The old Scout Shorts…can we still wear them? (22 Apr 11)


A Scouter wrote and asked me:

“Our troop has a footlocker full of used uniform items for the boys to use–no sense spending $45 on a pair of pants when there’s a pair to be had for free in the bottom every growing scouts closet.  Of course, with the switch from the Oscar de la Renta (ODLR) uniform to the Centennial uniform (not to mention the cheap switchbacks that were foisted on us in between) most of the stuff in the locker right now is outdated ODLR items.

Flipping through our old photo albums, the scouts always have a hearty laugh at the length of the ODLR shorts; they can’t believe how short they were.  Recently, one of the scouts was overheard saying that he was going to get a pair of the old shorts from the locker and wear them because they’re so funny.  As you often say, once the uniform is official, it’s always official if worn completely, so  don’t see any problem with any of the scouts wearing the old shorts,and while I’d prefer that they weren’t doing it to be funny, if they can wear it with a straight face I don’t see any problem with it.  In fact, I have a pair of the ODLR pants which I had taken up into shorts to get around the length issue, and I still wear them from time to time when my Centenial pants are in the wash.

As he was thumbing through the shorts to find his size, he remarked that the Scoutmaster had told him to make sure that the shorts were “appropriate” (meaning in terms of their length).  I told him that the shorts were designed, approved, and manufactured by the Boy Scouts of America, and while they may be short, they are official and therefore intrinsically appropriate, as long as they were not in poor condition.

What do you think about this issue?  Are the ODLR shorts suddenly inappropriate for use by members of the BSA?  One could argue that they’re a different standard in attire from a different era, but the switchbacks issued just a few years ago were just as short when the legs were removed to make them shorts.”

TO ME, those shorts are no more “inappropriate” than the old women’s shorts!

The BSA, however, says that the important thing to remember about wearing ANYTHING OLD, is that “it has to be worn  completely old!”  And as you correctly stated to me, once the BSA placed their Seal or logo onto any uniform item, it is official wear then, now, and anytime in the future. 

The BSA has NEVER allowed for current and older uniform shirts and pants to be worn “interchangably”.  If you decide to wear the shorts associated with the older field uniform, then you have to wear the older shirts too.  That’s not a problem with the old “legacy” uniform, where those shorts came from.  The issue comes from wearing the shorts with the current “Centennial” or the Venturing green field uniform (and no, removing the “Venturing-BSA” strip and replacing it with the older “Scout-BSA” or “Boy Scouts of America” green strips don’t make the uniform “old”…sorry…)

Ties, neckerchiefs, hats, and shoes may be worn with ANY official uniform. But if you wear an old pair of Scout pants, you have to wear the matching shirt that it went with.  That’s where people get into trouble with. 

You have a true treasure trove of Scouting uniforms, and I would encourage you to continue sharing those with Scouts and Scouters who cannot afford to get the “the latest” but still want to be a part of the Scouting game — and need a uniform.  And yes, if your Scouts and/or yourself choose to wear those shorts, they can giggle at the shortness if they like but understand “that was the style” then like the open-collared shirts and the first version of the ODLR shirt were. 

And if, by chance, you run across a blue jac-shirt in large or extra large, with or without holes and/or patches, would you please consider sending it to me? I’ve been looking for such an item for well over 30 years!!

Thanks for asking me…I do appreciate the question — its an OUTSTANDING ONE!!

(Name and location of Scouter removed per personal wishes.  I only provide names and email addresses upon approval from the Scouter involved and only to allow those with similar concerns to directly contact them rather than to go through me.)

About Mike Walton

Take your standard Oliver North. Add strong parts of Bill Cosby and Sir Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting). Throw in Johny Bravo without the "hurhhs!" and his pecks. Add a strong dose of parenting, the sexuality of a latin lover, and Mona Lisa's smile. And a 40 year old's body frame. That's me basically *grinning*

8 Responses to The old Scout Shorts…can we still wear them? (22 Apr 11)

  1. avatar
    Anonymous 30 June 2011 at 05:23 #

    BSA specifically allowed for mixing and matching of ODLR-designed uniform parts with the new Centennial uniform. I can’t find it on the national website any more, but there’s a screenshot from it at that states “transitional pieces to mix and match with your current uniform.” It was also mentioned in an issue of Boy’s Life around fall of 2008.

  2. avatar
    Mike Walton 30 June 2011 at 16:25 #

    Hi Brian!!

    Funny that you note this. This WAS true when the BSA rolled out the then-new “Centennial” uniform.

    However, the BSA’s Supply Group says it is *no longer in effect* and that Scouts and Scouters should be wearing the *complete* “Centennial” field uniform. This is why if you go to (, the official Supply Group website) that information has been taken down and has been down for well over two years now.

    Here’s what happened and why there’s a bit of confusion. When the “Centennial” field uniform shirts were introduced, the Supply Group was facing a set of problems. The pants were not ready to roll out (production problems) and the shirts were not in plenty supply as the BSA ordered from their vendor. Additionally, many of the shirt’s appliquéd lettering was falling off after one or two washings, which caused many of the shirts to be returned to the Supply Group with angry letters attached to them.

    So the recommendation was made and accepted by the BSA’s National Executive Board in February of 2008 (the only body in the BSA authorized to make uniform changes or modifications based on recommendation from the Supply Group) to allow Scouts and Scouters to “mix and match” uniform pieces (what everyone didn’t read was the “rest of the story). It was intended to be TEMPORARY.

    The BSA says “no mixing of current and past uniform pieces.”

    In regards to the following link — — the content clearly states, according to Donna Ryan, the BSA’s senior uniform staffer, that the line about the “transitional pieces to mix and match with your current uniform” refers to pieces of the then NEW (“Centennial”) uniform (the shirt primarily) with the “legacy” green pants temporarily; not mixing a Centennial long sleeved shirt with a 60s’ era pair of pants; or the current olive duck pants with the older cotton short-sleeved shirt, for examples.

    While the BSA says that “any uniform is a current uniform”, the policy has not changed whereby pieces of the “old shirts” and the “current pants” for instance, is permitted. Since the transition is complete and the current uniform is plentiful the NEB pulled back on their decision in March of 2009. There was a brief note to that effect in SCOUTING’s “Front Line Stuff” and notices sent to Scout Shops(tm) as well as local Councils with traditional council-ran “Trading Posts”.

    As I commented earlier, she also commented on the NEB’s decision when we (the BSA) was having production quality problems with the shirts (lettering falling off after one or two machine washings; rips in the crouch areas of some of the pants, etc. etc.). It was a short-gapped effort, and was never intended to be anything but. Personally, I would LOVE to wear the older uniform shirts with the newer cargo pants; and the older uniform shirts with the even older shorts or long pants – I think that they feel better and work better for me and my body. However, I also know that the BSA wants us to take advantage of the current uniform — expensive it may be — and wear the complete uniform correctly.

    Thanks for responding!! I do appreciate your comments!!!

  3. avatar
    Doug Morris 10 July 2013 at 18:40 #

    I dislike the current uniform pants. The zip off legs hit me right at the knees. I have had trouble with my knees and the uniform really bothers me.
    I wish they would change back. I wear the old uniform complete just for that reason.

  4. avatar
    Mike C 18 September 2015 at 16:13 #

    My grandson, who just crossed over the bridge now wears my 1955 BSA garrison cap with his current BSA uniform. Not only does it look good, but it brings continuity between our Scout experiences. Hey it’s grandpas Scouting hat!

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