No matter how you feel about Ralph Lauren, there's no denying that he's a certified American menswear gawd. While you probably have a few pieces in your closet that bear the markings of one of his many offshoot lines, you might be sleeping on some of the greatest pieces yet: his incredibly rare scout uniforms, designed exclusively for Japan's Boy Scouts of Nippon. 

But why was Ralph designing Boy Scout uniforms? Well, when you consider that Oscar de la Renta was designing American scout uniforms in the 1980's, and Hugo Boss was designing German army uniforms back in the 1930's and '40s, it's not that far of a stretch to imagine a high-fashion name on the tag of your local Boy Scouts chapter.

As for why Lauren was designing for the Boy Scouts of Nippon, well, that's a little harder to pin down. As A Continous Lean pointed out back in 2012, there's very little information to be found from either the Boy Scouts of Nippon or Ralph Lauren sides of the story—neither maintains a robust public archive of their past apparel. What is known, is that the Boy Scouts of Nippon tapped Lauren to design their uniforms sometime in the 1990's; right around the time the Scouts dropped their old uniform (a year-round kit outfitted with a tan shirt, knee socks, and shorts) and switched to a version that swapped out the shorts in place of pants.

 

Japanese Boy Scouts at work. Their shirts closely resemble those designed by Ralph Lauren for the Boy Scouts of Nippon

 

While the information on the uniforms' design history may be sparse, there are plenty of retailers flipping the old uniforms on eBay, even today. Major design indicators are the epaulets on the shoulders; two flap-closure chest pockets; set on a short sleeve shirt. If you're trying to buy one for yourself on the resale market, keep in mind that—while used by scouts in Japan—the uniforms were made in China. Much of Japan's manufacturing, like in the United States, was outsourced to China in the '80s and '90s to save on production costs. 

 


 

Noting Japan's well-documented affinity for Americana, it makes sense that they'd tap one of America's biggest designers to update their uniforms.