Boys' Brigade Uniforms

Figure 1.--Unlike the Scouts who have many different national uniforms, Boys' Brigade uniform are similar around the world.


The Boys Brigade originated in Scotland. It was the first uniformed youth orgaisation in the world. Sir William Alexander Smith founded the Boys Brigade on October 4, 1883 when he formed a company of 35 Boys at Free Church Mission Hall, North Woodside Road, Glasgow. William Smith, a Sunday School teacher and an officer of the 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteers devised a unique system of church activities for boys based on religion and discipline. Initially, 59 Boys joined, many out of curiosity but 35 of them stayed. Smith introduced simple form of drill, gymnastics and games and these proved very popular. The uniform for the first year was a rosette; afterwards the forage cap and pillbox cap, haversack and belt were introduced. Their activities were soon added and in 1886 the first Boys' Brigade camp was held. It was, in fact, the start of camping for young people. From one small Scottish company, the Boys' Brigade has grown into a worldwide organisation with companies in over 60 countries.

Following the success of The Boys' Brigade, other uniformed organisations were started which were more secular in nature or associated with other religions. The early Boys' Brigade was strongly associated with the Church of Scotland and subsequent with the Church of England as the movement spread to England. Other groups included: Church Lads' Brigade (1890), Boys Life Brigade (1899), The Jewish Lads' Brigade (1900), Catholic Boys' Brigade (1900), Girls' Guildry (1900), Girls Life Brigade (1902), the Boy Scouts (1908) and the Girl Guides (1910). All of these orgaisations can trace the idea of uniformed youth back to 1883 and William Smith.

Motto: Sure & Stedfast taken from Hebrews 6:19. The biblical spelling of stedfast has been retained.

Emblem: The emblem was originally an anchor. Like the motto, it stems from the verse "which hope we have as an anchor of the soul..."(Hebrews 6:19). With the union of The Boys' Brigade and The Boys' Life Brigade in 1926, a red cross was added to the anchor.


The Boys' Brigade uniforms are much more standard around the world than Scout uniforms which have adopted uniforms incorporating various

Figure 2.--Boys' Brigade uniforms are blue campaign caps, blue shirts, and blue long or short pants. Some units, showing the Scottish influence, have pipe bands and wear kilts.
aspects of national dress. The Boys' Brigade uniforms is generally blue foraging caps, blue shirt, and blue pants. Initially short pants were generally worn, but most groups now wear long pants. Shorts and knee socks are still commonly worn in New Zealand. Many Boys' Brigade units have pipe bands, reflecting the Scotish origins of the organization. The bands generally wear Scottish kilts.

Additional Information
Boys' Brigade page of the The British Boys' Costume Galleries: Some excellent historical and modern photographs of Boys' Brigade Uniforms
Uniform Site: Details on uniforms worn by youth groups. Space limitations do not permit me to provide more information on the Boys' Brigade uniforms around the world or additional photographs of the uniforms. There is, however a great deal of additional information and many historical photographs on the expanded Historical Boys Uniform web site.

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main youth group page]
[Introduction] [Chronologies] [Style Index] [Biographies] [Bibliographies] [Contributions]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[The 1880s] [The 1890s] [The 1900s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s]
[The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web style pages:
[Youth organizations] [Scouts] [Camp Fire] [Hitler Youth] [Pioneers]
[Royal Rangers] [Long pants] [Kilts] [Short pants]

Created: July 25, 1998
Last update: September 5, 1999