English Wolf Cub Uniforms: Chronology

The English Cub uniform has changed remarkably over time. Few Scout uniforms have been worn for such a long period with very little change. Virtually the same uniform adopted in 1916 was was still being worn by Cubs at the end of the century. There were, however, some chasnges over time. The Cub uniform continued unchanged for decades. The only major change was that in the 1970s, English boys started wearing shorter cut shorts. Early images of Cub groups show quite a range of clothing. The emphasis seems to have been on practicality and value rather than perfect uniformity of dress. Most of the clothes would have been worn to school by the boys anyway, with few additional special purchases needed. Some boys wear their chool uniforms complete with Eton collars, bow ties, and school caps. Other arevin full Cub uniforms. Virtually all boys wear short pants and kneesocks no matter what other parts of the uniform they are wearing. The only exception to this are that a few boys are occasionally seen in knickers. This was probably part of a boy's school uniform. Knickers, however, were never part of the Cub uniform in England. (Knickers were worn by American Cubs.)

The 20th Century

The Original Uniform (1916)

The Wolf Cubs began operating in 1916. The uniform designated for Cubs in 1916 was worn by English boys for decades virtually unchanged. It was subsequently adopted by Cubs all over the world although it was gradually modified and changed. In England, however, it continued virtually unchanged. The traditional English Cub uniform consisted of the following garments:
Cap: A green peaked cap with yellow piping was chosen for the Cubs, with cloth Wolf's head badge in front. The style was similar to the school caps commonly wore by English schoolboys. The caps , always green , were flatter then, with narrow yellow cordage.
Jersey: Dark blue, khaki, green or grey; sleeves down or rolled up at the discretion of the Cubmaster. Many early Cubs wore a navy blue jersey (sweater) made of heavy wool. Merit badges and unit badges were sewn on the jersies. Grey jerseys were also worn, but green became more popular over the years. I'm not sure why green emerged as the Cub color. Perhaps because it shows the dirt less. It also matched the cap. Perhap it was more in keeping with the green of the jungle and of course Cubbing was belt around Kipling's jungle lore.
Belt: Belts were initially worn outside the jersey. I'm not sure what the idea behind this curious fashion was.
Scarves: The jersies were worn with colorful kerchiefs. Scarves of the Group colour were worn with a woggle other than Gilwell pattern. Individual units selected scarves to identify themselved. Some Packs tied their scarves with a knot.
Short pants: Early Cubs wore knee-length dark blue, khaki or grey shorts, which in England were called short trousers or knickers.
Kneesocks: Any plain colour kneesocks were allowed. They were worn turned down below the knee, with green tabbed garter showing on the outside (to keep the socks up). One element of the uniform that does not appear to be consistent was the kneesocks. Many boys in the early Cub groups did wearing plain grey kneesocks. Many were also wearing dark kneesocks or grey kneesocks with patterned cuffs. Note: different coloured garter tabs were worn by older scouts and leaders, clearly an influence from Baden-Powell's background.
Shoes: Rigid leather footwear, often boots or shoe-like boots, completed the first uniform. Shoes were allowed. Either brown or black were permisable.
Shoulder patch: Small, triangular piece of cloth of Six colour, sewn firmly at the top of the left sleeve, just below shoulder, point upwards.
Shoulder badge: Indicating Group, worn on right shoulder or on both, according to the custom of the Group.
County or other Emblem: If and as authorised.
Great-coats, Haversacks, or Mackintoshes: Optional.
Other: Nothing but the above may be worn visibly.

Figure 3.--These Cubs at the 1920 World Jamboree are pictured with Baden Powell. They all are wearing the peaked cub cap, neckerchief, short pants, and kneesocks. They seem to be wearing jackets of various styles, but it is difficult to make out the derails.

The 1920s

Cubs in the early-1920s wore peaked caps, kneckerchiefs, sweaters, short pants, and kneesocks. We are not entirely sure about the actual regultions. We do have some images of invidual packs. We are not, however, sure of how representatve they were. Almost all of the boys would commonly have the cap, kneckerchief, and sweater but we note a variety of jackets and short pants. I'm not sure just who particiapted in Scouting during the 1920s. If it was mostly middle-class boys, than uniforming would not be a problem. Buying a uniform beyond a cap, sweater, and kneckerchief, however, would be difficult for boys from working class families. Available images of English cubs show the boys wearing the Cub cap, sweater, and kneckerchief. The sweater had to be especially for Cubs as the boys wore a cub emblem on the sewater. I think it was ared Wolf Cub emblem. We are not sure about the color. There were clearly differet colors used. Normally the Cub Master would select the color for the pack. . While the boys almost always wear shorts and kneesocks, they do not seem to be uniform. They generally appear to be wearing clothes they might wear to school. We are not sure just how strongly the official uniform was pushed. We suspect this varied from pack to pack and depended on the Cub Master.

The 1930s

I do not yet have any details on English Cub uniforms during the 1930s. I do not believe there was any major change in the uniform, but I have no information at this time.

The 1940s

I do not yet have any details on English Cub uniforms during the 1940s. As can be seen, there were many alternatives, and in theory a cub pack could look anything but uniform. However, as the movement became more and more established, and perhaps along with gradually higher standards of uniform required by schools, the generally accepted cub uniform was green cubs jersey, green and yellow cap, coloured group scarf, grey shorts, green garter tabs and shoes. This became increasinly fixed after World War II (1939-45). Until the 1970s, 'shorts' were in fact rather long, reaching down to just above the knee, with long socks pulled up to just below the knee. As much as anything this must have been for warmth! Boys wore shorts in winter as well as summer, and often wouldn't get their first pair of 'longs' until they were 14 or even older. During the Second World War with clothing rationing, it wasn't even allowed to make long trousers.

Figure 4.--English Cub uniforms in the 1950s were similar to the 1916 uniform. The only major differemce was that the boys dressed more uniformily and wear sweaters rather than jackets. These boys wear grey short pants. One source suggest this photograph was taken in the 1950s while another suggests on of the boy's hair is to long for the 50s and the photograph could have been taken in the 1960s. The boys' short pants in the photograph looks bluish, but they are probably grey shorts. (One English contributor to HBU suggests they could possibly be the boys' school shorts.) These boys wear blue knee socks with green stripes like the Scouts.

The 1950s

The uniform worn by English Cubs in the 1950s continued little change from the original uniform. One difference was that the boys wore blue kneesocks with green bands at the top. They were worn with green garter tabs matching the green stripes at the top of the kneesocks. These were the same kneesocks worn by English Scouts at the time. It was the only part of the uniform that wa the same for both Cubs and Scouts. I am not sure about this, but the 1950s image on this page looks like the Cubs are wearing blue shorts, perhaps the grey just looks blue. I am not sure if this is correct or when blue shorts were adopted or when they were changed back to grey shorts. Hopefully an English Scouter will provide us more details here. A note from one English Scout suggests that Scout uniforms and Cub uniforms in particular were not nearly as standardized as might be assumed. This was in part because buying a complete uniform was expensive for families of modest means. Thus many Cubs might have worn their school shorts. While school shorts were often grey in the 1950s, this was not always the case. One English contributor reports that,"I never joined the cubs or scouts but the uniforms of my friends who did was usually the same as worn for school with a couple of additions. Garters were worn under the turned down top of the long grey socks these elastic garters had a couple of green tabs about 2 inches long sticking out under the turnup. A green cub cap and green woollen jumper with various badges sown on completed the outfit. Much importance was placed on care of uniform, and pack meetings would often include uniform and cleanliness inspections. The Cub Book, revised in 1952, says: "You can tell a Wolf Cub at once, because he is clothed in a different way from the ordinary boy - he wears the Cub uniform, which is a jersey and shorts and stockings, and a green cap with yellow piping, and scarf of the colour of his Pack. Like the cubs of the jungle he keeps his uniform smart and clean, he does not allow mud and dirt to remain on it, and he takes care not to get it torn and ragged in playing about among the bushes.

The 1960s

The flannel grey short pants worn for decades by British boys for both Cubs and school gradually went out of style in the 1960s. The pften baggy flannel was replaced with Tereylene worsted fabric which was easier to wash and often looked much smarter as it held a crease without ironing. There appear to have been some variations among Cub packs in England. One Scouter in Bristol tells that there Cubs in 1964 wore green sweaters and neckerchief (blue and gold) with grey knee-length shorts and dark green knee-length socks with black garters. The green socks seems to have been unusual at the time and changed over the years to more traditional grey socks. In the 1960s scouting in Britain underwent a great transformation and the uniform changed along with this. Older boys were wearing shorts less and less and the scouts were getting fed up of being teased about their uniform. The British Scout Association in 1969 radically changed the English Scout uniform. A new uniform of a tan shirt and darker colored long trousers worn with a beret was chosen for the Scouts. The Cub uniform, however, was maintained unchanged. Changes were made in Cubbing as well. The Wolf Cubs changed their name to Cub Scouts in 1966, but retained most of their traditional uniform. Green jerseys became standard and cubs stayed in shorts - boys still largely wore shorts at primary school. For many years boys had worn shoes rather than boots; sandals (typically Clarks 'T-bar' leather sandals) became common now, especially in summer. The decission to allow Scouts to wear longs, but to insist on the Cubs wearing shorts mean that many Cubs would want to wear long pants. The Cubs would see the older boys in longs and then they didn't want to wear short pants because they thought it made them look like little boys. This of course was precisely what occurred--although English Cubs did mostly wore shorts in the 1970s and some still do. The America approach was to have a summer uniform with shorts so more American Cubs were to wear short pants after the 1960s than before. The cub training scheme progressed significantly - many of the overly juvenile elements of B-P's scheme were abandoned, and the arrow scheme replaced the old system of stars that were sewn on the cap to show stages completed successfully. Arrow badges were sewn on the front of the jersey and proficiency badges were sewn down the left sleeve, with group, district and county badges sewn on the right sleeve. Seniority within the pack (boys were known as 'sixers' or 'seconds' if they held responsibility), had been shown by broad yellow stripes (again a military link) sewn on the arms. These were replaced by much smaller badges which kept the traditional two stripes for sixer and one stripe for second.

Figure 5.--English Cubs in the 1970s began wearing shorter cut shorts showing the Continental styling that was becoming popular in England at the time. This photograph shows Cubs on a outing in 1972.

The 1970s

One of the few changes in the English Cub uniform occurred in the 1970s. English boys started wearing shorter cut shorts, showing the Continetal styling that was becoming more common for general boys wear in England. Most Cubs used the same grey shorts they wore to school for Cubs also. Thus this was not a change in the actual uniform itself, but more changing styles for the school and other shorts worn by English boys. One Scouter in 1976 confirms that the Cub uniform uniform in the 1970s changed very little, except his group changed from green (apparently a local variation from the percribed uniform) to grey socks most other English Cubs were already wearing. >Cubs almost always wore plain grey kneesocks. The official kneesocks no longer had stripes at the top. Some boys wore turn-over-top kneesocks with the official green garter tabs. More commonly Cubs wore the less expensive kneesocks without the turn over top cuff at the top. Cubs had commonly worn school sandals for many activities. For the first time in the 1970s you began to see Cubs wearing running shoes instead of sandals. This was not part of the official uniform, but the running shoes were much more popular than sandals with the boys. Cubs in 1977 were given the option to wear long grey trousers. There had been increasing pressure for this as there had been for scouts 10 years before. It was not universally popular. Letters to Scouting Magazine put both sides of the argument, such as one cub leader who wrote: "A boy's knees are infinitely replaceable. They grow back again but unless the Committee of the Council have discovered a marvellous new cloth from which trousers can be made, the knees in long trousers will never grow back again. No definite pattern of long trousers will be marketed. Not only will the Cub Scout Section have lots of Packs where half the boys are in long trousers and half in shorts, but we will have different shades of grey as well." Which is more or less what happened.

Figure 6.--English Cubs in the 1980s still wore the traditional peaked cap with yellow piping. Many Cubs still wore the regulation short pants, but a lot of Cubs began wearing long pants.

The 1980s

The Cub uniform did not change in the 1980s. Cubs continued to wear the same peaked cap, green jumper, grey shorts, and grey kneesocks. The short pants in the early 1980s were still worn quite short. By the end of the decade the style gradually changed to longer shorts. Many Cubs began wearing long pants in the 1980s. Some Cub packs insisted on the regulation short pants, but many other let the boys choose. One Cub from the 1980s remembers the short pants from his uniform--the only short pants that he wore. He writes, "I started going to cub scouts from when I was 9 and continued until i was nearly 12. I went with a friend from school to the weekly meetings and often i would go to his house right after school, watch TV or play computer games, his mother would cook us tea and when it was time we would get changed and walk to the scout hut. This meant I would have to carry my cub uniform in my schoolbag that day. The main items of the uniform were dark green pullover, red neckerchief (fastened with a small plastic 'woggle'), grey shorts and grey knee socks, and a green cub cap. I had a pair of elastic garters to hold up my knee socks, these had decorative felt 'flags' attached in a shade of green to match the green pullover, although not all of the boys wore these. I had only one pair of grey shorts - these were my 'cub shorts' as for school I wore long trousers. As it was the early 1980s boy's shorts tended to be cut quite brief and my grey cub shorts were no exception. I remember i was on! ce on the way to a parade and it was raining, so I wore a heavy coat. The coat came further down my legs than did my shorts, and i felt quite self conscious, as it might have looked like i had no shorts on at all! Generally, I didn't enjoy wearing the uniform, with the brief shorts my legs felt quite exposed, often during cold or wet weather, and sometimes we would get teased by other boys from our school. All in all I was quite relieved when I reached 12 and I was old enough to leave cubs. I was one of the few who didn't go on to attend the scouts." -- Mark

The 1990s

Major changes were made in the Cub uniform in the 1990s. The Cub Scout uniform has been steadily made less traditional in the 1990s. The arrival of girls brought the adition of grey skirts. Other wise the girls wore the same uniform. Cubs also discontinued the traditional pealed cap. Short trousers wre mde optional. As a result of the uniform changes in the 1990s there was in practice been confusion and great diversity of uniforms, as well as lack of uniforms among English Cubs. This wasmore so in ythe 1990s than perhaps any period of English Cun Scouting. The Scout Association has attempted to define the uniform. The Cub Scout Handbook stated, "Your uniform tells everyone that you are a Cub Scout and to which Pack you belong. The Uniform is a dark green, long sleeved sweatshirt or T shirt, plus the items you are given at your Investiture. Your Akela will tell you the type of trousers, or skirts for girls, that are uniform in your Pack. If you wear shorts for Cubs, you also wear long grey socks with green garter tabs to keep them up."

The 21st Century

Cubs in the early 2000s still wore the traditional Cub uniform. The traditional Cub cap had largely disappeared by the 2000s although some packs still wore it. An increasing number of Cubs wore long grey or black pants, but some Cubs still wear grey shorts and kneesocks. The shorts worn tend to be quite long in line with the prevailing fashions. A major change in the Cub uniform was made in the late-2000s. We see the boys wearing blue rather than green jumpers. We also note grey knee socks with blue bands. Apparently the cap has been discontinued.


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Created: October 15, 2003
Last updated: 2:27 AM 4/20/2009