* boys historical uniforms : garment items

Boys' Historical Uniforms: Garment Items

HBU has collected extensive information on specific uniform items. Some of the major items includes caps, kerchiefs, shirts, pants, and socks, but there are a variety of other items, accessories, and equipment as well. These items, the styles and colors, have varied among groups and over time. Quite a wide variety of caps and hats in particular have been worn. Shirts have varied widely. The first pants were short pants, but long pants are now very common. Early groups wore knee socks, but ankle socks are now more common.

Hats and Caps

Virtually every type of hat has been worn by uniformed groups. Pillbox caps were worn by early Boys' Brigade units. The Scouts of course adopted the famed Smokey Bear hats. The Itlalian Fascist Baillal adopted campaign caps with tassles, a style which American Scouts adopted, without the tassles, after World War II. French Scouts wore berets, a style which was eventually adopted byy English Scoouts and even some American Scouts. The American Scouts introduced baseball caps in the 1980s.


HBU has just begun to assess the origins of the kerchief as a part of the uniform of youth organizations. The kerchirf was not adopted by the Boy's Brigade or does it seem to have been a part of Baden Powell's Scouts. The kerchief was added to the U.S. Scout uniform in the early 1920s. I'm not sure who in America initially conceived of the idea. It looks rather like the kerchiefs worn by the U.S. calvary. It rapidly was adopted by other Scout groups and was almost universal by the late 1920s. It was also adopted by the Young Pioneers movement which copied so much from Scouting. The Pioneers which did not often insist that children wear full uniforms, did often have the children wear kerchiefs. With declining attention to uniforms in the 1990s, in some cases kerchiefs are the only uniform items still worn.


Some youth groups have used ties rather than kerchiefs. Scouts have occasionally worn ties. American explorer uniforms sometimes involved ties. The Boys' Brigade in particular has preferred ties to kerchiefs. Various Eiropean nationalisdt groups sometimes wore ties. Kerchiefs were usuallu more common than ties because youth groups emphasized camping and ties were generally seen as inappropritre for camping.


Many of the shirts worn with most groups had military-styled features. The original Scout shirts were virtual copies of army uniforms. Features such as epelettes, flap and button pockets, and other elements are clear military styles. Boys' uniform shirts were initially military colors like khaki or olive green. Eventually they appeared in other colors such as tan and blue as well as many others. "T"-shirts after World War II (1939-45) became very popular with boys. As a result, groups eventually adopted "activity" shirts that boys could wear on warm days for strenous outdoor activities and still be in uniform.


Sweaters are not a garment generally associated with boy's uniformed organizations. There is one major exception. British Cubs for years wore green sweaters, perhaps acomment on the British weather. Boys, or more correctlty, mums sewed the badges and unit insignias on the sweater rather than a shirt. During the summer, Cubs might wear green "T"-shirts, but they usually wore their green sweaters. Other Scout groups might also have sweaters, especially those in northern Europe. I'm not aware of sweaters being worn by other organizations like the Boys' Brigade or nationalist groups like the Hitler Youth.

Figure 2.--Scouts around the world for years have worn short pants, although came to be worn by American Scouts some what later. Shorts have been advantages for outdoor activities like fording rivers, as demonstrated by these American Scouts in 1980.


The original Scouts wore short pants. The adoption of shorts by the Scouts was an important factor in popularizing them as a standard boys' garment. Short pants became the primary uniform worn by most youth groups until the 1960s. The primary exception was the American Scouts who mostly wore knickers until long pants were authorized in the 1940s. Long pants are now more common among youth groups, although many Scouts have short pants summer uniforms.


Several of the major youth movements are or have become coeducational. Scouts vary from country to country. The Pioneers are coeducational. Some movements like the Hitler Youth have separate boys and girls groups within the same umbrella group. Until the 1970s, the girls in these organizations have worn skirted garments of some kind, usually dresses or skirts.


The kilt has been worn by some youth groups, primarily Scouts in some countries. We have noted Boys' Brigade members in Scotland wearing kilts, but are unsure how common this is currenyly. Several Boys' Brigade pipe bands in several different countries wear kilts. It is of course the Scottish Scouts that are most associated with kilts. Cubs also wear them, but it is much more common for the Scouts to do so. Irish Scouts are also ai\ithorized to wear kilts--a safron kilt. This is an option for the Scouts. Unlike the Scottish Scouts, however, few do so. Presumably there are other groups with kilt uniforms, but these are the ones that we currently know about.


Several uniformed youth groups have special belts, especially the bely buckles. The Hitler Youth in particular had special belt buckles. Some groups wore belts with shoulder straps. Youth groups also had special ways of wearing belts.


The original Boys' Brigade uniforms include both long pants and keepants. The knee pants were worn with long stockings. After Baden Powell introduced shorts fir the Scouts, most groups adopted kneesocks as part of their uniforms. This continued through the 1970s when long pants became increasingly common or began dropping uniform requirements.


Boys in uniformed youth groups have worn a wide variety of footwear from sandals to boots. Some groups had official sghooes and boots, but most simply set general rules. Japanese Cubs and Scouts often wore sneakers. Wandervogel boys wore commonly wore hiking boots. The Hitler Youth discouraged sandals. English and European Scouts and even some Scouts once commonly wore sandals. American Scouts once wore leather shoes, but sneakers became nore common in the 1970s. Today many European Scouts wear boots fpr Scouting. Boys Brigade boys mostly wear leather shoes.


HBC has noted photographs of boys in youth groups wearing white gloves for formal occassions. Most of the images we have noted are Scouts. This seems to have been a particularly common convention among rench scouts, although we have noted Scouts in other countries also wearing white gloves for formal occasions. we believe that white gloves were also used in other youth groups, but we have littlr information at this time.


Youth groups were worn with a number of assesscories. There were a range of pins and patches. Scouts in particular wore a wide variety of patches with their unniforms. Neckerchiefs were worn with slides which the British call woggles. Many groups used lanyards for a variety of purposes. Some were worn with whistles. We also notice flashes which were worn as shoulder epaulete attachments and with garters to hold up kneesocks.


One of the required items in any uniformed youth group was the backpack.


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Created: February 12, 2000
Last updated: 5:01 PM 4/30/2005