United States Boy Scout Uniforms: 1980s

Figure 1.--The American scout uniform was changed to this so-called designer uniform in the 1980s. Shorts had become more common, but in the mid-1990s, long baggy ones had become common.


The BSA in 1980 celebrated the 50th anniversary of Cub Scouting. The Eastern distribution center moves to North Carolina in 1980. Scouts distributes national census fliers in 1980. The 10th National Jamboree, was held at Fort A.P.Hill, VA in 1981. The attendance totaled 29,765. A new new Scoutmaster Handbook was issued in 1981. The BSA in 1981 selected Murray, Kentucky as the site for Boy Scout Museum. The BSA in 1982 started the Prepare for Today for latchkey children. The BSA in 1982 introduced the Tiger Cubs, non-uniformed program for boys below Cub age. The BSA in 1982 published the Cub Scout Leader Book, replacing five different leader books. The BSA in 1982 registered the onr millionth Eagle Scout. The BSA in 1982 introduced the Shaping Tommorrow projec. introduced. The BSA in 1984 published the third edition of the Fieldbook. The BSA in 1984 started the Family Camping Association. The BSA launched Varsity Scouting in 1984. The BSA held the 11th National Jamboree at Fort A.P.Hill, VA in 1985. Attendance totaled 32,615, at increase over 1981 levels. After holding the Jamboree in many different sites accross the country. The BSA decided that it would be preferable to hold the Janboree in one location where permanent facilities. The Army was willing to assist as many officers and enlisted men were former Scouts. In addition it provides the opportunity to promote the military to the boys. The BSA in 1987 initiated another Anti-Drug Campaign. Carolyn Soto published a photographic study, The Boy Scouts depicting Scounting in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The BSA in 1988 conducted the first Scouting For Food campaign. The BSA in 1989 introduced the Venture Program. The BSA in 1989 held the 12th National Jamboree at Fort A.P.Hill, VA. The attendance totaled 32,717

Major Uniform Change

The American cub and scout uniforms was changed in 1981. Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta in 1981 sought to design a more attractive Scout uniform (at no charge). He desined a new uniform for both the Cubs and Scouts, although the Cub uniform wasn't changed as much as the Scout uniform.

Cub Uniform

The destinctive cub peaked cap was changed to a blue and yellow base ball cap. The uniform was left blue shirt and pants. Most cubs only but the shirt and wear it with jeans, although shorts were becoming somewhat more common. The blue kneesocks were changed to blue athletic socks with yellow turn over tops.

Scout Uniform

The boy scouts changed the green uniform they had worn for years to a light-brown shirt and dark olive long pants or shorts. The more stylish new uniform maintained a clear Scout identity in its appearance, but used more rugged material and added colored shoulder loops.

The most striking change was the switch to a two-color uniform (something many other countries have long had). A tan shirt and dark khaki-green trousers replaced the old medium khaki-green shirt and trousers (which in turn had replaced a medium khaki-brown).

The pants were changed in more than color. Both long and shorts have large cargo pockets which have proven popular with the boys. It had become common for scouts to wear shorts during the summer.

Base ball caps replaced capaign-style caps.

The solid green knee socks were replace with green athletic socks with red turn-over tops.

Shoulder Loops

Today's Scouts and Scouters wear colored shoulder loops to indicate the branch of the Scouting family to which they belong. Cub Scout leaders (and Webelos Scouts who choose to wear the Boy Scout uniform) wear blue loops (other Cub Scouts and Tiger Cubs do not wear loops), Boy Scouts and their leaders wear red, Varsity Scouts and their leaders wear orange, Explorers and their leaders wear green, District and Council Scouters wear silver, and Regional and National Scouters wear gold.

Uniform Conventions

Scouts tend to wear the full uniform more than the Cubs, but many Scouts also wear jeans with the Scout shirt. Not all Cubs and Scouts buy both the long and short pants, but many more did so then in the past.

Short Pants Become More Common

Interestingly as American Scouts more commonly wore the short pants uniform, Scouts in other countries increasingly moved to long pants or no uniform at all. American Scouts tend to give more attention to the uniform than virtually any other country. American Scouts through the 1950s and 60s usually wore long pants except for camp outings. During the 1980s, however, it became very common for Scouts to wear the short pants uniform. At the U.S. Jamboree and the World Jamboree, American Scouts are part of a growing minority of Scouts wearing short pants and kneesocks.


In 1989, along with the other changes largely restoring the pre-1972 program, the BSA changed its rank and office insignia so that they more nearly matched the pre-1972 insignia, keeping the wording but replacing the multi-colored backgrounds with backgrounds matching the tan shirt color.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: August 24, 2002