United States Boy Scouts: Uniform Details--Pants Types

boy scout
Figure 1.--American Scouts at first mostly wore knickers. The one exception was at camp or at Jamborees. For these ecents the BSA mosdtly insisted on a short pants uniform. We see more Scouts wearing the short pants uniform in the 1970s.

American Scouts have worn knickers/breeches, long pants, and short pants. American Scouts from the 1910s to the 1940s were almost the only scouts around the world that wore knickers rather than short pants. Some Scouts did wear shorts while at camp. Interestingly by the 1990s, American Scouts commonly wore short pants while many European Scouts wore long pants. The same knickers/breeches unifirm pants were not changed until the 1940s. At that time along pants unidorm was introduced, giving Scouts the choice of shorts or longs. Most Scouts chose the long pants, even in the witer. Shorts were often required at camps. And the short began to become more popular in the 1970s. This was often left as an option to individual Scouts, but some units adopted uniform policies that include the type of pants worn.


American Scouts until the 1940s mostly wore knickers or perhaps more accurately knicker-length breeches. The early uniform required knickers and all early American Scots wore them. This is confrmed by the photographic record. The knickers were a basic difference with Scouts in other countries who usually wore short pant. The only exception to early Scouts wearing knickers was at camp. At BSA camps or Jamborees, the BSA might require a short pants uniform.

Long Pants

Long pants were not introduced to American Scouting until the 1940s. Through the 1940s and 50s Scouts mostly wore long pants. Gradually many Scouts began wearing long pants as part of a winter or cool weather uniform. Short pants were not always a part of the official BSA uniform. They were not introduced until the 1920s (with considerable resistance, however, and were rare throughout the 1930s, except at camp. After long pants were intrduced in the 1940s we mostly see Scouts wearing long pants. The great bulk of the photographic record estanlishes this. Most Scouts wore long pants during the 1950s when I as a Scout. This is somewhat disguised by the fact that BSA publications often showed Scous wearing short pants with knee socks. This did not materisally chnge until the 1970s, again unless at camp. But there were variations, some Scout units established uniform policies requiring short pants uniform.

Short Pants

Unlike boys in other countries, American Scouts wore knickers rather than short pants. Even so there were official Boy Scout shorts. American Scouts woren them at camp and at Jamborees. I have no details at this time about the stylistic details. It was not until the 1950s that large groups of Scouts would venture onto streets in them. One troop was among the first to embrace short pants in the 1930s and was readily recognized (and jeered and respected) as the "short pants troop" even into the late 1940s and early 1950s. The BSA in the 1950s began a program of promoting short pants for Scouting, especially during the sumer. They were required wear at all National Jamborees and many camps. Scout shorts in the 1950s had pants with buttoned flap pockets and red piping, similar to Cub shorts only in different colors. The shorts by the 1960s had ordinary slit pockets, I am not sure when the change was made. Scout shorts still had button flys in the 1950s and I believe the early 1960s, but witched to zippers suring the decade. Scouts in the 1970s began wearing shorts much more commonly in the 1970s. The oliver green shorts were replaced with brown shorts with patch pockets as part of the major uniform change in 1981. The same stylistic changes were made in Scout long pants as well. These are the shorts still worn. The only changes have been in the leng of the shorts, the length following fashion trends.


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Created: September 23, 2000
Last updated: 2:17 AM 8/25/2007