Figure 1.--Uniforms have disappeared in many national Scout associations, but they are still widely worn in America. This photograph was gtaken at a 1999 Pennsylvania Scout camp.

A wide variety of youth groups in the 20th century have adopted a great diversity of uniforms. Some of these organizations have achieved enormous renoun for the positive, character building experiences they have provided boys. The first group, the Boys' Brigade, was founded at the end of the 19th centuryband had a central Christian focus. The most significant was the Scouts which was founded after the turn of the century. Comparable organizations were founded for girls. Many of these organizations were founded in Britain and the British penchant for uniforms have greatly influenced the adoption of uniforms for the boys. Uniforms came to be a key element for these groups. Many other organizations were founded , some with sinister histories like the Hitler Youth. This web site seeks to provide a historical background on these organizations and a look at the uniforms worn by the boys over time.

Many of the youth groups popular with boys during the 20th century have required uniforms. The most obvious youth group is of course the Boy Scouts and related grous like Tiger, Cub, and Explorer Scouts. The Scouts while by far the largest group in America and many European countries, is not the only group, nor was it the first. One of the earlist groups was the Boys' Brigade with its strong Christian connection. Amrica also has Camp Fire, a coed scout-like group. All of the modern totalitarian states had their youth groups like Hitler Youth and the Pioneers. The sinister nature of NAZI ideolgy leads us to recoil at images of the Hitler Youth. Less is known of the Communist Pioneer Movement. Now that the great totalitarian states have disappeared, except in China, these groups have all been suplanted by the Scoting movement.

Scouting is now the principal uniformed youth group around the world. Scoting in America and England, however, has declined a ranks are only a fraction of the 2 million American boys who once participated. The other groups like Camp Fire and the Boys' brigade are much smaller. It is unclear what has caused the decline. Certainly boys today have many more options for their free time. This is probably a major factor. A generation ago, there were relatively few activities and organizations competing for a boys' time. Today school, church, athletic, fine arts, and other groups and activities appeal to children. In addition, the modern boy's bedroom today has more electronic and computer equipment to entertain him than an office a generation ago. The cost of uniforms may discourage boys from low cost families. Certainly Scout uniforms cost more than is necessary. Low v\cost uniforms, however, can be bought from second-hand shops. Probably more important is that many boys are much less disposed to wear uniforms than they were in the past. It is increasingly rare to see Scout and other youth group members in a complete uniform. The cost of uniforms and dues discourages others.  Recruiting sufficently commited adult leaders is another problem. The Scoting Movement has attemted to reinvent itself, with modernized merit badges incliding computers and rocketry. The future of Scoting and other groups remains to be seen.

Main Sections

Our web site is divided into several major sections:


The uniforms adopted by boys' youth groups have caried greatly over time. In the early period of the 20th century, the popularity of the Scout movement helped to set the fashion for short pants in Britain, Continental Europe, and America. A different youth movement, the Wandervogel emerged in Germany with less militarized uniforms. Since then the uniforms have more commonly followed prevailing boys' fashions. Uniforms were initially popular among boys who would sometimes wear them to school. As late as the 1950s in America, many schools would have Scout day once a week when Cubs and Scouts would commonly and volutarily wear their uniforms to school. Since the 1960s uniforms have become less fashionable among boys. Many Scout and other groups currently have a hard time convincing boys to weear their uniforms. Individual Scout troops and units of other groups, however, continue to maintain high standards for uniform.


Many of you have asked a variety of subjects about this web site. As I want to reserve my time for actually working on the web site, I thought I'd answer your questions here.


The uniforms for youth groups have varied over time, moving with the fashions of the day. Some like the Scout Smokey Bear hat have come to be virtual symbols of the group. Some of the garments like the short pants introduced by Baden Powell's Scouts played an important role in developing more comportable, less restrictive clothes for boys.


An overview of each different organizations and their uniforms. The larger groups are broken down by country.


HBU is also collecting a variety of other informatiin providing insigts into the uniforms worn by uniformed youth groups. One interesting source of information is postage stamps. The postage stamps provide some useful informattion as to how these groups are viewed in different countries. Not all youth groups have been extensively used for postage stamps. Certainly the Scouts were the most frequently depicted.


Thank you for your interest in our web site. I would like to think of it as a cooperative effort with you. In fact it is the personal contributions of your own experiences and uniforms worn that make HBU a particularly interesting site. Your comments would thus be of great interest. I am looking for any historical material, articles on the uniforms worn by members of Scouts and other youth groups, interesting pasages from biographies/autobiographies, old-time photographs of your family, even personal remberences of the more modern uniform styles, or any other pertinent material. Perhaps you have some interesting ideas about further additions.

Youth Organizations Pages

Some of the most interesting pages in our web site relate to the individual uniformed youth organizations.

Boys' Brigade

The Boys' Brigade is a Christian organisation for boys aged between 6 and 18 years and is the oldest uniformed youth organisation in the world, being founded in Glasgow, UK in 1883 by Sir William Alexander Smith. 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.


The world Scouting movement traces its origins to England at the beginning of the 20th Century. The movement owes much to British General Robert Stephenson Smyth, better known as Lord Baden-Powell. He had written a booklet-called Aids to Scouting--about his methods of Army training. It was published in England during the siege of Mafeking, a South African town attacked by the Boers during the Boer War. When the General returned home to England from South Africa, he was surprised to find that a lot of boys had bought the booklet and had got together in small groups on their own to practice Scouting. They called themselves Boy Scouts.

Camp Fire

Camp Fire, Inc., formerly known as the Camp Fire Girls, is the outgrowth of a unique summer camping program developed by Dr. and Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick. In large, full bloomers, white middies and blue ties, a group of girls spent two summers at Lake Sebago, Maine, in a program of fire building, cooking, sewing, bedmaking, singing, Indian lore, and folk dancing. The success of the program and the need for an ongoing year-round activity for girls attracted a group of unusual men and women who were destined to begin the first national, non-sectarian organization for girls in the United States.

Royal Rangers

Many religious groups sponsor Scout troops. There is a minimal religious component to American Scouting and in a few cekebrated cases, boys who were athiests have been excluded. Some religious groups want more control over the Scouting program and who belongs. They have formed their own Scout units, but the Boy Scout Association has a legal lock on the word "Scouting" in the United States. Only the Girl Scouts have been given permission to use the word. It is trademarked, which is why one religious group which has its own program calls them "Royal Rangers"--they can't use the word "Scout".

Figure 2.--Measured in terms of molding a boy's character, the Hitler Youth has to be judged as one of the more effective boys'muniformed groups. The Hitler Youth provided weapons training. Much of it was at camps, but it was not completely hiddennfrom the parents. Handkling weapons was a popular attraction for the boys.

Hitler Youth

The Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), the NAZI party's youth movement, indoctrinated German youth to perpetuate the "1,000 year Reich." The Hitler Youth movement emphasized activism, physical training, NAZI ideology, especially nationalism and racial concepts, and absolute obedience to Hitler and the NAZI Party. Indoctrinating children in National Socialist idelogy was a key goal of the NAZI Party. Once Hitler assumed control over the German state, he used the Goverment to make the Hitler Youth the country's all encompasing youth movement. Hitler and other NAZIs leaders saw the indoctrination of young Germans as of critical importance. In the same year that they took power, the NAZIs organized German youth organizations into two branches of the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugen), one branch for boys and one for girls. Membership was eventually made compulsory and all boys had to report to a neigborhood office to have his racial background checked and be registered for membership. There was then a typically elaborate introduction ceremony on the Fehuerer's birthday.


Information on nationalist groups in specific countries. This group of organizations have declined in importance during recent years. Thet were most important during the 1930s as virulently nationlistic Governments took power in Europe and organized state-sponsored youth groups--often abolishing the Scouts. The horrors of Fascism and World War II tarnished the impages of these groups and today only a few are still active.


The Communist Revolution in Russia occured during 1917, before the Scouting movement could be established to any extent. Scouting has always been a middle-class movement. The Communists instead set up the Young Pioneer movement to involve all children. The Communist Party (CPSU) was the most important organization in the Soviet Union. The Party used youth groups like the Young Pioneers as part of its overall program to inculcate Communist ideology. Other potentially competing youth groups were outlawed.

Feel free to surf through our site   We hope you find it informative. Please remember to send along information about the youth groups you participated in and the uniforms you wore. Your personal contributions are what make this an interesting web site.

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Created: January 5, 1998
Last updated: November 14, 2000