Boy Scout Movement: Uniforms


Figure 1.--This English Scout from Middleborough looks to have been photograohed about 1920. Baden Powell devised a uniform with a decidedly military look. The shirt was essentially a BritishArmy shirt. The short pants and kneesocks help to populaize the style. When Scouting was founded in Britain, many boys were still wearing kneepants and long stockings.

HBU focuses primarily on Scout uniforms. This is primarily because of the importance of the Scout movement, but also because of the greater availability of information and images about Scouting. Much of our informtion comes from Britain and America, but we are also looking for information about uniforms in other countries to fully appreciate uniform trends in Scouting groups around the world. Given the Baden-Powell's role in the Scout movement, the original English Scout uniforms had a decidedly military look. The early American Scout uniform followed the English example looking rather like American World War I Army unifoms. Many Scouts in other countrie adopted Enlish-looking uniforms, but gradually more diversity emrged. The English and some Europeans have given great attention to the uniform, more so than in the more easy growing United States and many other counties. Uniform inspections have been more common in England. At events such as Scout Band competitions, the inspections can be quite rigorous. The English tend to have a stricte national standard. When the English Scout movement decided to shift to long pants in 1969, virtually all troops followed suit. In American, Scouting is much more identified with outdoor events where uniform standards were less rigorous. In addition, individual councils and even troops are allowed considerable leeway on how to wear the uniform and over the year a great diversity of hats, kerchiefs, knickers, long and short pants, can be observed at Cub and Scout groups. Over the years the Scout uniform in different transformed in to more suitable field uniform. Scout leaders in each country adopting the movement made a variety of changes, incorporating elements of national dress. Special uniforms were developed for the younger Cub Scouts as well as Sea Scouts and groups for older Scouts, such as the Explorers in the United States. Today younger Scouts very much like their uniforms and older Scouts in America tolerate them. Many European Scouts have virtually abanded their uniforms. The Scout movement which developed before the First World War had appears to have had a significant impact on boys' fashions. This of course is hard to deliniate with any certainty. At any given time there are many factors which affect fashions. Scouting is only one of the influences, but we believe was an important one. There were differences among countries. Scouting was founded in Britain which was a country that was especially important for men's and boys' fashions. The short pants introduced as part of the uniform were to dominate boys' clothing in Europe for five decades. The shorts proved less popular in America where many scouts wore knickers. One common feature of Scout uniforms was the kerchief. Within only a few years of Scotings foundations the drab colors of the uniforms were brightened by the addition of the colorful Scout kerchief--which soon became regarded as an indispensable article of equipment for Scouts around the world. While Scout groups in many countries now give little attention to the uniform, the kerchief is one part of the uniform that remains popular. Scouting not only affected fashion, but of course was affected by fashion trends.

Early Years

Given the Baden-Powell's role in the Scout movement, the original English Scout uniforms had a decidedly military look. The early American Scout uniform followed the English example looking rather like American World War I Army unifoms. Many Scouts in other countrie adopted Enlish-looking uniforms, but gradually more diversity emrged.

Uniform Standards

The English and some Europeans have given great attention to the uniform, more so than in the more easy growing United States and many other counties. Uniform inspections have been more common in England. At events such as Scout Band competitions, the inspections can be quite rigorous. The English tend to have a stricte national standard. When the English Scout movement decided to shift to long pants in 1969, virtually all troops followed suit. In American, Scouting is much more identified with outdoor events where uniform standards were less rigorous. In addition, individual councils and even troops are allowed considerable leeway on how to wear the uniform and over the year a great diversity of hats, kerchiefs, knickers, long and short pants, can be observed at Cub and Scout groups.

Current Trends

Over the years the Scout uniform in different transformed in to more suitable field uniform. Scout leaders in each country adopting the movement made a variety of changes, incorporating elements of national dress. Special uniforms were developed for the younger Cub Scouts as well as Sea Scouts and groups for older Scouts, such as the Explorers in the United States. Today younger Scouts very much like their uniforms and older Scouts in America tolerate them. Many European Scouts have virtually abanded their uniforms.

American Unifom

The original American Scout uniform was modeled on the World War I-era American Army uniform. This followed the precedent set by the British Scouts which used the British Army uniform. The American Scout uniform has been markedly changed [except the Sea Scouts] three times since 1910, each time becoming somewhat more European. The last time was in 1980, ostensibly being redesigned by Oscar de la Renta, who produced something curiously resembling a French uniform of about 1960. The Girl Scouts (a separate and smaller organisation) in America change their uniforms much more often and allow for individual choices amounting to fashion statements. They are also less strict about their use.

Fashion Impact

The Scout movement which developed before the First World War had appears to have had a significant impact on boys' fashions. This of course is hard to deliniate with any certainty. At any given time there are many factors which affect fashions. Scouting is only one of the influences, but we believe was an important one. There were differences among countries. Scouting was founded in Britain which was a country that was especially important for men's and boys' fashions. The short pants introduced as part of the uniform were to dominate boys' clothing in Europe for five decades. The shorts proved less popular in America where many scouts wore knickers. One common feature of Scout uniforms was the kerchief. Within only a few years of Scotings foundations the drab colors of the uniforms were brightened by the addition of the colorful Scout kerchief--which soon became regarded as an indispensable article of equipment for Scouts around the world. While Scout groups in many countries now give little attention to the uniform, the kerchief is one part of the uniform that remains popular. Scouting not only affected fashion, but of course was affected by fashion trends.








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Created: 10:48 PM 6/1/2005
Last updated: 10:48 PM 6/1/2005