* boys historical uniform garments: pants

Boys' Historical Uniform Garments: Pants

Figure 1.--Scouts and other boys' uniformed groups for many years wore the short pants introduced by Baden Powell. American Scouts mostly wore knickers. The short pants uniform was mostly worn at camps and jamborees like these Scouts at the first National Jamboree in 1937.

The original British Scouts wore short pants and this was the primary uniform trousers 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. Beginning with American Scours in the 1940s and British Scouts in 1960, long pants gradually became more common--short pants increasingly became as a summer uniform when still worn. Some groups in the 1990s began adoopting informalmuniform like sweat pants.

Knee Pants

The Boys' Brigade was the first uniformed group and established in the 1880s at a time when boys wore both long pants and kneesocks, however, the convention that boys did not wear long pants was becoming increasingly established. The Boys' Brigade is the only uniformed youth group of any significance in which the boys wore kneepants.

Short Pants

Short pants had been worn by boys in the late 19th century, but they were mot widely worn and were mostly worn by younger boys. Note that short pants differeed from kneepants, which were widely worn, in that they did not have three buttons at the knee hem and were worn with kneesocks and not long stockings. The original shorts, however, were mot much shorter than kneepants. Baden Powell ose to introduce short pants to Scouting as a practical comfortable garment, much more suited to active outdoor activities than the long stockings and kneepants more common at the time. Boys took to them immediately, in part because they had a macho, military image about them. Short pants were used by the British Army in tropical postings and for some units duing the Boehr War. Virtually every subsequent youth group proceeded to adopt short pants for the uniform. This was in part a reflection of how these groups used the Scouts as a model. It was also in part due to the fact that most European boys as well as boys in other countries mostly wore short pants.


Knickers were widely worn by British boys in the late 19th Century. They mostly passed out of style after the turn of the 20th centuary as short pants became more popular. This was the same time that the Scouts were being established. Thus the Scouts and most groups established in the 1920s, like the Italian Baillal and Hitler Youth, adopted short pants uniforms. American Scouts, the largest Scout association, mostly wore knickers as this was the most common dress for American boys. American Scouts wore knickers until the 1940s when long pants were adopted.

Figure 2.--These younger New Zealnd Boys Brigade members, Anchor Boys, in the 1990s wore long sweat pants. Older boys wore a more fornmal short pants uniform.

Long Pants

Some of the original Boys Brigade uniforms had long trousers. Few subsequent boys' uniformed groups, however, had long pants as part of the uniform. There were some exceptions to this. The Hitler Youth had a long pants winter uniform. I'm unsure about the Young Pioneers in Russia, but I don't think a uniform was as widely worn by the Pioneers as the Scouts. Long pants became much more common beginning in the 1940s when American Scouts and Cubs were allowed to wear long pants. The Ameican Scouts made shorts or longs optional. British Scouts, however, adopted long pants as the uniform standard. Since then long pants have gradually been adopted by many Scout groups in countries around the world. One option that appeared in the 1990s was long sweatpants often paired with sweat shirts.


We notice children wearing rompers in summer camps. Thet were worn by American girls at camps during the inter-War era. American boys did not wear them. Summer camps were not as common in Europe, but there were quite a number especially in the Fascist countries (Germany and Italy). We notice some Italian boys wearing romper pants. An example is an unidentified camp on Sicily, we think during the 1930s. We also notice a few Soviet boys wearing rompers at the Young Pioneer summer camps. They were not the proscribed camp unifirm, nut we see a few of the younger boys wearing them. An example are two of the younger boys at an unidentified camp, we think during the the 1960s.


Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Return to the Main garment page]
[Introduction] [Bibliographies] [Chronologies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Garments] [Organizations]
[Boys' Uniform Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web chronological pages:
[1900s] [1910s] [1920s] [1930s] [1940s] [1950s] [1960s] [1970s] [1980s] [1990s] [2000s]

Created: January 10, 1998
Last updated: 9:06 PM 5/30/2020