Ralph Lauren and The Boy Scouts of Nippon.


There are vintage finds that make you cry tears of joy. There are vintage finds (mostly of the stained variety) that make you weep for what could have been. And then there are vintage finds that simply leave you scratching your head. A few weeks back, in a downtown consignment store I came upon a vintage find so confounding, so downright unexpected that it has sent me on a quest. The shirt itself was nothing out of the ordinary. Two front pockets, patches on each sleeve, epaulettes up top, really, it looked like any old scouting shirt. Which is why I was drawn to it. Why was this shirt here? Why would a store that sells everything Thom Browne, Rick Owens, and Junya Watanabe be selling a regular old Boy scout shirt? And then I saw the tag. “Boy Scouts of Nippon Designed By Ralph Lauren.”


Now, like any good suburban raised kid, I of course was familiar with the Boy Scouts of America, but I’d never heard of these Boy Scouts of Nippon before. I didn’t even know that there were scouts outside of America, let alone the fact that they would have uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren. And so, I took to the internet, where I discovered that the Boy Scouts of Nippon were founded in 1922 as the Boy Scouts of Japan, twelve years after the Boy Scouts of America were created. In 1971, they changed their name to the Boy Scouts of Nippon, and from what I understand, it was in the nineties that they contracted Ralph Lauren to do their uniforms. And this is where the trail runs cold. I have no idea why the BSN hired Ralph Lauren, nor could I figure out if he designed the uniforms himself, or if this contract was merely a licensing deal. What I have been able to discover though is that the BSN not only had RL approved uniforms, but they also had some pretty incredible graphics as well. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts of Nippon do not have a public archive (nor does Ralph Lauren) but here a few items that I was able to collect from the around the internet to give a sense of what the BSN was like back when their uniforms read “Designed By Ralph Lauren.”




$_57 (1)



Comments on “Ralph Lauren and The Boy Scouts of Nippon.

    John C on October 20, 2014 9:28 AM:

    It’s not that unusual. The US Scout uniforms worn from 1980 to 2008 were designed by Oscar de la Renta.
    You really didn’t know that there were Boy Scouts outside of America? The concept of youth scouting does not originate in America to begin with, but from the UK.

    BlueTrain on October 20, 2014 9:30 AM:

    Hugo Boss supposedly designed German army uniforms back in the 1930s.

    Daniel on October 20, 2014 11:15 AM:

    That’s pretty cool. That Oscar de la Renta knowledge is mind expanding also. Always have loved those two front snap pockets attached to the waist pockets, now I know who to thank for it.

    baz on October 20, 2014 11:48 AM:

    I did the Ralph Lauren/BSN project in an earlier life, can tell you anything you need to know about it. BTW, this collaboration was initiated by Akio Morita, the late head of Sony, who was a big patron of BSN.

    David S. on October 20, 2014 1:37 PM:

    It’s a groovy looking shirt (the last pic). All cotton? Even with patches I’d pick one up in my size.

    Randy Katz on October 20, 2014 3:09 PM:

    Not supposedly. He designed the uniforms for the Hitler Youth and the SS. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Boss.

    Ray Hull on October 20, 2014 4:30 PM:

    Love the campaign hats (ca 1918) with the knee socks and the 70s Asics.

    Have you seen today’s BSA scouts? They look like they found the shirt at the Salvation Army and threw it on over whatever else they had/found. Discipline isn’t the creed anymore.

    Nicholas on October 20, 2014 9:32 PM:

    Interesting to see that Ralph made BS(J) uniforms, learned something new today. The only thing that seems weird to me is that the uniforms are made in China. Japan has a very protective economy and to have clothing for the Boy Scouts made outside of the country seems weird. Japan and China do not have the greatest historical relationship either; basically they hate each other do to Japans past atrocities in China. I would love to hear what information @baz could pass on.

    Jati on October 21, 2014 2:53 AM:

    Dear Michael

    This is one fascinating post, perhaps one of your better ones in a while. It’s unique, educational and still related to all things menswear and Americana.
    The comments from educational too for the most part.

    Michael Williams on October 21, 2014 10:02 AM:

    Jati — You have Jake to thank for this post. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Dan on October 23, 2014 11:34 AM:

    I’m sure it’s a reach but you wouldn’t mind divulging the name on that consignment shop?

    hiram on October 24, 2014 5:14 AM:

    “Made in China” is the most hilarious part.

    TaVaris on November 6, 2014 7:11 PM:

    People are commenting on how the shirt’s tag says “made in China” but one should realize that a lot of products made for the Japanese domestic market in the 80’s were made in China. They outsourced their manufacturing to China for the same reasons the U.S. did so in the 90’s. It was simply cheaper. Take the Super Famicom for example; it was made in China while the version exported to the U.S. (Super Nintendo) was made in Japan.

    Hazen Pingree on November 10, 2014 1:06 PM:

    I thought the scouts in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom had pretty smashing gear.

Comments are closed.