Leslie's Guiding History Site


Trefoil Guild Wear

You will notice that this page is named differently to the other 'clothing' pages on the website.  Deliberately so.  For in the UK at least, the Trefoil Guild has never had uniform, and that continues to be the case to this day.  Certainly, there used to be distinguishing marks.  And in more recent decades, a range of garments have been available.  But that's the thing - there was the armlet, the badge, and then the garments in red or blue or beige - but they were always optional and were never uniform, something which Trefoil Guild members were determined to maintain.  As such, in this section I can introduce you to some of the distinguishing marks or optional items, but these should be viewed in context - as things which people may have opted to wear in given eras, but would as likely not have . . .

Before there was Trefoil Guild, there were 'Old Guides' - yes, long before Trefoil Guild started in 1943.  For although the Ranger section had no upper age limit, and Rangers in their 20's, sometimes 30s, and in a few cases beyond, were known - most girls reached an age and stage when they felt it was time to move on.  If Guides was preparing you for active citizenship, and Rangers was preparing you to take your skills and interests into a wider world - then there had to come a time when you were as prepared as you were ever going to be, and you ought to stop training for it, and go get on and do it!  

At the same time, not everyone could be a Guider or Commissioner, and yet with the training the Guides and Rangers had received, there was a desire to keep the 'graduates' of Guiding in touch with the movement, so the "Society of Old Guiders" was formed in 1925, and later Guidons, who became "Old Guides", were formed.  "Old Guides" members who had been previously warranted as a Guiding Secretary, Commissioner or Guider were permitted to wear Guider uniform, with an "Old Guide" cockade in the hat - navy blue with a green and a red stripe - and an "Old Guide" tie, in navy, green and red stripe.  

It was in 1943 that Trefoil Guild was set up.  They were set up as an organisation which would be independent of Guiding, and as such, they did not wear Guiding Uniform.  The one distinguishing mark which was permitted, apart from the Tenderfoot badge, was a Trefoil Guild armband, which could be worn over the sleeve of clothing.  

These armbands do not appear to have been widely worn, and from then until the 2000s, the sole official distinguishing mark of Trefoil Guild members was their Promise Badge.

Of course, some individual Guilds opted to have leisurewear made for their members, especially from the 1980s onwards - often polo shirts or sweatshirts or neckerchiefs in either blue or red - but these were isolated groups making their own personal choices, not anything nationally recognised.  It was regularly made clear that Trefoil Guild was a non-uniformed group.

With the coming of Badge Tabs for Guiders in 1990, there was some pressure from Trefoil Guild members to introduce the option of a badge tab for them, so a tab was introduced, initially in red fabric, with gold lettering embroidered.  As the first tab design had no pin, it was up to members to attach it to clothing as they wished, either from behind with a safety pin, or by pinning their Promise Badge through both the tab and the fabric of garment below.  

Soon, a more regular badge tab with a pin was introduced, but it continued to be the case that the tabs were the only official wear item until the mid-2000s.

In the mid-2000s, optional clothing items for Trefoil Guild members were introduced by the Guiding Trading Service.  There was a polo shirt in either beige or red, a silky scarf with a red and blue pattern, and what was termed a 'jacket' - a longline knitted cardigan-style garment, in either red or mid-blue.  Though the chunky knit meant the garment could be warm, the difficulty was that it came as one standard length for all, which meant that on some members it didn't reach too far past the waist, whereas on others it was almost knee-length.  

By the mid-2010s the knitted jacket had been replaced by a zipped top in sweatshirt fabric, and following the introduction of a new lightweight large grey scarf in 2019, pressure from younger members in particular resulted in the introduction of the alternative option of a Trefoil Guild necker, in red with a gold-coloured edging, and with a logo embroidered in white on the back.  This was followed in 2021 by a fleece jacket, in blue.

But, as we said at the start, all of these are optional options.  Some members may choose to wear them, some may choose to get their own locally made garments made for their Guild, some members may choose not to wear any of these.  For Trefoil Guild is, and remains, a non-uniformed organisation.