Boys' Brigade Uniforms


The Boys Brigade originated in Scotland. It was the first uniformed youth orgaisation in the world. Sir William Alexander Smith founded the Boys Brigade on October 4, 1883 when he formed a company of 35 Boys at Free Church Mission Hall, North Woodside Road, Glasgow. William Smith, a Sunday School teacher and an officer of the 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteers devised a unique system of church activities for boys based on religion and discipline. Initially, 59 Boys joined, many out of curiosity but 35 of them stayed. Smith introduced simple form of drill, gymnastics and games and these proved very popular. The uniform for the first year was a rosette; afterwards the forage cap, haversack and belt were introduced. Their activities were soon added and in 1886 the first Boys' Brigade camp was held. It was, in fact, the start of camping for young people. From one small Scottish company, the Boys' Brigade has grown into a worldwide organisation with companies in over 60 countries.

Following the success of The Boys' Brigade, other uniformed organisations were started which were more secular in nature or associated with other religions. The early Boys' Brigade was strongly associated with the Church of Scotland and subsequent with the Church of England as the movement spread to England. Other groups included: Church Lads' Brigade (1890), Boys Life Brigade (1899), The Jewish Lads' Brigade (1900), Catholic Boys' Brigade (1900), Girls' Guildry (1900), Girls Life Brigade (1902), the Boy Scouts (1908) and the Girl Guides (1910). All of these orgaisations can trace the idea of uniformed youth back to 1883 and William Smith.

Motto: Sure & Stedfast taken from Hebrews 6:19. The biblical spelling of stedfast has been retained.

Emblem: The emblem was originally an anchor. Like the motto, it stems from the verse "which hope we have as an anchor of the soul..."(Hebrews 6:19). With the union of The Boys' Brigade and The Boys' Life Brigade in 1926, a red cross was added to the anchor.


THe Boys' Brigade uniforms are much more standard around the world than Scout uniforms which have adopted uniforms incorporating various aspects of national dress. The Boys' Brigade uniforms is generally blue foraging caps, blue shirt, and blue pants. Initially short pants were generally worn, but most groups now wear long pants. Shorts and knee socks are still commonly worn in New Zealand. Many Boys' Brigade units have pipe bands, reflecting the Scotish origins of the organization. The bands generally wear kikts.

Note: Space limitations do not permit me to provide more information on the Boys' Brigade uniforms around the world or photographs of the uniforms. There is, however a great deal of additional information and many historical photographs on the expanded Boys Historical Clothing web site. For details click here >>>>>> Expanded Site.

Christopher Wagner

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