Boy and Cub Scout Uniforms: Garments--Baden Powell

Figure 1.--The original scouting uniforms were all similar to the military-style adopted by Baden Powell when he founded English Scouting. One inovation was short pants rather than the kneepants and long stockings that most boys at the time wore.

Lord Baden Powell of course played a major role in the design of early Boy Scout uniforms and his influence can still be seen to this day. He was of course much influenced by his army background and experiences in South Africa. He set out clear instructions in Scouting for Boys as to just what the Scout uniform should be like and what the purpose was for each uniform item. Here is what Baden Powell told early Scouts in 1908.


The Scout Uniform is very like the uniform worn by my men when I commanded the South African Constabulary. They knew what was comfortable, serviceable, and a good protection against the weather. So Scouts have much the same uniform.

With a few minor alterations the original Scout Uniform has met the ideas of Scouts around the world and has been universally adopted. Of course, in extreme climates it has to be modified to suit the seasons, but on the whole the different nations in the temperate climates are dressed uniformly alike.

Starting at the top, the broad-brimmed khaki hat is a good protection from sun and rain. It is kept on by a bootlace tied in a bow in front on the brim and going round the back of the head. This lace will come in handy in many ways when you camp. The hat has four dents in it.
Then comes the scarf or neckerchief which is folded into a triangle with the point at the back of the neck. Every Troop has its own scarf colour, and since the honour of your Troop is bound up in the scarf, you must be very careful to keep it clean and tidy. It is fastened at the throat by a knot, or "woggle", which is some form of ring made of cord, metal, or bone, or anything you like. The scarf protects your neck from sunburn and serves many purposes, such as for a bandage or as an emergency rope.

The Scout shirt (or jersey) is a free-and-easy thing, and nothing could be more comfortable when the sleeves are rolled up. All Scouts have them rolled up because this tends to give them greater freedom, but also as a sign that they are ready to carry out their Motto. They only roll them down when it is very cold or when their arms may become sunburnt. In cold weather the shirt can be supplemented with warmer garments over or, better, under it.

Shorts are essential to hard work, to hiking and to camping. They are less expensive and more hygienic than breeches or trousers. They give freedom and ventilation to the legs. Another advantage is that when the ground is wet, you can go about without stockings and none of your clothes gets damp.

The stockings are held up by garters, with green tabs showing below the turnover of the stocking top.

Personally, I consider shoes more suitable than high boots since they give better ventilation to the feet and therefore diminish the danger of chills and of chafes which come from damp stockings softening the feet when tightly laced boots are worn.


The Scout kit, through its uniformity, now constitutes a bond of brotherhood among boys across the world.

The correct wearing of the Uniform and smartness of turnout of the individual Scout makes him a credit to our Movement. It shows his pride in himself and in his Troop.

One slovenly Scout, on the other hand, inaccurately dressed may let down the whole Movement in the eyes of the public. Show me such a fellow and I can show you one who has not grasped the true Scouting spirit and who takes no pride in his membership of our great Brotherhood.

Source: "Campfire Yarn No.3. Becoming a Scout." Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys, 1908.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 11, 2001
Last updated: December 11, 2001