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By Grant O'Neil

How can you make Baden Powell style uniform?  It is possible that if you look farther afield, or are prepared to do some modifications you could get a satisfactorily "authentic" BP style uniform.

Firstly, are you aiming to look like BP himself, or a scout or scoutmaster of BP's vintage? If BP, there are ample photos on which you can base your look. If a scout or Scouter, read on. Most of my comments are based on pre-1972 Australian uniforms. It is my understanding that prior to then there had been little significant change in uniforms in Australia since scouting was first established, and that virtually all British Commonwealth countries had about the same uniforms.

Basically, look at Scouting for Boys for your inspiration. Ideally, you ought to have a long-sleeved khaki shirt, preferably collarless and with epaulettes. The very early scout uniforms were not something you bought from supply division - indeed, the reason for the style of uniform BP chose was that at that time it was a style of clothing that would have been relatively cheap and easy to come by for most boys. So if you ready Scouting for Boys you will note that BP says that the scout always has his sleeves rolled up ready to go to work - hence the long sleeves (rolled up, of course)

From what I have seen of U.S. military shirts with epaulettes, the style is somewhat different to the British style that provided the inspiration for the scout uniform. Probably the ideal shirt would be a British (or Australian) army surplus khaki shirt. To get an idea of the shirts I have in mind, think of WW2 war movies depicting the British 8th Army in the Western Desert (Desert Rats is an outstanding example.) These shirts will generally have collars, but it would be comparatively easy to cut off the collar and hem the edge.

Alternatively, the style of scout shirts used here until about 8 years ago were hardly different to the style of shirts in use in the '20s (based on examples I've seen in the scout museum) so shirts like that may provide an answer. Khaki shorts, longer than average (i.e. almost knee length) and khaki knee socks (preferably with two dark green bands around the top) would round out a reasonably authentic look.

A brown leather belt with metal two-piece scout belt buckle would be ideal, although possibly rather hard to come by. The scarves generally worn then were larger and somewhat bulkier than is common now. If you are going for the Scouter look, the two strand leather Turks-head Gilwell woggle is a must; otherwise almost any style of woggle would do, although the more elaborate hand-carved wooden woggles that I have noticed are rather popular among BSA members I have never seen in photos from that period.

Finally, a "Lemon Squeezer" (BSA Campaign Hat) to "top off" the look. Preferably well-worn; still maintaining a "regulation" shape but not necessarily parade-ground rigid with perfectly flat brim. For a Scouter, a colored plume worn on the left side of the leather band above the left ear indicating the position held. Insignia may be a little hard to come by - you can't use any BSA insignia (after all, we're talking Baden-Powell, not Seton!) For a leader you would wear a tenderfoot badge (British style, not BSA - they are dramatically different badges) centered on the left pocket.

A scout may have this badge replaced my the second class or first class badge if earned, and would wear the appropriate proficiency badges on his sleeve. The top of the right sleeve would bear a tape with the name of the scout troop. Scouts would wear a "knot" at the top of the left sleeve indicating their patrol - three colored ribbons, the combination of colors designating the patrol. The ribbons would be about 5" long, folded in half and pinned to the top of the sleeve at the fold.

Another possible source of "authentic" items would be the Baden-Powell Scouts - I know they have branches in Britain, Canada and Australia. Although not affiliated or recognized by WOSM, they are a breakaway movement that is devoted to a return to "traditional" scouting, and wear uniforms and follow an award scheme that is about the same as in BP's time.

Good Luck!  

Grant O'Neil
ACSL 2nd Ballajura Cub Scout Pack
Swan Valley District
Western Australia

See Also:

How to Make an Authentic B-P Bush Shirt






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.