*** boys clothing for outdoor summer camp: country trends

Boys' Clothing for Summer Camp: Country Trends

summer camps
Figure 1.--This undated German image suggests that summer camping was a well established tradition in Germany before World War I. We estimate that this photograph was taken about 1910. We are not sure just what group is involved here.

The popularity of summer camps has varied greatly from country to country and over time. We have noted that summer camps are especially popular in America, France, and the Netherlands. Summer camps in other countries such as England, Germany, Italy, and the Sovirt Union were more associated with the youth organizatios in hose countries which were in some cases state supported. Some counties like American and France had programs to provide summer camp experiences to poor children, variously supported by private or state charities.

America, North


While we still have limited information, we believe that summer camps first appeared in the late 19th century. We believe that America was a leader in the summer camp movement. Many private summer camps were set up in the northeast. Some counties like American and France had programs to provide summer camp experiences to poor children, variously supported by private charities. The YMCA played a very important role, especially for boys from families that could not afford an expensive private summer camp. Later Police Boys Clubs set up many camps. Many of the private camps had basic uniforms, usually "T"-shirts and short pants. Uniformed groups like the Scouts and Camp Fire also had important summer camp programs. Many American boys from the 1920s-50s only wore short pants when they were at summer camps, especially boys in northern states. Swiming and boating were especially favored activities as were crafts. Some camps had programs in basic first aid. Since the 1970s, American camping has become much more diversified with quite a range of specialty camps.



We have been able to find very little information on Japanese summer camps. There was a Boy Scout movement in Japan during the inter-War era so you would think there may have been some camping. And we see what look like camps run by the Army engaged in military training. We know nothing about these camps such as how extensive they were and how the boys were selected. We note boys from what look like all the teen years. We note one unidentified group, probanly about 1940. We suspect the groups may have been organized at schools. We do not see any girls' summer camps, perhaps because the camps were military oriented. We do not know if there were any girl guide camps. Nor do we see any mixed-gender camps. Aftter the war we begin to see some images indicating that summer camps were organized. The photograph here seems to be from a summer camp in 1957 (figure 1). The first camps seem to have been single-gendr camps, but eventually by ar least the 1960s we begin to see mixed gender camps. We have been unable to find much information about these camps. From what little we can tell, the camps seem more expensive and tightly organized than American camps. One report tells us, "The Japanese do not view summer camp as an opportunity to simply relax and have free time. Their time at camp is short, and Japanese camps are very expensive. So the participants want to get the most out of their time at camp, and there is a busy schedule planned. There will be a lot of children at camp -- up to 1,000 at some camps! -- and many will be young children on their first trip away from home. With so many young campers, and given the Japanese tendency to plan everything super-well, you will probably find Labo camp to be much more strictly organized than camps in North America, with set times for certain activities, and little room for changes from the schedule." Hopefully Japanese readers will provide us some more information.


We notice a Vietnamese summer camp, probanly in the 2000s. We have no idea what kind of camp it was, but presumably it would have been some kind of Communist Young Pioneer Camp as they wre the only kind of youth group permitted.




A HBC readers provides some informatin from his boyhood in Flanders during the 1960s. Summer camps were laid on by health insurance oragizations called 'ziekenfondsen' (at the time they were called 'mutualiteiten' which shows their origins as mutual, non-profit insurances). There were Christian (read: Catholic), Socialist and Liberal organizations which all had their own summer camps. Like the Netherlands, Belgium was a highly compartmentalized society. The divides ran along socio-cultural lines. While this system has lost much of its impact in the Netherlands, it is in full swing in Belgium, the deepening rift of its linguistic divide having added compartments over the past decades. There was (is) a Christian political party, health insurance, workers' union, countrywomen club, teachers' union and so on and so forth. Same thing for the Socialists and the Liberals. [Belgian and Dutch Liberals, unlike their British namesakes, are conservative and right wing. If in the USA they would probably vote Republican.] An old school pal jokingly told me that the Socialist Goat Breeders Association of Belgium are now likely to break up into Flemish, Walloon and erman-speaking societies.



We notice Danish boys enjoying summer camping. We do not know a lot about summer camping in Denmark. We have not been avle to find any historical information on Danish camping. It probably developed in the inter-War period. That was the general pattern in Europe. Of course as a peninsula, there are all kinds of wonderful places to locate camps. We suspect, however, tht we are talking about rather chilly water. Which is inecreason why the Danes and Germans nowadays head south for holidays. And as Scouting was popular in Denmark, we assume that the Scouts set up summer camps. The first camp we know about was a rather informal seaside camp, we think slong the Baltic coast. It was a rather informal affair with the boys sleeping in a loft on straw. Presumably there were some more substantial camps. We note some Danish boys going to Germany for a summer camp experience early in the War. These were probably boys with NAZI parents. Summer camps were popular throughout Scandanavia. We note a summer camp set up for Finnish children during World War II.


We have not noted an important summer camp movement in England, but our information is limited. The first summer camping organized by uniformed youth groups were held by the Boys' Brigade. The first one was in Scotland in 1886. I'm not sure when the first English camp was held. The Church Lads also had a summer camp program. The Baden Powell introduced camping from the very beginning of the Boy Scouts in England. In fact the Brown Sea Island camp in 1906 was a test to see if Scouting was a feasible undertaking. As Scouting soon grew much larger than the Boys' Brigade, Scout summer camps soon overshadowed the Brigade summer camp program in England. Perhaps his most well known activity of King George VI while still Duke of York was his founding of the Duke of York summer camps. These camps brought boys of widely different social backgrounds together to enjoy healthful summer activities.


Summer camp has become a popular activity for Finnish children. This is largely a post-World War II development. Before the War, Finland was a largely agricultural rural country. After the War, Finland rapidly industrialized and there was a substantial increase in the urban population. As the core of the summer camp movement was to get city children out into the countryside there they could experrience nature and get fresh air and sunshine. We note both day camps and sleep-away camps. Many local communities set up say camps. Sleep away camps are operated by a variety of non-govermental groups. There are relatively few private camps. Most of the camps are operated by the Scouts, sport teams, and churches, especially the orthodox and evangelic-Lutheran churches. There are camps that accept most school-age children. Finnish educators saw urbnization as having many adverse affects on children. This was similar to attitudes at the turn-of-the 20th century tha gave rise to the summer camp movement in America. An important pat of the Finnish summer camp movement is confirmation camps. As in Germany, confirmation is an important strp for Evangelical (Lutheran) children and generally occurs at about 13 years of age. Thus many churches organize confirmation camps for the children being confirmed, ages 13-16 years. Many see it as an effort to counter the increasing secularization of European society. One estimate suggests that about 90 percent of Swedish youth attend conformatioin camps. The practice has also been adopted by Orthodox churches as well. Along with standard summer camp fare, there is a religious program and the youth learn about their faith and memorize important passages such as the catechism, and the Lord's prayer. The concept has proven so successful that comparable camps have neen organized with out the religious element. A good example is the Prometheus Camp. The more focused camps like computer camps popular in America are not yet common in Finland.


The summer camp experience is largely thought of as important component of American childhood. HBC knows less about summer camp in European countries like France. We have one report of "holiday camps", although we are not sure precisely what this meant. We do know that there were programs to provide a healthy summer camp experience for city children from low-income families, but we have few details at ghis time. The boys at one of these holiday camps appear to be wearing a kind of uniform--white shirts and suspender shorts. Hopefully our French readers will provide more details on French summer camps.


We believe that summer camps in Germany were primarily organized by youth groups. There may have been some private camps, but we have no information on these at this time. We note images of German boys at camp which we think were taken before World War I. They are at a camp with substantial facilities. After the NAZI take over in 1933, the camps were all seized by the Hitler Youth. The NAZIs made summer camping a universal experience for nearly all German youth, regardless of their ability tompay. Summer camps were an important part of their program to mold the minds of a generaltion of German youth. Only Hitler Youth members could participate, but this came to mean virtually all healthy Aryan children. Jewsish children were excluded and the summer camps that Jewish youth organizations owned were seized by the Hitler Youth without compensation. While we do not have information on summer camps in general, we have developed ome information on Hitler Youth summer camps.


We have been unable to find much information on Greek summer camps. The Greek word for camp seems to be ΠΙΚΠΑ / pikpa. In the sence of camping it is κατασκήνωση / kataskínosi. Unfortunately the internet primarily provides us with with information on American summer camps organized by the Greek community or specializrd camps in modern Greece. We suspect that the summer camp movenent in Greece was realtively weak despite the existence of so mamy wonderful seaside sites. A factor here was that Greece was a relatively poor country. We suspect there must have been some before World War II. Many European countries at the time had developed summer camp movenents. A primary impetus for summer camps was the youth movement. The Greek youth orgamizations surely founded some summer camps in the unter-War era (1929s-30s). Youth groups were the primary operator of summer camps at the time. The Fascist Governent of Greece banned the Boy Scout movement just before Wprld War II (1939). Fascist youth groups are known for summer camp programs, but we have no information on summer camps operated by the Ethniki Organosi Neolaias (EON--National Organization of Youth). After the War we do see summer camps, but we do not yet have much information about them.


We have some limited historical information about summer camps in Italy. The Scouts before World War I began organizing summer camps, but camp became an activity organized by the Balial after the Scouts were banned in the 1920s. Italian Fascism was not as absolute as the NAZIs. Thus although Scouting was banned, groups such as companies were allowed to organize summer camps for the children of their workers. An Italian reader writes, "Summer camps in mountain or countrysides were and are organized by Boy Scout groups. These camps usually are with tents, but for younger children, the "lupetti" (little wolves), they use organized camps. During the Fascist era were the party organizations that organized summer camps: the "Balilla" (younger) and the "Avanguardisti" (older) for the boys and the "Figlie della Lupa" (younger) and the "Giovani Italiane" (older) for the girls. The Italian term for summer camp is "campo estivo". Since the 1970s there are many summer camps organized from parishes and religious movements called "campo scuola" (school camp), because they have also an educational goal. There is an other traditional summer camp in seaside resorts, called "colonia estiva". This sort of summer camp is the more common in Italy. Italy is of ciourse virtually surrounded by the sea. There are numerous organizations that organize "colonie estive": for example the big companies organize these summer camps for their laborers' children. In Fascist era were the same. I attended my father's company sea summer camp between the late 60s and early 70s. We had a simple uniform: blue shorts, white t-shirt and cap, open-toe sandals without socks; for the seaside: blue trunks." One interesting note is that even though Italy after World War II had a very large and active Communist Party, the Young Pioneers were never organized in Italy. There were thus no Young Pioneer camps, the Party did, however, sponsor some summer camps.

(The) Netherlands

We have littl information on Dutch summer camps. Availble phitographs, however, show that camps were well established in the 1920s.


We have not been able to dind much historical information about Portuguese summer camps. The summer camp movement began in America and Germany in the late-19th century. It was first for well-to-do children. Gradually groups like the YMCA developed programs for low-income city kids to get them out in the fresh air and sunshine. Few countries have more fresh air and sunshine than Portugal as well as a long Atlantic coast. Portugal was, however, a very poor country and we have not found any informatiion about summer camps until fairly recent times. The Portuguese Boy Scout Movement was relatively small and we know know of no summer camps. Portugal during the inter-war years developed a quasi-Fascist Government. One element of Fascism was attention to youth which led to large youth movements and summer camps. Germany already had many summer camps, although the NAZIs expanded the camp system. Musolini's Fascists basically created a large summer camp program. A nationalist youth group--the Mocidade Portuguesa (Portuguese Youth) was not formed until much later than most of the other Fascist youth movements (1936). It does not seem to have been a major effort. And we do not see a major summer camp effort like Germany nand Italy, but our information is very limited. We do see summer camps after World War II, although we still do mot have much information. The situation is very different today. We see all kinds of summer camps operating in Portugal. Notably many are for foreign youth to engage in various programs in Portugal during the summer.


The Boys' Brigade in Scotalnd introduced the first summer camps held by any uniformed youth group. The Brigade held its first summer camp in 1886, two decades before Baden Powell's Scouts.


Summer camps in the Soviet Union were as far as we know the exclusive preserve of the Young Pioneers. The Soviets had a very large Young Pioneer summer camp program, although we have few details. We are uncertain what kind od summer camps operate in Russia, but we know that the free Young Pioneer camp system has been dismantled. We are not sure just what happened to all those Pioneer camps. Some insights on summer camps in Russia today may be obtained in looking at the summer camp system in today's Ukraine--another of the post-Soviet states.


We are not sure when summer camping began in Sweden. We note Swedish boys going to summer camp in the years after World War I. This seems to be an effor for underprivlidged city children. We note a boy in 1925 being taken to one of the archipelago steamers and then out to a Childrens� Summer Holiday Camp in the countryside. In Stockholm there was/is a whole isle out in the archipelago intended for young children, who needed to get away from the big city and to see some nature sceneries and lakes to swim in. This isle is called "Barnens �", which means "Childrens�Isle". By the way - the Stockholm Archipelago is a haven and contains more than 25.000 isles - one of the biggest and most beautiful in the world and still there are old, renovated steamers taking Stockholmers and tourists from all over the world out to this paradise. This is unique that close to a big city.


The Christian 'mutualiteiten' used to have a well-known scheme for summer camps in Melchtal, Switzerland. A brief internet search tell me that they still have.

(The) Ukraine

We have no information on Ukranian summer camps during the Tsarist era. There mau have been some Boy Scout camps, but we have no information at this time. During the Soviet era the Young Pioneer organization operated many summer camps in the Ukraine. As far as we know these were not camps specifically for Ukranian children, but Soviet children in general. The Crimea because of the climate and access to the Black Sea was a favorite spot for these camps. An assessment of the Pioneer camps is included at this time in the general Soviet Young Pioneer camp section of HBU. After the disolution of the Soviet Union, Pioneer camps like other Soviet institutions have disappeared in the Ukraine and other post-Soviet stattes. They have been replaced by camps sponsored by a variety of children's organizations. In this regard the Ukraine fared well in the disolution of the Soviet Uniion. Large numbers of Soviet Young Pioneer camps were located in the Ukraine. Some camps are now private and some are still sponsored by state agencies. Some are entirely Ukrainian and others supported at least in part by foreign groups. Many without the substantial support once offered by the former Soviet Government operate on very limited budgets. The organizations spnsoring summer camps in the Ukraine have a wide range of philosophies and goals. Each camp has its own varied rules and activities.

Middle East-North Africa


Israel has a very active summer camp program, as any internet search will show. We have not, however, been able to find much information about the history of summer camping in Israel. There are some strong influences. Germany had a very strong youth movement and summer camping. This was not especually the case of Jews, but they oparticipated in the overall movemnent, often in separate youth groups and camps. The same was true of the United States, again often with seoparate groups and camps. Neither of these countries provide major numbers of immigrants to British mandate Palestine. This changed in Germany with the rise of the NAZIs, but British policy limited immigration. After indeopebdence, Holocaust srvivoirs could immigrate freely, buy the number of German Jews were not large. Few Americam immigrated to Israel, but American finalcial support from the American Jewish community was vital in the early days of Israel and there were American cultural influences. An important influence here is the youth group movements like Scouting which was important in Mandate Palestine even without many Germans and Americans. And youth groups often promote summer camping. Another factor was Israel's econmomic success. Except with countries that have mandated youth movements (Communists anf Fascist), there are strong summer camp movements only in prosperous countries where parents can aford to send their kids to camp or have charitable efforts for low-income kids. We suspect that summer camping developed in Israel mostly after indeoendence, but our information is still very limited.


As far as we can tell, Arab countries do not have stroing summer camp movements. We do not note that the Palestinian Authority operates the Dalal Mughrabi Camp located at Yusuf. Dalal Mughrabi is the Palkestunian terroirist who led the 1978 Coastal Road massacre in which 38 people � including 13 children � were killed and a further 70 wounded. [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida]



Both the Boy Scouts and YMCA have important summr camp programs in Australia. We do not know about the Boys' Brigade. There are also school camps. Presumably there are also a number of private camps.

New Zealand

Many New Zealand schools, both state and private, have camp programs, often focusing on outward bound experiences. Other camp experiences focus on athletic and academic programs. Australia has a similar school-based camp program.


Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. This is the Palestinian Authority newspaper. The article appeared sometimne before August 3, 2017. Other press reports show children at the camp with AK-47 automatic weapons and youth in military uniforms dancing with rifles.


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Created: December 16, 2001
Last updated: 8:29 PM 6/5/2020