United States Boy Scout Uniforms during the 1950s: Chris

Figure 1.--.

While getting the first pair of long pants may have once been a memorable rite of passage for many older American boys, who were nevermore to be relegated to juvenile short pants, my experience at age 11 in the late 1950's was different. I actually wore shorts more frequently than when I had been younger.

Too Old for Shorts

I had stopped wearing shorts to school, By the time I was 9-years old in 4th grade, considering myself "too old" for them. In fact, except for wearing shorts for play during the summer and on Sundays when I still wore a short pants suit to church, I always wore long pants. Even in Cub Scouts, we only wore the long pants uniform.


The re-emergence of my knees gained momentum upon joining Boy Scouts on my 11th birthday and becoming a Tenderfoot in a large troop where the uniform was shorts. Since most of the boys were older than me and they were all wearing scout shorts and kneesocks, I quickly fell into line and soon enthusiastically agreed with the Scout Handbook's advice that "Shorts were the most practical and comfortable for outdoor scout activities like camping and hiking".

Uniform Conventions

Back in the late 1950's-early 1960's when I was a Boy Scout, my troop required all boys to wear shorts and kneesocks between April-October, although long pants were allowed the rest of the year. I wore brown leather shoes or hiking shoes with my uniform.

I was surprised to read on this Forum that many Boy Scouts elsewhere during that era always wore long pants. I don't recall anyone wearing long pants at my scout summer camp, except some of the leaders. [Editors note: While American Boy Scouts commonly wore long pants in the 1950s, it was very common for Scout camps and especially the National Jamboree to require the short pants uniform.]

In Cub Scouts, however, it was just the opposite: no one wore shorts in my Den or Pack; in fact, I didn't even know at the time there were Cub Scout uniform shorts. (Apparently neither did my mother; otherwise, I'm certain she would have made me wear them!). I really don't know why this was so, perhaps it was felt shorts weren't necessary since Cub Scouts are not outdoor activity--oriented like Boy Scouts and didn't go on overnight campouts or long hikes. Also, Cub Scouting seemed to be strictly a winter activity coinciding with the school year, not meeting at all during summer vacation.

In Boy Scouts, we did a lot of summer camping and strenuous trail hiking, canoeing, etc., when we really were glad to be wearing shorts. In recent years, however, the wearing of Cub Scout shorts has become more common. Also, the older Cub Scouts ("Webelos" for ages 9-10) are now allowed to wear the khaki tan Boy Scout short and green shorts or long pants, instead of the blue Cub uniform.

School and Home

My school and home expeiences are a whole different story.

Chris W.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: January 15, 2000