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Which uniform is which?

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  • Which uniform is which?

    I still wear my pre-centenial shirt and pants made of cotton-poplin blend. I've been wanting to get a newer set but I'm not sure which one is which. I see some boys wearing a shirt with what looks like a vented yolk across the back. Others with a short sleeve shirt with a buttoned tab hanging off the end of the sleeve.
    What am I looking at? I can't find pics online of the backs of BSA shirts or other details other than like what's posted on the scoutstuff website.

  • #2
    Ok, long story short, the ODL uniform ( circa 1980-2008), the Centennial Uniform, (circa 2008 - present) and microfiber uniform shirt (2010 to present) all are interchangeable. You can wear an ODL shirt, with CU pants. and vice versa. Heck you ALL ( emphasis, not shouting) elements of the uniforms are interchangeable per national instructions, so you can probably get away with the red loops and numbers on the new shirts.


    • #3
      I know they're all still valid for wear. What I'm asking is how to identify each one. I don't have access to a Scout Shop and will have to order everything online.
      Which shirt has the vented yolk? Which has the seemingly useless tabs on the end of a short sleeve shirt? Which long sleeve shirt has buttoned tabs when rolling up the sleeves?


      • #4
        Are you a collector? I can no longer keep track. All I know all the changes provides me opportunities for clearance items. Still the old made in USA items I have still going strong...


        • #5
          No, not a collector per se, except for what I've gathered through my own experiences over the years. Just wanting to know which uniform I'm looking at.


          • #6
            i have access to local scout store and i still can't keep track of new shirts. not that i go there often. centennial shirt has changed. now it has embossed BSA and no sleeve pocket. microfiber shirt changed few times in last few yrs. by the way, the quality of the shirts has gone down a bit on both poplin and microfiber.


            • #7
              . . . Did you try looking at the photos or reading the item descriptions?

              Which shirt has the vented yolk? AND
              Which has the seemingly useless tabs on the end of a short sleeve shirt? I've never seen a short-sleeve shirt matching this description, maybe you just saw a long-sleeve shirt with the sleeves button into the short position.
              Which long sleeve shirt has buttoned tabs when rolling up the sleeves?


              • kjmillig
                kjmillig commented
                Editing a comment
                I guess I missed the fine print description on
                The short sleeved shirts I saw were indeed short sleeved shirts and had a seemingly useless buttoned tab hanging off the ends of the sleeves. I saw it on only 2 boys so I'm wondering if they were unofficial shirts.

              • Scouter99
                Scouter99 commented
                Editing a comment
                It's probable that they were just khaki shirts they found somewhere; I've never seen or heard of short sleeve BSA field uniform shirts with tabs.

            • #8
              I'm a little surprised that somebody out there hasn't published a comprehensive history of the BSA uniforms on a web site someplace....
              I'm not really a collector, but I would find such a thing an interesting read for sure....


              • #9
                Originally posted by blw2 View Post
                I'm a little surprised that somebody out there hasn't published a comprehensive history of the BSA uniforms on a web site someplace....
                I'm not really a collector, but I would find such a thing an interesting read for sure....
                There's a history up to the 1980s here:

                Unfortunately, it skips the updates/changes between the introduction of shorts in the 20s to the adoption of the OdlR uniform in the 80s. There was a brown short-sleeve shirt (alternate to the 4-pocket military-style canvas jacket) as early as the 20s, and those continued until the ~40s. Shorts were also introduced as per the article.

                So, the following history of the intervening years is written simply from observations of my collection:

                In the 1940s, the big doughboy jacket and billowed breeches were discontinued, and replaced with green long- and short-sleeve shirts, overseas cap, green pants and shorts, and green canvas gaiters or knee socks. It was officially against the Uniform Guide to hem or cuff the pants, instead, you wore the gaiters and bloused the pants above them, so there was no need to hem the pants (and BSA sold more gaiters ).
                Sometime between the 40s-early 60s, the collarless shirt was introduced alongside the collared shirt.
                These uniforms were made with 100% Sanforized cotton.
                Patches were embroidered on squares of the same material.

                Sometime in the 60s, the uniform switched from 100% cotton to a blend of 65% Dacron polyester 35% cotton. The color was changed from green to olive.
                Collarless shorts apparently prevailed in the hearts of Scouts, but collared versions of both long- and short-sleeved shirts were still produced. (Some guys who only ever owned a collarless shirt will insist to the point of shouting that only collarless shirts were available, but I have physical possession of collared shirts from the period, so those guys can bite me.)
                The overseas cap persisted, but a Mao-style cap was also introduced in the 70s at the same time the red beret was introduced for wear by the Leadership Corps. There was also a weird winter hat with a knit cap rear and baseball-style front.
                Webbing belts had the same brass buckles you're probably familiar with from the 80s/90s, but instead of the universal emblem, you could change out your buckle with the emblem of each rank on it.
                I'm unsure about the fate of gaiters in this post-cotton period. I haven't ever seen gaiters in the new olive color, and by this time boots with high tops were prevailing over the Buster Browns-style shoes which absolutely needed a gaiter to keep mud out.
                Knee socks were held up with elastic/leather sock garters, with little tabs that showed at the calf; dark green tabs for Boy Scouts, red tabs for Explorers.
                Rank patches were given an overhaul with the "Improved Program" and made very colorful, and were on the oval shape patch we still use.

                In the early 80s, the Oscar de la Renta uniform was introduced. The fabric was the same as the 1960s and 70s: 65/35 poly/cotton and don't ever let anyone tell you different.
                The collarless shirt was retired, and a replaced with a new collared khaki shirt with tabs/epaulettes added to the shoulders to distinguish which program the wearer was from (Cubs, Scouts, Varsity, District, National, etc). 100% cotton shirts were available by special order.
                Pants/shorts were made a darker olive drab, also 65/35. Following the style of the 80s, the shorts were extremely short--when sitting, they were make-sure-your-scrotum-is-not-showing short. National played around with the pockets every few years, sometimes adding or removing small 4th- and 5th snap-close pockets on the thigh.
                Fast-dry convertible pants were introduced 1 or 2 years before the switch to the Centennial Uniform; they came with a built-in black belt with black plastic buckle; some were sewn in, some were removable.
                The red beret and ugly Mao cap were discontinued, and a trucker cap was introduced (still ugly).
                The belts remained the same with a new darker olive drab color, and the buckles were simplified to just the universal emblem.
                Socks were topped with a red band and offered in crew, ankle, and knee lengths. Gaiters were definitely dead if not earlier. Knee socks were topped with elastic, eliminating the garters.
                The tooty-fruity rank patches were given plain khaki backs.
                A very short-lived Activity Uniform was introduced in the 80s: White BSA-branded socks, khaki shorts, and a red polo. If you've got a copy of the "Trail to Eagle" book from the time, you can see scouts wearing it in a few photos.

                The Centennial Uniform was the latest overhaul of the uniform. It sought to make the uniform more field-friendly by using more sophisticated fabrics (different weaves, but still 64/35 poly/cotton), adding cargo pockets to the shirt and pants, and adopting the convertible experiment; no shorts were offered.
                The OdlR two-tone concept was kept, with the bottoms' green changing to a deeper forest green, and shirts retaining khaki. All red was removed (epaulettes, socks, troop numerals.)
                A new hat was created which is a true baseball cap.
                The long-sleeve short added loops to allow the sleeve to be fastened into a rolled-up position. A small hole inside the sleeve pocket was meant to allow for headphones (but the hole was too small for the jack end of any/every pair of headshones I've ever owned to fit through.)
                After a couple years, a Nylon shirt was introduced as a more heat-friendly option to the regular shirt; it dries quickly and has a back vent.
                After a few years, a shorts option was re-introduced with green quick-drying shorts that are meant to double as swimming trunks. Some came with a mesh liner built in, some came without (seems to be luck-of-the-draw); all come with a black draw string, and a plastic zip-seal "pocket" attached inside one of the cargo pockets to keep water-sensitive stuff safe.
                Socks also received the tech-wear overhaul and come with arch support and wicking fabric, still offered in crew, ankle, and knee lengths.

                Confusion was rampant with the Centennial Uniform because promotional materials showed some patches in new positions, but no official update to the Uniform and Insignia Guide accompanied the release. It was about a year before the uniform guide was updated, it might have been longer or less than a year (after several months I stopped looking regularly). Confusion also lingered over whether or not red numerals (which were discontinued for Boy Scouts but retained for Cubs) could/should be worn on the Centennial shirt, as well as the red Trained patch (also discontinued/retained for Scouts/Cubs) and red epaulettes.
                Particularly contentious was whether or not OdlR and Centennial uniforms, with their very similar color scheme, could be mixed and matched. The general rule is that uniforms can be worn until they're worn out, but that different uniforms (doughboy, 40s-50s, 60s-80s, OdlR, Centennial) should not be mixed. But, BSA made clear by 2008 that the Centennial uniform was designed to be "transitional" ( and could be mixed with the OdlR uniform. The difference here is clear: previous uniform changes adopted entirely new color schemes that didn't match the old, but the Centennial and OdlR do not clash.
                Last edited by Scouter99; 12-27-2013, 12:33 PM.


                • #10
                  well there you go... Thanks Scouter99

                  add some photos in there an that would make a great Wikipedia entry!


                  • Scouter99
                    Scouter99 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Correction on myself, virtually every photo of Scouts--not "a few"-- in the 10th ed of the handbook shows them in the official Activity Uniform (khaki shorts/red polo/white socks), including the cover. They're only wearing the Field Uniform (khaki shirt/green bottoms/green socks) in photos showing "formal" things like flag handling.
                    I find it pretty strange that these uniforms didn't dominate given their very availability opposite complaints about the Field Uniform and BSA's obvious emphasis in the handbook. I can't even find them on eBay.