United States Boy Scouts: Headwear--Types

Figure 1.--This American Boy Scout had his portrait taken in 1919 wearing his new uniform. He wears the hat adopted by the BSA, It was the first official American Scout headwear. The BSA like other Scout moements organizing around the world selected the same headwear Basen-Powell chose for British Scouts. In the United States it became known as a 'campaignhat' and subsequently other terms.

American Scouts have wore several different types of headwear. American Scout uniform head wear until recently has largely followed uniform trends in the U.S. Army. The first uniform headwear was a hat--the lemon-squeezer hat that Baden Powell chose and was subsequently adopted by Scouts all around the world. It was also worn by American Doughboys in World War I. All subsequent Scout headwear has been different styles of caps. Cost was probably an issue. The campaign hat was worn by American Scouts until the early-1940s when the United states Army during World War II changed its uniform. Since that time, Scouts have worn various headwear types, including overseas caps, winter caps, berets, and baseball caps as well as other styles. The baseball cap seems to have become a permanent style for both American Cubs and Scouts.

Campaign Hat

Nothing captures the image of a Scout wordwide more than the broad-brimmed hat. It was the hat adopted by Baden-Powell for British Scouts and subsequently adopted by most early Scout groups in other countries as well, including American Scouts. It was often called a "lemon squeezer" hat in Britain. Americans have other names, including drill master and ranger (Smokey Bear) hat. It was a broad-brimmed felt hat with four indentations meeting in a generallt dounded crown. (Some foreign caps look almost like a peak at the crown. There was a chin strap around the inside of the hat band, but rarely used by American Scouts. It was the style worn by American soldiers in World War I., Although many options have been tried over the years (such as the World War II overseas cap, the red beret and the baseball cap), the "Smoky Bear" or "Campaign" hat is the only uniform item which has remained constant around the world since Scouting came to the United States in the early-1900s. It became a internationally recognized symbol of Scouting. Scouts around the world wore them. After the early-40s it largely disappeared from American Scouting. A few adult Souters can occassionally be seen with the Smokey Bear hat because of the distinctive image.

Overseas/Garrison Caps

The military-inspired overseas cap became standard issue in the 1940s and was worn until the early 1980s. The cam[aign cap was adopted for the U.S. Army during World War II which presumably explains why it was chosen by American Scouts. It was a curious choice as it was one of the principal cap styles worn by the Hitler Youth and other Fascist youth groups. It was also worn by the Communist Young Pioneers. This probably expalins why it was not adopted by Europdean Scouts or Scouts in most other countries. It was worn so long and by so many boys that it became more associated with Scouting than the Smokey Bear hat that few American boys ever saw, much less wore. It was a largely impractical cap, but even so endured for four decades. Note that HBU had at first misidentified this cap, calling it a campaign cap on many pages. We have begun to make the needed changes. A good example is newly minted Scout, Ronald McAlister in 1949.

Winter Caps

Scouting is largely a summer activity in Ameica, at aleast outdoor capmping. Scouts in the North with a shorter summer more commonly persue outdoor activities during the winter. For these Scouts the BSA offerdca winter cap and other cold weather gear.

Fatigue Caps


The beret was a popular headwear style by Scouts first in Europe and then in other countries. These Scout generally adopted black or some dark color. While never an official BSA uniform item, some Scouts beginning in the 1960s wore berets. The BSA did offer a red beret through its uniform distributors. A few troops adopted the beret for its destinctive look. Almost always it was red berets that were chosen. It was worn by a relatively small number of troops, but we do see several units wearing them into the 1980s. A reader writes, ", I would like to thank Mr. Wagner for the berets page. I recently was given a red scout beret from a former assistant scout master along with a scarf from th 70s. Don't know if it was his or his sons. It is a 7-1/4 which made me extremely happy. I do remember back in the 90's, the older kids in my troop and some at camp liked wearing the berets because it set them apart from the younger kids and they were at the time kind of rebellious to wear due to the contoversy. Always wanted one and 15 years later got one for free! Just wanted to pass along the story."

Baseball Caps

The baseball cap became the standard headwear of American Scouts and Cubs when a new uniform was introduced in 1981. The change was made largely for stylist reasons, but we note that the baseball cap was also worn in the Army. Baseball caps at the time were the most popular headwear for boys. This was certainly the main reason for its choice. The cap has proven popular with the boys.


Strobel Jr., Henry. E-mail message, December 30, 2008.


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Created: 12:10 AM 12/14/2006
Last updated: 1:34 AM 3/28/2011