these friends with them, and after some endless nagging on my part, my mom got me some. I thought they were the coolest things I had ever seen. Everything about them was different from anything else available and I thought everything about them was totally cool. The zipper and snap pockets, the clip, the fabric loop, and the elastic in the back. I commonly wore threm for play and casual situations. I also wore them to school quite often. On a number of occasions I even wore them in more "formal" settings such as church functions and the like. I normally wore camp shorts with short-sleeve shirts and tank tops. On the occassions I wore them in more formal situations I sometimes woire long-sleeve shirts nicely tucked into my camp shorts.
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