Boys' Historic Uniforms: The 1920s


Figure 1.--The 1920 World Scout Jamboree was held in England. This is a photograph of the Scout uniforms from the different foreign countries. Note that there are many different national uniforms, but most countries have uniforms quite similar to the British Scout uniform.

Note: I'm just beginning the chronological pages. Do let me know if you have any historical background or information on uniforms that should be added.

The 1920s were an era of substantial growth for boys' youth organizations. The most significant was the the Scouting movement. The appearance of ideologically based political parties in the aftermath of World War I resulted in the creation of many competing youth movements under the control of these parties--some of which became governing parties that than supressed the scouts. Almost all of these groups adopted Scout like uniforms incliding short pants. Only in America did Scouts not commonly wear shorts. American Scouts generally wore knickers.

Organizations

Scouts

World trends: The first World Jamboree in Olympia, London, England was held in 1920 following World War I. It was attended by 301 American Scouts for a total of 8,000 Scouts from 34 countries. Baden-Powell in 1920 was made Chief Scout of the World and the Scout International Bureau established in London in that same year. The international left handclasp adopted in 1923. The International Scout constitution and by-laws adopted in 1924. The 2nd World Jamboree was held at Copenhagen, Denmark in 1924. It was attended by 56 American Scouts for a total of 4,500 Scouts from 22 countries. The 3rd World Jamboree in Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, England in 1929. It was attended by 1,300 American Scouts for a total of 50,000 Scouts from 73 countries. The greatly expanded American contingent symboloized the strength of the Scouting movement in America.
American Scouting: American Scouting continued developing. The New York Times in 1921 inaugurated the Sunday Boy Scouts section. A new uniform was introduced in 1920. The BSA wanted to maintain the disciplined image of couting, but reduce confusion with the military. [Macleod, p. 183.] The Lone Scouts of America merged with the BSA in 1924. The BSA in 1924 began the "Every Scout a Swimmer" campaign. The BSA membership first exceeds 1 million Scouts in 1925. The Junior Assistant Scoutmaster position created in 1925. The BSA presented the first Silver Buffalo in 1926, of course to Baden-Powell and the second to the unknown British Scout who played such an important role in founding the Anerican Scouting movement. The BSA published the first major revision of Handbook for Boys in 1927. The BSA in 1927 Eagle Palms award. The BSA in 1927 moved the national office moved to 2 Park Avenue in New York. Sea Scout, Paul Siple, accompanies Admiral Byrd to the Antarctic in 1928. The registration of all Scouters authorized in 1929.

YMCA

Other American youth movements developed in the 1920s. The YMCA Indian Guides program started.

Fascist youth groups

The turmoil following World War gave rise to right wing political movements. Many of these groups founded their own youth movements. The right-wing groups were particularly prone to introduce uniforms, in part copying the Scouts and in part a reflection of the militarism inherent in these groups. The Italian Fascists seized power in 1922 and proceeded to promote their Balilla movement. as a scantioned national movement. Eventually in 1927 Scouting was abolished. The Italian Fascist like other right-wing groups sought to totally control the education and formation of youth. The Hitler Youth were founded in Germany during 1926. Through the 1920s, however, only a relatively small part of the boys active in German youth organizarions joined the Hitler Youth. The numbers, however, were increasing by the end of the decade.

Communist Pioneers

The Communist Revolution occured in Russia in 1917. Several years of civil war between the Reds (Bolshevicks) and the Whites supported by foreign intervention followed. The Reds by the early 1920 were in control. We have, however, no information on youth groups in Russian during the 1920s.

Other groups

A large youth movement developed in Germany. One source estimates that there were over 2,000 such groups. The wandervogel movement was the most important. Unfortunately I have little information about these groups. Available information suggests that the boys wee emotionally restless, reflecting the unsettled consditions in Weimar Germany and the failure of German society to develop values beyond the pursuit of monery and career. Many of the boys wre highly nationalitic and moved by appeals to nationalism.

I have little information on other countries such as France. I believe that the Scouts were the dominate youth group in most European countries, but there wrere other national youth organizations ass well fostered by religious and political groups.


Figure 2.--American Scouts introduced a new uniform in 1922, in part to deferentiate Scouting more clearly from the military. One of the inovations was the introduction of the kerchief.

Uniforms

All of the uniformed youth groups active around the world in the 1920s had uniforms. Almost all of the important youth groups had uniforms. I think this was in part due to the pescedent set by the Scouts. Many groups, especially the Scouts, wrested with the issue of the relationship with the military. The American Scouts decided tomadopt a uniform that more clearly differentiated them from the army. The uniforms of almost all of these groups had uniforms with short pants and kneesocks. The only major exception to this was the American Scouts. Scouts in America mostly wore knickers. They did also wear short pants, but mostly at camps. Scouts throughout Europe wore short pants. The Fascist groups like the Italian Bilalal and German Hitler Youth all had short pants unifoms. I'm not sure about the other German youth movements, but they almost certainly had short pants uniforms.

Sources

Macleod, David I. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 315p.






Christopher Wagner






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