** <TITLE> U.S. boy scout uniforms

United States Boy Scout Uniforms during the 1970s

Figure 1.--These boys wear the green U.S. Scout uniform of the 1970s. American boys began to wear the short pants uniform much more commonly in the 1970s. Click on the image for a view of the entire group.

American Boy Scout and Cub uniforms changed little in the 1970s. The principal change during the decade was that Boy Scouts began wearing the short pants uniform more commonly. Until the 1970s, American Boy Scouts primarily wore the short pants uniform for camp. Cub Scouts did not, however, begin to wear the short pants uniform more commonly.

U.S. Boys' Fashions

Mmajor changes occurred in U.S. boys' fashions during the 1970s. For the first time, American boys began wearing short pants. They weren't worn for dress, but became very common for leisure wear and play. This carried over into Scouting and more American Scouts wore the short pants uniform.

Uniform Trends

Unlike Scouts and Cubs in most countries, American boys since the 1940s had mostly worn long pants. (Previously they had primarily worn knickers.) Scouts wore shorts at camp and for jamborees, but mostly they wore long pants for Scout activities and events. Cubs wore longs even more commonly than the Scouts. I'm not sure why this was. You would think that the younger boys would be more likely to wear short pants. It was probably because it was primarily the Scouts that went to camps where the short pants uniform was worn. Also only Scouts could attend the national jamborees again where the short pants uniform was worn.

Uniform Changes

Scouts were given more options for headgear in the 1970s. Red berets and baseball-style caps joined the options in 1972. Major changes were made in insignias. Also in 1972, the BSA changed almost every uniform insignia, making them multi-color, standardizing the shapes, and adding wording to explain what they signify. Brightly colored patches replaced the old black-on-red patrol medallions and the black-on-khaki merit badges.

Types of Uniforms

U.S. Boy Scouts wore several uniforms during the 1970s. There were several different uniforms. Each uniform has a different purpose. Seasonality was a factor, nboth warm and coldf weather wear. Formalityy was also an issuer. Courts of Honor usually require a full dress uniform, especially an Eagle court, or one where an award from the local or National Council is being presented. A camping trip over a weekend, while also necessitating long pants and a long sleeved shirt, would not take all the medals, knots, service stars, etc., of the dress uniform.
Formal or dress: Long sleeved shirt, long pants, medals, neckerchief (Scouts), necktie (adults), Loafer or Oxford shoes.
Summer Dress: Short sleeved shirt (neckerchief for Scouts, open collar for adults). Long pants. Square knots or medals, at the disgression of the unit, but the unit must be uniform--they all wear medals, or they all wear square knots. Loafer or Oxford shoes.
Summer: Short sleeved shirts, shorts, knee socks (with garters and tabs). The short pants were generally cut at just above the knee at the beginning of the decade, but by the end of the decade the new shorter cur shorts had become more common. Knots/medals optional. Open collar for all, except if a collarless shirt is worn, then a neckerchief is worn. Shoes or boots.
Summer Camp: Many Scouts did not wear the short oants unifirm, but shorts were becoming more common in the 1970s. Scout at summer camp almost always wore short pants. Often they came to camp in the full Scout unifirm, but for most activbities dressed more infirmally. Shorts were usually required. It commonly involved camp or Scout T-shirts during the day for activities. Knee socks w/tabs and garters were optional. Camp shoes or boots were worn. The Scout shirt and kerchief was worn for church call and special events.
Other; Other uniforms included the "Fall or Spring Camp" uniform, with long pants, long sleeved shirt, Knots optional, boots or shoes suitable for the conditions and terrain.

Figure 2.--The U.S. Scout Association in the 1970s actively promoted the short pants Scout and Cub uniform for summer wear. Ads like this 1972 promotion appeared in Scouting publications.

BSA Policies

The U.S. Scout Association in the 1970s actively promoted the short pants uniform for summer wear. Adds proclaimed the comfort and coolness of the summer uniform for active wear. According to the BSA, the Cub Scout summer uniform offered a 'short cut to summer fun'. An advertisment, for example, featured a drawing of the sun saying, "Now, thanks to your real cool uniform, we are friends again. The BSA explained the advantages of the summer uniform in great detail, garment by garment to Cubs and their parents:
Cap: You'd look real funny running around the bases with an ice cap on your head just to keep cool!
Nekerchief: Bright colors tell the world, you are a Cub Scout!
Metal slide: Holds neckerchief. Neatness counts, too, you know!
Shirt: Collar? NO! Cooler? YES! Body comfort as you play all sorts of Cub Scouts games in your V neck shirt. Dad says short sleeves work just like air conditioning. Cooling air goes in and out as you swing your arms to throw that curve ball or run for home base.
Web belt: Keeps your pants from falling down as you speed up for that home run!
Shorts: Stikball? Baseball Pom-pom pull away? Any game is more fun in cool conditioned shorts!
Garters: When the fun goes on an on, wear garters to keep your stretch socks up.
Socks: Chalk up another point for your team when you wear stretch socks for neatness.
Shoes: And to keep your best feet forward in any game or meeting -- Cub canvass shoes.

The BSA adds: "Long sleaves, long pants hold back summer fun? Take a shortcut. Swing, jump, and run in your Cub Scout summer uniform. Short sleeves, short pants keep you cool even in the hotest summer sun."



The American Boy Scout Association (BSA) which had for years pushed the short pants uniform for summer wear began to have some successvin the 1970s, primarily because short pants had become to be popular with more American boys as comfortable summer casual and play wear. The BSA stressed that the short pants uniform was "cool"--both becauseof comfort and because it looked smart. An ad in a 1972 Scout magazine extoled the benefits of the Cub short pants summer uniform: "Cool cub?: The secret is--a short sleeved collarless shirt for only $3.82! And shorts for only $4.45! Real cool comfort in the hot summer months! Shade your eyes from sun glare and keep cool with cap $1.50. Show and tell your buddies you are right on--wear neckerchief $0.65 with a metal slide $0.25 or a braided slide $0.25. And to look real neat web belt $0.78, garters with gold tabs $1.15 a pair, and Stretch socks also $1.10 a pair! How to be Cool Cub in the hot summer months? Easy! Wear a complete Cub Scout summer uniform!" American Cubs and Scouts did begin to more commonly wear the short pants unifom during the 1970s. This was probably not because of the BSA romotional effort. Rather American boys were beginning to more commonly wear short pants for casual and play wear during the summer. As a result, it was only natural that they would also wear Scout and Cub shorts.

Knee socks

While American boys were wearing casual and play shirts more commonly, they did not wear dressy looking kneesocks. Scout knee socks, usually described by the BSA as "streetch socks" were the only kneesocks worn by American boys, except for a declining number of younger boys that might still be dressed up in short pants and kneesocks to be worn with a blazer for best. While kneesocks were perceived by most American boys as "girls socks", a new style of white athletic socks, often with colored bands became popular. They were called tube socks and associated with bith soccer and basketball uniforms.

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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 3:48 AM 10/5/2021