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Weekly Discussion: Fashion is over quickly, style is forever


Veteran (100+ posts)
…Or why was JB uniform so popular?

The last thread was a little heavy so I thought this was could be a bit more lighthearted.

There is no other way of saying it. Whether you like it or not the Jeff Banks uniform is iconic. It was a shift away from the previous uniform and certain elements are very “of their time”. The debate over and inclusion of a baseball cap may arguably be responsible for a hat no longer being a part of Guiding uniform.

The uniform seems to be popular to the extent that only in the last two years or so have CHQ stopped putting reminders that JB has ceased being official/appropriate uniform in the essentials catalogue(2009 it stopped being acceptable?). Lots of leaders still wear pieces in a way that apparently didn’t happen as much as previous uniform change overs.

What made it so popular that even now leaders want to still wear it regularly?
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Brownie-induced madness
I wonder if it was the shift from something "smart" to something "practical"? I'm not sure if JB had leader uniform trousers but my understanding is that before that there was only a skirt which must have been a pain! So the shift from "official skirt" to "trousers/anything" may have meant everyone stocked up, happily ditched the airline hostess hat, and then hung on to it.

I am a post-JB leader though (just about to get my 10 year badge).

Though maybe it just lasted well?

I still have some JB Brownie sweatshirts/joggers in the cupboard for emergencies. My unit also started post-JB so nobody has ever worn them as main uniform (except maybe one or two struggling to buy uniform trousers, as my understanding was that this was less crucial than a top).


Veteran (100+ posts)
I think endurance might be the main factor. Something like a jumper or rugby worn for a short period a week during certain months of the year and kept in good condition can last years. Some of the uniform is also very similar. The current polo design is from JB days, the trefoil and shade of blue has been adjusted. I can see why if it’s in good nick and clearly Guiding why someone may want to hang on- we are supposed to encourage thrift and responsible waste reduction aren’t we…so why buy a new polo for the sake of a small trefoil difference?…

On the flip side: Lots of areas don’t offer money towards uniform or a unit cannot readily afford to spend £60 on buying all its leaders the newest kit. So a cross over period is understandable- and I don’t think that there is any unit left now where all the leaders still regularly wear JB to normal meetings.

It can also be perceived as slightly ambiguous what can and can’t still be worn. The current “manual page” Volunteer clothing and uniform simply lists links to the shop and doesn’t specify that it means the most recent versions (I have seen this argued). The section on listing what’s “causal wear” (JB, older fleece designs, discontinued leader uniform) no longer exists and was useful!


Veteran (100+ posts)
It was easy to wear for different sizes, washed well, kept it's shape and as you didn't sew anything on to it (sashes!) then easy to pass down/resell. I loved my hoody, and then had the shirt which was smart, you could wear it with your sash and necker, or under a hoody for warmth.
The next lot of stuff faded badly, the necks shrunk and the t-shirts got wider not longer!!!
It would be good if every year they put a page in the magazine with 'this is current official uniform. wear the rest of the stuff you have on camp!"


Veteran (100+ posts)
I was chatting to a fellow leader about this yesterday, I was a JB Brownie/Guide/YL and Guider! So some experience here!

So apart from it washed/ held its shape etc. Guider wise the jumper/cardie/ sweater /t-shirt/ shirt gave enough variety for all ages of Guider and the jumpers were warm!

I think also it was of its time, my other clothes all looked looked reasonably similar and yes even the bottoms were not too bad. I actually think the current girls uniforms have got that balance of uniform and style right again and I believe they wash better. I like the new Guide uniform (top half) on the girls and it looks smart with black trousers which the navy never did. It has taken a lot of trial and error though!

Guider wise bring back the JB I want to be warm again!


Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
I'm not sure anyone who had to wear the Guiders stripey blouse or skirt could describe them as style...not at least good style. I liked the woolen jumper. I think the main thing was the change in thinking that it had to be 'smart' alone...and the allowance that more practical choices could be permitted and popular with all.


Regular (50+ posts)
I returned to Guiding during the JB period. The previous leader's uniform was uncomfortable and never fitted me. It was made of manmade fabrics and the blouse was too short and rather sweaty. I hated the hat. I loved the new uniform which was much more practical and comfortable. Also we could wear trousers. I am happy with the current uniform apart from the Tshirt which shrinks.


At the time, it actually wasn't popular with Leaders in many cases. Some were enthusiasts, but a significant number were opposed, though they tholed. The reasons given for opposition were varied.

The concept of 'mix and match' was very controversial. Leaders were used to there being 'one uniform' with only minor variations (blouse with pinafore rather than blouse with skirt), now there was white polo or navy polo or striped shirt. There was navy zip jacket or sweatshirt - but pale blue jumper (and later, cardigan). So it didn't match at all. And for the bottom half the long or short culottes, the uniform suit skirt, the trousers and the joggers were all navy - but the cotton skirt was pale blue stripe! Hence the argument that it was no longer 'uniform' which still tends to rumble to this day.

Up to then, uniform had been 'one option for all occasions'. There was the blouse, there was the skirt, and there was the jacket. Regardless of whether it was a formal presentation or a muddy campfire, the one outfit was worn by all adults, so if you wore it, you would never be out of place. And though it might cost a bit to buy, you would get the wear out of it so the investment was justified. Whereas once mix-and-match arrived, more choice meant you found yourself buying more uniform and thus paying more - you might buy polo shirt and sweatshirt, with joggers or trousers, for wearing at weekly meetings. But at formal events you knew the County bigwigs would be wearing the skirt-suits - as they attended formal events regularly, they got more use out of suits, so could justify the expense.

For the younger age groups, it was far more expensive. In the past, Guide uniform had been a cotton blouse, a hat, a belt and a neckerchief and hat, usually worn with a school skirt from whichever high street store suited. It was inexpensive, and as it had changed only slightly since the 1950s, old uniform could be got away with and the second-hand market meant that uniform was affordable to all. A few weeks at a Saturday job could suffice. Brownies had a cotton frock, with hat, tie and belt - and again, previous styles were little different, so there was a good second-hand market. But now there was a need to buy both a polo or t-shirt and a sweatshirt - and joggers or culottes - and a sash, as well as the neckerchief. This was a massive increase in expense for Brownies and Guides compared to before - and of course, it was 2-3 years before any second-hand items became available at all.

Rainbows were left out. Other than a green baseball cap which they could wear with their tabard, there was no change for them at all.

For Senior Section, there were also problems - a blue sweatshirt with 'Rangers' emblazoned across the front was not a good choice for Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Young Leaders only had a t-shirt, the plain sweatshirt or the shirt, as the other top was Ranger only.

Baseball caps weren't of themselves controversial in my area - there was more questioning of why there was a hat at all. They accepted that in the late 1960s when the last big uniform change had occurred, there were still sectors of the country where it was considered the norm to wear a hat when outdoors, but it was already declining rapidly. Now in the late 1980s/early 1990s there was no such expectations, even in the more conservative circles in society, hence the questioning over why a hat (of any sort) was still included as part of uniform, even if now an optional part?

Why is it apparently popular now? Nostalgia. Yes, you do still see people in 20-year-old uniform garments in some places, with threadbare seams and cracking elastic. And you do find yourself wondering what message they are trying to send by doing it? And you wonder, is that a positive thing in a forward looking youth movement?


Guide Guider and District Commissioner
It was quite controversial when it came in. How could Guides attend Church Parade without a hat and skirt? It was disrespectful. Later on it was replaced by the horrid T-shirt, short sweatshirt or rugby shirt all of which faded dreadfully and looked scruffy from the second time of wearing (I’m talking Guide section now) so lots of units carried on wearing the JB as long as they could.


Veteran (100+ posts)
I was a nearing the end of being guide age when the JB uniform came in. The change from a tight blue shirt to comfy polo was very welcome and better suited to a variety of body shapes and activities. The introduction of culottes was I felt was brilliant! Not being a skit wearer by choice the culottes still looked smart like a skirt but far more practical and warm for parades etc.

The sash, I seem to remember received very mixed reviews. Some thought it was a shame not to still have badges on the uniform, others thought they were a nuisance - always falling off and getting lost. Other ( mostly the more developed ones) didn't like wearing them across their chest. But for official occasions I always felt very proud putting on my sash.

A few people have mentioned about the caps - on an international trip to Italy they were great. Kept the sun off and helped us to spot member of our group in a crowd. I know hats aren't to everyone's taste but the number of events or activities where I've asked the girls to 'bring a sun-hat'. We're all much more aware of protection from the sun and I'm sure there would be a place for an 'official' guide sun hut to go with todays uniform.


Veteran (100+ posts)
I love the JB uniform. I was a Brownie at the time, but I wore the guide JB as a guide as it was still in the change over period and we had to make do. I have since collected some Ranger uniform, and I love that too. It's so iconic without being impractical. And it's wonderfully 90s.

I love that all the sections (excluding rainbows) had the same items and the same idea - a hoodie or jumper, with the trefoil and section name across the front. A polo, in the section colour, with a trefoil. Baseball caps for all. It's so simple, and worked so well. You knew exactly who was who, you could recognise them as one organisation, and it was practical and modern. Isn't that what we want from a uniform?


Beginner (10+ posts)
I've still got my JB jumper and it's worn amazingly well, much better than the current hoodie which looked faded after the third wash. In fact I've got so many different Girlguiding jumpers, fleeces and hoodies that I'm thinking of upcycling them into a new camp blanket.


Veteran (100+ posts)
I've still got my JB jumper and it's worn amazingly well, much better than the current hoodie which looked faded after the third wash. In fact I've got so many different Girlguiding jumpers, fleeces and hoodies that I'm thinking of upcycling them into a new camp blanket.
That sounds so cool! If you do make it please share a pic with us?


Veteran (100+ posts)
I wonder why the quality dramatically changed? I know that we try and have ethical suppliers, materials and processes…was there a change in manufacturing?


Brownie-induced madness
I was a pre-JB Brownie and the dress was hideously impractical. There was absolutely no way it would last from 7 to 10 unless either the 7 year olds were tripping over it or the 10 year olds were busting out of it both top and bottom. I remember my mum and other parents moaning like mad that you sewed on the badges and to add insult to injury you had to sew them ALL on again when your daughter grew, as well as buying a new dress.
It was very hard to get the larger dresses second hand as some didn't bother (just showed their knickers) and many gave up at 9.
The switch to tops (and school trousers/skirts if you couldn't afford bottoms) I'm sure was very welcome among Brownie parents, especially as at first all badges went on a sash.

My son is a Beaver and quite small for his age - his official top is a jumper that fits rather like a hoodie fits a Brownie/Rainbow i.e. it can be pretty large and still not be impractical (unlike a dress). I'm hopeful he'll have the same one till he's nearly 8!


Brownie-induced madness
(And the woven Guide blouses were the same - a little 10 year old became a busty 13 year old and however large the blouse was at the start, buttons began to pop. Stretch tops are better, or sashes).


(And the woven Guide blouses were the same - a little 10 year old became a busty 13 year old and however large the blouse was at the start, buttons began to pop. Stretch tops are better, or sashes).
Please, not sashes. They can be okay on the slim, but they do nothing for any solidly built older Guides. They end up littering the floor when they fall off at best.


Brownie-induced madness
Ah now I've only had sashes with skinny little Brownies - and yes they come off, but they can't come off any more if you've asked them to put them away after Brownie Ring.