The Uniform

Boy_Scouts_of_America_uniform_1974As a Scout Leader we rely on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting, Citizenship, Character, and Fitness. The methods are an important part of the process to reach our youth and move them towards being good adults.
“The Boy Scouts of America has always been a uniformed body. Its uniforms help to create a sense of belonging. They symbolize character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Wearing a uniform gives youth and adult members a sense of identification and commitment.” BSA Official Uniform Policy from the Uniform and Insignia Guide 2014
The uniform is but one of those methods, but an important one to be sure. The uniform is the great equalizer. It puts all of us in Scouting on the same playing field. It identifies us as a member of the organization or team. When a football team takes the field, each player, while he has different skills, talents, and role on the team is part of the greater team. Each player dresses in the uniform of the team, to be unified in a common goal (playing and winning the game) and to be identified while on and off the field. Could you imagine a “come as you are” football game? You would have a hard time knowing who is on what team and in the heat of the game team mates may get confused as to who was sharing their goal.
In Scouting, Baden Powell established uniforming early on. Baden Powell once said “The uniform makes for brotherhood, since when universally adopted it covers up all differences of class and country.” The uniform was greater than the individual. That is the idea also with sports teams, military organizations, and yes Scouting.
Now there are arguments on how important the uniform is today and whether or not our Scouts should have to wear them. The answer is simple.. yes, they should wear them, it is a part of Scouting. As much as advancement, adult interaction, and the out door program. The methods are time tested and important to the completion of our aims.
So what about the uniform? What is “the uniform”?
The Field Uniform also known as the “Class A” (an inappropriate term, but one that is commonly used by Scouters) consists of the uniform shirt appropriate to the program (Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing and Sea Scouts). Adults wear the tan shirt or green shirt depending on their program and of Sea Scout leaders wear the appropriate uniform shirt. The official Scout pants, again those which go with the program level, socks and Scout belt.
The belt can be of any Scouting activity, the socks also can be of any variety acquired through the Supply division. Once a uniform has been a part of Scouting, it is always a part of Scouting. It is inappropriate to mix and match, but lets say you have a full uniform from the 60’s and you want to wear it, according to BSA Policy, you may.
Which brings us to what the rules say. According to the Boy Scout Handbook and inspection sheet state the “Official Uniform” of the BSA is the Uniform Shirt, Official shirt or official long- or short-sleeve uniform shirt with green or blaze orange shoulder loops on epaulets (Blue for Cub Scout leaders). The troop/team may vote to wear a neckerchief, bolo tie, or no neckwear. In any case, the collar should be unbuttoned. The troop/team has the choice of wearing the neckerchief over the turned-under collar or under the open collar.
Pants/Shorts. Official pants or official uniform pants or shorts; no cuffs. (Units have no option to change.)
Belt. Official Boy Scout web with BSA insignia on buckle; or official leather with international style buckle or buckle of your choice, worn only if voted by the troop/team. Members wear one of the belts chosen by vote of the troop/team.
Socks. Official socks with official shorts or pants. (Long socks are optional with shorts.)
Effective Oct. 1, 2013, the official stance on the Boy Scouts of America’s uniform policy is that shirts are to be worn tucked in, regardless of whether the wearer is a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Venturer, or adult Scouter. All Sea Scout uniforms are designed to be tucked in except youth dress whites and youth dress blues. In the past, guidelines have simply stated the uniform wearer should be neat in appearance. Neatness includes tucking in the shirt. This update will appear in related resources, such as the uniform inspection sheets, as they are revised and printed.
The Boy Scouts of America feel that as Baden Powell did that the uniform is an important part of Scouting. It creates that level playing field and identifies us as part of the greatest youth organization in America.
As leaders in our units, we model that importance and demonstrate to our youth why the uniform is a part of Scouting. We wear our uniforms with pride and we wear it properly.
Questions about the uniform? Check out some of these links:
The uniform inspection sheet for Adult Scouters- http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34048.pdf
The Guide to Uniforms and Insignia – http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33066_Section1.pdf
And of course the BSA Supply Division- http://bsauniforms.org/
I encourage you to always wear your uniform properly and completely.  We set an example when we wear it right.  Just like the leadership principle of modeling expected behavior, our Scouts count on us to do the right thing and do it right.  The uniform method is a part of getting to the aims of Scouting.  We can not make up the rules as we go.

Just as I won’t compromise the other methods, we don’t compromise the uniform of our organization.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

6 comments

  1. Great clarification of the official uniform. I am saddened that so many units let their boys wear items that are not part of the uniform i.e. jeans. Even our local OA chapter allows jeans which to me is ridiculous. Jeans make the whole uniform look too casual and sloppy. I know that many units have expressed a need to keep costs down but the scout pants are not that expensive (less than the cost of a new video game) and most units have some sort of exchange. When my son was looking for a troop he only wanted to join one that wore the full uniform all the time. Even at 11 he realized the importance of conveying the proper scout appearance.

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  2. Hi Jerry,

    I have heard scouters say that the uniform is too frail to wear when camping. Others say the newer uniforms are ideal for camping, and encourage scouts to wear the uniform through out camping trips. Most troops I have seen wear the uniform shirt in the car to the outing, and then pack it away and wear clothing they don’t worry about getting dirty.

    What do you do on camping trips. Do you encourage scouts to wear uniforms when camping?

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    1. We wear our uniforms to and from the camp outs. We wear the Scout pants all the time. Shirts stay in the car.
      The Scout uniform is called the Field uniform.. it is not frail in the woods. It is not always the best to wear in all situations, but we wear them.
      Getting dirty.. wash them.
      Thanks for the comment Allan

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  3. I think we must be a little careful when we talk about uniforms. I do wear the full uniform. I encourage the scouts to do the same. However, since there are only 2 instances were the uniform is required I worry about statemwnta like “allow jeans.” The uniform is one of the 8 methods of scouting, or 12.5%. But it os no more required than advancement. I like the uniform and want the scouts to wear it. We do “require” the shirt when traveling to and from any activities and have had some instances where a scout “forgot” his. He still went.
    Jerry, I also have to say thank you for posting your blog. I find it encouraging and use much of what you ppst to encourage this troop to stretch thier limits and find new and challanging adventures.

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    1. Scott, You are correct in that there is no “requirement” to wear the uniform. And in no case would we ever penalize a Scout for not wearing it.
      My point is WHY we wear the uniform and in that discussion I feel that we do not need to “be careful” when we talk about it. You will also note that the discussion was (is) geared to us adults and the example we set by wearing the uniform and wearing it properly.
      There are no excuses NOT to wear the uniform. The price is not outrageous and it promotes the methods and Scouting’s Ideals. Choosing not to wear the uniform sends the message that it is not important. It is important as a method.. just as important as the rest. I do not weigh the importance of the 8 methods against each other.. I practice them equally.
      Thanks for the comment and discussion.. that is why we do this blog.

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