Design of the Times
By John Clark
New fabric, new colors, new functions -- get moving in the BSA's redesigned high-performance uniform.
Don’t you hate being hot, sticky, and uncomfortable on camping trips? If so, you’re going to love wearing the Centennial Boy Scout Uniform. You still might get hot, sticky, and uncomfortable, but you won’t blame the uniform.
Created with the active Boy Scout in mind, the BSA’s redesigned duds offer versatile, high-tech features that emphasize flexibility, durability, easy care, and functionality -- not to mention a more contemporary sense of color.
Focus-group opinions and feedback from Boy Scouts of all ages, adult leaders, and parents led the redesign team from the Boy Scout Division and the National Supply Group to start planning changes after the successful rollout of the BSA’s nylon, vented action shirt in 2005, and the introduction of Switchback pants in 2006.
“The current uniform has been criticized for being somewhat unfriendly to activity,” explains George Trosko, director of the Boy Scout Division. “It seems to have been designed for people to stand around in, not for people engaged in activities. So we set out to create a uniform that’s not just different in appearance, but one that’s better suited for movement.”
That begins with the fabric.
Feel the difference
You can go with the uniform’s new look in the more traditional cotton-rich poplin shirts or canvas pants, but check out the khaki shirts and dark, forest-green trousers made of Supplex nylon, a durable microfiber fabric that dries quickly and resists the wind. It breathes to keep you cool, repels water to keep you dry, and feels lightweight enough to keep you comfortable from morning to night.
Add a pair of the uniform socks, either crew or low-cut (no more knee-highs), with moisture-wicking capabilities and an elasticized arch support. They'll help eliminate those pesky hot spots that can turn into blisters on the trail. Why?
Designers fashioned the socks with SenSura polyester and nylon that’s softer than combed cotton and dries three times faster than either regular polyester or wool. The reinforced toe and heel extend the sock’s longevity and enhance your comfort.
Even your favorite Thorlo brand hiking socks offer added features. A side ventilation panel wicks moisture, and additional cushioning in the instep provides better arch support.
Power to the pockets
Who hasn’t struggled with how to fit their gotta-have-gadget, including digital camera, cell phone, or handheld Global Positioning System (GPS), into a uniform pocket? Well, struggle no more.
Bellows shirt pockets -- two on the chest, and one on the left sleeve—offer more room, and they secure with handy hook-and-loop closures. Designers also added drain holes so that pockets can dry out even faster.
The redesigned long-sleeve shirts feature inside buttons and tabs, as well as outside loops to ensure the sleeves stay neatly in place when you roll ’em up. And all the centennial uniform shirts feature back pleats and hem vents for better range of motion.
For durability, the new shirts offer double-needle construction and for comfort, there’s a stand-up collar to provide a bit of sun shading on the neck.
The universal-size, fly-front Switchback pants now come in “classic fit” (straight leg) and “relaxed fit” (roomier through the seat and thigh), with unfinished hems instead of zippers for setting custom-lengths. The roomy bellows cargo pockets, deep enough to accommodate your Fieldbook or the 2010 Centennial edition of The Boy Scout Handbook, due next fall, feature drain holes and the front ones have a standard-issue, quick-drying micromesh.
The belt’s different, too. Gone is the shiny brass belt buckle, replaced by a gray-metal mechanism embossed with the BSA’s fleur de lis and fastened by a flip-up latch and claw-tooth ratchet.
From head to toe, though, what really stands out most is the redesigned uniform’s color scheme.
“Many people find the current uniform way too colorful, with multihued neckerchiefs and loads of red everywhere,” Trosko says. “In considering changes, we ran the gamut from a monochromatic uniform in the traditional Boy Scout colors of khaki and green to having less insignia, no insignia, or full insignia. I believe the changes take us closer to a uniform more boys will want to wear.”
Red might not be dead, but Trosko points out that emblem numbers, shoulder epaulet loops, and the cap have changed to a rich forest green. And alterations continue the color and functionality themes on the Scout cap with a complementary green BSA emblem on the crown and solid adjustable back panel instead of the old mesh and plastic closure.
“We’ll always have some colorful patches,” Trosko adds. “But in the spirit of toning down the color, we plan to migrate toward changing more of the insignia to green-on-khaki in the months ahead. And we encourage troops that use neckerchiefs to select muted colors that work well with the forest green.”
New details, new features, new colors are all available now from local Scout Supply distributors or online at www.scoutstuff.org. And the uniform items are transitional, so you can mix and match the present and the future.
Much has changed in Scouting -- and in America -- since the military-style uniforms of the early 20th century and later evolutions toward more practical, field-ready hats, shirts, coats, and stockings that defined the BSA “look” from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.
Oscar de la Renta’s designs launched the modern update of that look for the 1980’s and beyond, with short- or long-sleeve khaki shirts, red-ribbon epaulets, olive-green pants loaded with utility pockets, and a baseball-style cap. In other words, what you’re wearing today.
“De la Renta’s uniform upheld Scouting’s image and made a valid statement that a Scout is a member of a special group,” Trosko says. “But just as times change, so do functionality and style. We wanted to improve on the look and create a more contemporary appearance.
“Using technological advances in high-performance fabrics, the Centennial Boy Scout Uniform gives a greater degree of comfort and functionality. We think this better addresses the outdoor experience and the 100th anniversary’s goal to continue the journey.”
John Clark is senior editor of Scouting magazine.