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In the loop: A guide to square knots, and how to wear them

You’ve been awarded a square knot. Congratulations! Now what?

If you’ve been honored with one of the 34 square knots currently available (see the full list below), waste no time in sewing that badge of honor to your uniform. Though they don’t tell the whole story of a Scouter’s impact, these tiny rectangles provide great evidence of a volunteer’s efforts.

But before you dust off the sewing machine, read these tips:

Location, location, location: Knots should go over the left pocket, as seen from the wearer’s perspective. Line them up in rows of three in any order you choose. Typically, the knot you deem most important is worn on the bottom row on your right, but that’s your call. If your knot total isn’t divisible by three — aka you have a row of one or two knots — you can either center them in the row or keep them aligned to your right. The latter method means you won’t have to re-sew those knots if you get a new one.

Count to nine: If you’ve been a Scouter for some time, those knots could really stack up. How high they go above your pocket is up to you, but the BSA recommends wearing no more than nine — or three rows of three.

Don’t flip out: Yes, square knots have a right-side-up. The chart above explains the process of determining which end goes where. This can be tricky on single-color knots, but if you squint really hard you can tell which loop on the knot is above the other.

Which knot is which?: Let’s hope you can identify the knots on your own uniform, but it’s likely you’ll see a knot or two out in the field that you don’t recognize. Here’s a handy chart (click to enlarge): 

112 thoughts on “In the loop: A guide to square knots, and how to wear them

        • Mike, what’s your thoughts on the BSA’s guideline in this article, “Count to nine… How high they go above your pocket is up to you, but the BSA recommends wearing no more than nine – three rows of three.” I have heard that suggested limits of 12 and 15 have been given in the past. Do you still wear 20 or more?

        • Common sense and modesty should be a Scouter’s watchword here, Malcolm. The BSA’s recommendation of nine (three rows of three square knot insiginia pieces) assumes that the Scouter is around whereby the total number of “square knot pieces” are between 20 and 26 (as the goal is)…most volunteer Scouters will be eligible to wear roughtly half or ten within a 20 year period of time.

          There will be clearly a LOT of Scouters who will still be wearing more “knots” than those ten, especially a lot of Cub Scouters who are now serving as Venturing leaders or Commissioners. The “nine” is a RECOMMEDATION — NOT POLICY. Nobody can “make you” wear only a certain number…and as I wrote earlier, telling a 60 or 70 year old Scouter who clearly has “been there and done that” a whole lot longer than you or I, to “only wear nine of those things…” would tend to take it as a big slap in the face.

          For the record, I only wear 18 of the 23 “square knot items” associated with my Scouting over a 45-year (so far!) history. There are some I refuse to wear; others I have chosen not to wear; and my shirts will only accommodate 15 to 18 with the World Crest emblem. I do have shirts as Tom wrote with very little (one — NESA Lifetime Membership Eagle knot emblem) on those shirts. And the three “square knot items” — from Costa Rica, Iraq and the Netherlands — won’t ever find their way on a BSA shirt until I attend another World Jamboree.

        • Do you “refuse” to wear a certain emblem because it is a duplicate of another? I was just wondering why you used that word – you earned the right to wear it or to refuse to wear it, but the way you stated it this struck me funny.

  1. I for one feel that awards that are specific to one division of Scouting (Cubs, Boy Scouts, Venturing) should stay on that uniform. For instance, a Tiger Leader Award has little relevance or to do with being a Sea Scout Leader. Awards that are non specific, (such as an Honor Medal) could go on all uniforms.

    • That’s part of the reason for the consolidation, Mr. Bubbles. ALL of the various awards are appropriate to wear on ANY of the BSA’s field uniforms. Take for instance, your example. A current Sea Scouter who previously was a Tiger Cub Den Leader and have earned the old (training) award, should have enough pride to wear the cloth emblem (the “square knot”) with his or her Sea Scouting blues or whites.

      The problem is that the BSA decided a few years back that they were getting OUT of the “let’s make the knot emblems with all of the backgrounds we can” business. They decided that the default field uniform for ALL of our programs (even Sea Scouting!) is the khaki-tan uniform — therefore the insignia should carry that color background when all possible.

      It doesn’t look “neat” to have khaki-backgrounded insignia pieces on the Sea Scouting whites or the Venturing green uniform shirt…but by default, all adults can wear the khaki/tan uniform shirt with appropriate insignia denoting their “place in the movement” on that shirt.

  2. Why were the Cub knots eliminated? (Tiger den Leader, Pack Trainer, and a few others) Seems like there should be as much incentive as possible for adults to get involved. Obviously there is more to Scouting than knots, but I would think some adults appreciate them and look forward to receiving them.

    • The six Cub Scout (Training) Awards were discontinued along with some other items because there is no longer a need for separate Cub Scouting or Exploring awards.

      The three Den Leader (Training) Awards were consolidated into a single Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award, which may be earned as a Tiger Cub Den Leader, a Cub Scout Den Leader, or a WEBELOS Den Leader.

      The Pack Trainer (Training) Award was discontinued because the BSA is looking into a generic, across the board Unit Trainer and there will eventually be a separate training award (no “square knot”, just a training recognition) for those Trainers.

      In the meantime, the Pack Trainer and all other Cub Scouters at the Pack level can earn the Scouter’s Training Award as a Cub Scouter. This is a bit of “back to the future” because before the advent of the six Cub Scout (Training) Awards and their medallions, that’s how Cub Scouters were recognized for their training and performance.

      The Cubmaster will once again on the same “line” alongside the Scoutmaster, Coach, Advisor and Skipper…they will be able to earn the Scouter’s Key Award as a Cubmaster. In this way, when you see someone with the green and white square knot emblem, you know that they have earned the Key…regardless of program.

      Please remember Steve — the ACTUAL AWARD is the medal and certificate. The “square knot” is NOT the award — it just *represents the award* informally on the field uniform and you do NOT have to wear it.

      • Once my son was old enough I moved down my my Scoutmaster position and started working with Cub Scouts. As such I received the Den Leader awards along the way. Is there any policy for beginning to wear the Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award instead of the others? I actually don’t wear them because I prefer to keep my knots to a minimum.

        • The policy is when you earn the Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award, you are entited to wear the medal and the square knot insignia. There are new requirements for the Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award which are NOT the same as the requirements for the older Den Leader (Training) Award or the WEBELOS Den Leader (Training) Award.

          If you earned the earlier awards, you may continue to wear the older square knot insignia until they become unservicable. But no, there is no “one for one” piece which applies in this situation — you have to earn the new Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award because the requirements for doing so *are different*.

        • Mike,

          Wouldn’t the policy of the person earning the older award being eligble to wear the current emblem once their older emblems are unservicable? Examples of this include the Philmont White Bull and the Silver Fawn.

        • The Philmont White bull “cloth emblem” is an UNOFFICIAL item…it has never been approved by the BSA. As far as the Silver Fawn is concerned, there was NEVER a square knot insignia piece designed for the awad…holders of the Silver Fawn wore the Silver Beaver square knot emblem (because both are local Council awards…the Silver Beaver was “for the boys” and the Silver Fawn was “for the girls”. My have things changed from those days…

          As far as policy is concerned, the BSA only provided for two “square knots” to represent older awards — the second version of the Exploring Silver Award (the silver square knot on red/white/blue backgrounds) was also worn by holders of all of the earlier Exploring awards; additionally those holders of the Exploring Acheivement Award, the Young American Awards, and the Congressional Award.

          And because of an error, the square knot insignia representing the former Cub Scouter (Training) Award was originally the Den Leader Coach Training Award’s square knot insignia. It was the ONLY square knot insignia which could be worn TWICE (because the requirements for the Den Leader Coach Training Award and the Cub Scouter (Training) Award were different.

    • The George Meany Award was the only one of the several awards that were presented as the Community Organization Award that still had a separate knot. It is no longer listed at ScoutStuff, so it may have been discontinued as a separate knot.

        • Say I am an active Knights of Columbus (Catholic Group) Does many community stuff but isn’t listed as one for the Organization Award. I be happy to wear this knot on my shirt.

        • Hi Nick!!

          You wrote and commented: “Say I am an active Knights of Columbus (Catholic Group) Does many community stuff but isn’t listed as one for the Organization Award. I be happy to wear this knot on my shirt.”

          Then you need to contact your state and national KofC leaders and ask them to create a national award for Scouting community service. This is how the Rotarians, the Lions, the Masons, the Legionares and several other national organizations have done this for their Scouters and members. When the national award is created, then they need to contact the BSA’s Governmental and Community Service Task Force and ask them for inclusion into the BSA’s Community Service Awards program.

          It’s NOT “wearing the knot”, Nick. It is “receiving the award which has as a component, a uniform item for wear informally.”

  3. Another know that is not listed is the Speaker Bank award. Although the program is closed to new speakers, those who are already in the program can still earn the knot.

  4. For our Wood Badge presentation in the Fall 2011, we did one on the Adult Knot Program. We put together a “booklet” that is slightly out of date with the combining of several awards into one (Tiger, Cub, & Webelos Leader now have the same one with various devices to go on it), but it has some great information. From my research for our handout I did for the project, I found out about the James E. West award among others I had no idea bout.

  5. First as I’ve explained to the BSA’s editoral people several times, you guys have the *actual awards* — so SHOW THEM so that people know what they *look like*. The reason in part why I created my Badge and Uniform Site — and the “square knots” listings — is so people can see what they REALLY look like — and therefore know how to wear them properly!

    (Oh…the site? http://www.scoutinsignia.com/lsidek.htm

    Second, the reason why the Speakers’ Bank and Meany Award square knot emblems are NOT SHOWN on the listing…is because they are DISCONTINUED.

    There is a move to consolidate the various “square knot insignia” into some which makes a lot more sense. I disagree with Mr. Bubbles that we should have “some awards just for Cub Scouters” and others “just for Boy Scouters.” We’re SCOUTERS and many of us transition between various programs within the BSA. So it makes perfect sense to have a Den Leader Training Award with options to earn it as a Tiger, Cub, or WEBELOS Den Leader; and it also makes perfect sense to have one Scouter’s Key Award with devices denoting what programs — Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing, Sea Scouting — or supporting all programs — Commissioner or Committee — the person was engaged with to earn the three to five year training award.

    Hope that answers some of your answers!!

    Settummanque!

    • Yep…the Silver World Award. It’s supposely been discontinued also, because the three primaries (the National President, National Commissioner, and Chief Scout Executive) and their staffs could not agree on new criteria which doesn’t already exist for the award of the Silver Buffalo or other national BSA awards. In the past, the Silver World was the “non-BSA member equal” to the Silver Buffalo. Only thing, BSA members have been the receipient of the Silver World and there’s plenty of non-BSA registered members who have received the Silver Buffalo.

      So while it was a great idea to award to heads of other national Scouting associations and “(loaded) friends of Direct Service Council” (which was the *original intent* of the Silver World Award for service Internationally), it’s not needed today. And with several BSA members receiving the Silver or Bronze Fox (the World Association of Scouting Movements’ service award), the need for the Silver World has been reduced a LOT.

      • Another example is the “knot emblem” for the Seabadge. The Seabadge is the highest training accomphishment for Sea Scouters — equal to Wood Badge. The actual badge is a silver badge with Sea Scouting emblems which is worn with the blues, whites or khaki uniform.

        A while back, a couple of enterprising Sea Scouters created nice-looking trident “knot emblems” for wear with those uniforms but the BSA back then said “no, let’s not be doing this…” and those guys backed off. The BSA then had someone to “create” a “square knot” representing the Seabadge. It looked crappy. You can see the knot emblem on the Badge and Uniform Site in the “adult training” page.

        Three years ago, the BSA’s Sea Scouting community asked that the “thing which is supposed to look like a trident” emblem be discontinued and holders of the Seabadge could wear the actual Seabadge or other insignia that their Council denoted (the unofficial Seabadge insignia). The BSA said “okay…” and we have one more less official “square knot emblem.”

        • Can’t make out what you are trying to say in your second and third paragraphs. The sea scouting community asked that the Seabadge knot with trident be discontinued? I’m a sea scout leader and I never heard of that. The gray Seabadge trident “knot” I wear is official BSA issue, not something created by “a couple of enterprising Sea Scouters.” Are you saying the silver metal Seabadge award can be worn on scout uniforms other than Sea Scout uniforms? The insignia guide does not say that. And what do you mean by “one more less official” knot?

        • Malcolm:

          You wrote in part:

          “The sea scouting community asked that the Seabadge knot with trident be discontinued? I’m a sea scout leader and I never heard of that.”

          Ask your Council’s Commodore or your Regional Commodore. That is the reason why the Seabadge “something which looks like a Trident” cloth emblem is NOT included in the listing Bryan posted (the back page of the current Insignia (Control) Guide). It was discontinued because the leadership within the Sea Scouting community thought that the BSA could do better with a design which looks more like the unofficial ones. The BSA’s response — “you don’t need it because you can wear the Seabadge on the field uniform”.

          The Sea Scouting’s uniforming policies (which are not listed in the BSA’s Insignia (Control) Guide state that the Seabadge *can be worn* on with the “traditional” field uniform or the Venturing field uniform, over the RIGHT pocket, above the “Boy Scouts of America” strip and any interpreter strips.

        • 1. I don’t see how any device can possibly be worn on the boy scout leader uniform (or as Mike refers to it, the “‘traditional’ field uniform”) without being mentioned in the Insignia Guide. The purpose of the Insignia Guide is to formalize exactly what can be worn on the uniform, and it seems implausible that the answer to the perennial question “what can be worn on the uniform” is now “whatever it says in the Insignia Guide – and also some other stuff that’s not in there, and isn’t in the Sea Scouting manual either.”

          2. Mike, is it your assertion that both the Seabadge emblem, and the Seabadge Underway emblem (which is similar, and is worn next to the sea badge emblem on Sea Badge uniforms) are ok to wear on boy scout leader uniforms? Or just Seabadge? (and in either case – is there some published reference that you can point to?)

        • Hi Malcolm!!

          First, keep in mind that the Insginia (Control) Guide does NOT have ALL of the BSA’s available insignia displayed and illustrated…just the more common. Your Council’s Scout Executive is the “last word” in where insignia should be worn… and by whom.

          To give you some examples, the following insignia is still available and usable, but is NOT illustrated in the current Insignia (Control) Guide:

          - Tiger Cub year pin (yes, you can still wear it if you were a Tiger Cub Scout prior to the Tiger intergration in 2004)
          - BROWNSEA strip (yes, you can still wear it if your Council still uses it in connection with youth leadership training programs)
          - the trapazoid version of the Leadership Corps emblem (if you can find them…they are getting rarer and rarer; there is a circular version of this emblem available)
          - the older silver and gold Veterans’ bar (both are still appropriate to wear; the only difference is that there are no numbers to denote “25″ (silver) or “50″ (gold) years of tenure

          …and on and on… (Those things ARE illustrated and explained in my Badge and Uniform site pages)

          The bottom line is that the Insignia (Control) Guide is designed as an overall GUIDE, with local Council interpretation and guidance supplements.

          The other question is where can anyone get information on where Sea Scouting insignia should be worn, where and by whom. There’s the Sea Scouting manual, which has a section on insignia and uniform wear. There’s also a website designed by the Sea Scouting community which has this information… The BEST source of information is found from your Sea Scouting Commodore (Sea Scouting Chair) in your Council. He or she will be able to provide guidance to you or other Scouters.

          In general terms, however, the insignia placement on the Sea Scouting whites and blues is the same placement for the field uniform worn by Sea Scouters. So taking a look at the Sea Scouting inspection sheet (http://www.seascout.org/general_resources/SS_Leader_Inspection_Sheet.pdf) it clearly shows the placement of the Seabadge by adults entitled to wearing it.

    • No, the Skipper’s Key Award is the Sea Scouting version of the Scouter’s Key, Ed. There is a special medal which can be ordered through the Sea Scouting Program Team but the square knot insignia is the same as other Scouter’s Key awards.

      A long time ago, a dark blue and white ribboned medal with the Sea Scouting anchor and First Class emblem superimposed over a silver key, was made available to Skippers — there was also a dark blue and white square knot insignia piece also. Both of them went away… you can see images of both on the Badge and Uniform Site at http://www.scoutinsignia.com/skey.htm

    • Jay, it was determined that the Doctorate of Commissioner Science is a suitable recognition on its own and that’s how the “square knot insignia” was developed and designed. The issue currently is whether or not we needed a “square knot” for a personal adult accomphishment — or is there something else more acceptable and meaningful for those reciepients. I made a suggestion three years ago (before the first round of square knot discontinuations started) that we bring back instead the Gold Arrowhead Honor (which was used back in the 50s to recognize training accomphishments of Assistant Scoutmasters and Cubmasters before the revisions of the Scouters’ Training Award) to award that to Commissioners who have been honored with a Doctorate. This emblem would be worn similarily to the manner that the Silver Arrowhead Honor is worn by Commssioners who have met requirements in learning their role as Commissioners.

  6. I keep one shirt f knots for the kids. The uniforms I wear daily are blank. There is no need for me to show anyone else what I have done, nor for anyone to believe I have all the answers because I have a bunch of knots.

    I have even been accused of “showing off” because of the awards. Plus I possess several that no longer exist, explain that to people. Sorry, but I DID get a few exploring awards before it became venturing.

    And as to the devices…if I wore them all for awards earned in different programs it’d be even worse.

    Only four things matter to most…AOL, eagle, silver, Religious award. A few more get DAM or silver beaver. Anything else, including professional development, is extras, nice for the few who get them, but for many of those, by the time they get them they should already be on the “thanks, not sewing it on” list because they’ve done the time and dont need extra stuff.

    For courts of honor, I even wear professional uniform instead of overshadowing the youth. I wish others would catch on.

    • So you have so many knots that you don’t want to ‘show off’ by wearing them but you make sure to post about it on the internet? You are so humble. Give me a break.

    • FYI – The “Explorer” program was not replaced by the “Venturing” program. A common misconception made by old corps scouters.

      • Geno:

        As a person who was a part of BOTH programs on a national/regional scale, I can say with certainty that the Exploring program was replaced by the Venturing AND the Learning for Life/Exploring programs.

        The short story is that almost 12 years ago, the “electricity” to the Exploring Division was yanked at the “power station” (the National Office) and EVERYTHING related to Exploring came to a dead stop. No more “contempory Exploring”.

        A few months later, the decision was made to create a new young adult program patterned in great slices from the Exploring program of the late 40s and 50s. Called “Venturing”, the program would provide six “lines” of direction Crews could take — the six being a “general interest” line. Vocational programs like Law Enforcement, Medicine, Law and Government, and Aviation…are now a part of the Learning for Life/Exploring program, a separate program external to the BSA but administered locally in many BSA Councils.

        So yeah, “comtemporay Exploring” became Venturing AND Learning for Life/Exploring. Tom’s absolutely correct.

  7. I disagree, respectfully which in comment sections is not always the case, with the view that there is no longer a need for seperate Cub Scout training Awards. I have earned the Cub Scout knots for Cubmaster, Tiger Leader and Den Leader. I will earn my first knots as a Boy Scout Leader and would have earned my Webelos Leader Knot in 2013. I cherish each of these awards for the different challenges and successes that each brings. Being a Tiger Leader is so much different then being a Webelos leader and the work a Webelos Leader does in preparing the Boys for that next step is critical to the success of the crossover. It just seems to me like the BSA should be more open in such awards and knots then closed.

    Not a big fan of the devices. They look less impressive and cheap to me frankly. But it is what it is and it in know way takes away what is important to me in Scouting, which is the growth and development of the young men and boys I work with. That is truely your longest lasting awards.

  8. As a student of Scouting History, knots developed post WWII to replace the concept of wearing military decoration ribbons on the uniform, as Baden-Powell did. So while BSA doesn’t have an official order of precedence, the most valued knot should follow the military practice and be top left or center, not lower right.

    Also, the consolidation of the variety of Cub Scout training knots to be more in line with the other programs, just gets us back to the original concept that you are trained in an assisting role or as the leader in charge of a unit. I think its a welcome change.

    As a guy who has four rows of knots, I follow USAF practice and not wear them on my “working” uniforms, but save them for my “dress uniform” for Courts of Honor, Scout Sunday and other formal occasions. When Scouts inevitably ask what they’re all for, I usually say it’s for being in Scouting too long ;-)

    • Gary: The BSA DID have an “order of precedence” with regard to the wear of the first 22 “square knot pieces”. This was explained in the Insignia Control Guides from 1970 to 1974. In 1974, the BSA’s National Executive Board decided that the various “square knot emblems” be worn in whatever order the receipient chose.

      Over on LinkedIn, we’re talking about your comment about “the most valued knot”. NONE of them are valued…the AWARD THEY REPRESENT *MAY BE*, depending on the person.

      Eagle Scouts like myself value the Eagle (or in my case the NESA Life Member Eagle knot emblem) as the “most valued”, even though I’m a Silver Beaver, District/Division Award of Merit, and holder of three other “animal awards”. Someone else may say that since I saved a life, that my Heroism Award knot emblem should be the highest in the roster. And still others may say that that the Silver Beaver should be the “highest”.

      My response to ALL of those comments is the following: if there was ONLY ONE knot emblem I would wear, it would be the NESA Life Member Eagle knot emblem. Otherwise, I wear what I choose to wear in the *order I earned or received them* on my field uniforms.

      The BSA IS NOT like the military — and the way that individuals choose to wear or not to wear the various cloth emblems representing what they have earned or received – IS a part of what makes the wearing of those small pieces of cloth unique.

  9. At some point in my Scouting service I decided to stop wearing all of my knots. It unfortunately became a distraction and attracted the snippy comments from others who looked at my knots as bragging. It’s not like I bought them on Ebay – I earned them by meeting established requirements for service, training and tenure. I know Scouting is about what you do for others and not about what you get acknowledged for as an individual. It has been my experience that most experienced Scouters seem to find knots to be something they once looked for and now care little about. The transformation from self to service is powerful. If most everyone has the opinion that wearing knots is “showing off” why then do we need to continue the program? If we are going to keep the knots program as-is with no specific written policy in-place, then choosing to sew a total of 22 knots on a uniform does not make the wearer an egomaniac. The person earned them for goodness sakes! Next, why is it that BSA “recommends 9″ rather than “specifying 9″? If it is not appropriate to wear more than 9, why not just tell Scouters they can’t earn more than 9 and set a policy to ensure the backtalk around knots is put to rest? If a specific regulation does not exist then the Scouters who do not like to see a bunch of knots on a uniform need to find something else to complain about. Look at long serving military personnel. Some of these dedicated professionals have awards from pocket to shoulder and nobody questions their integrity! Humility has nothing to do with the fact that some people have been in Scouting a long time, went above and beyond and that effort earned them public recognition. If it is not appropriate to visibly display recognition then I say just discontinue the entire thing and make the naysayers happy. Otherwise, stop crying about it.

    Here is why a Scouter may choose to sew all of their knots on their uniform – Kids ask about them and adults ask about them which begins a dialogue with another person that changes lives in a positive way. You know what that promotes? …SCOUTING, SERVICE TO OTHERS and TRAINING! That is what the knots are for in the first place. Second to that is an outward showing of the wearers involvement, commitment and experience in Scouting as verified by receiving recognition by Districts, Councils and National.

      • Jerry: The “nine” number Bryan referred to is *suggested* and does appear in the current edition of the Insignia (Control) Guide. The number has been going up and down — it was nine before the 2010 National Scout Jamboree; then it was 15 and then 12 after the Jamboree. The Task Force on Insignia and Uniforming hasn’t made a definative official decision…because as I’ve illustrated above here and elsewhere, it’s really tough to tell Scouters who have been a part of the movement for 60, 70 years that “you can only wear nine of those…”

        With time, we’ll get back down to something around 24 of them, and most Scouters will be wearing something around nine to 15 of them over their lifetime.

  10. Does anyone have any idea why the district award of merit is an overhand knot instead of a square knot? I think it looks funny, and it seems to that they could have redesigned it while they were consolidating knots, but they didn’t, so is there a good reason that it’s so different?

    • Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!!

      Erin…remember your knots? *smiling* Two “overhand knots” tied in opposite directions equal a “square knot”…right?

      In a same way, two or more Districts makes up a local Council. So when the folks developing the District/Division Award of Merit was thinking for an appropriate color combination —

      The silver Mylar border and overhand knot refers to the District, which is a part of (half of) the local Council; the dark blue background refers to the Council’s flag, which is dark blue.

      That’s why….*smiling*

  11. The BSA at *one time* did have a “sequence or order of precedence” with regard to the wearing of the existing “square knot insignia”. This was good until 1975. After that time, the BSA made the decision (a great one!) to allow Scouters and Scouts to wear as few or as many “square knot insignia” as they desired, in whatever “order” or “importance” they chose.

    Here’s the listing from the Insignia (Control) Guide. I think you’ll notice that what seems to be “higher” to you isn’t what the BSA felt back then was “higher” or “more important”.

    Honor Medal
    Silver World
    Silver Buffalo
    Silver Antelope
    Silver Beaver – on khaki, dark blue, white, green
    Silver Fawn (same square knot as Silver Beaver)
    District Award of Merit (ends down)
    OA Distinguished Service Award
    Heroism Medal
    Merit Medal
    Arrow of Light
    Eagle – on khaki, dark blue, white, green
    Quartermaster – on dark blue, white, khaki
    Explorer Silver
    Religious youth emblem
    Religious adult emblem
    **square knot insignia from other Scout associations**
    Scouters’ Key — on khaki, green, blue, white
    Scouters’ Training Award — on khaki, blue, white, green
    Den Leaders’ Training Award
    Den Leaders’ Coach Training Award

    Notice that in 1975 we only had 20 or so “square knot insignia” pieces. Today we have twice that number. We still organized units, spoke at events, recognized Scouters for service to various populations and interests, raised monies, and still had the same advancement “high awards” (Venturing has Silver; Exploring had two earlier versions of Silver and two “achievement awards”)

    It’s important to note that before the “knot emblems”, the top bars for the Hornaday and Youth Leadership in America Awards were used alongside other “knot emblems”. And the Seabadge and Organizer pins did not have an official “knot emblem”.

  12. Was totally unaware that the Arrow of Light knot even existed back then. I never saw it until the late 80′s or early 90′s. Of course, the order here would make little sense to many, especially with Eagle and religious knots being placed so late in the list. Really makes no difference though, as few actually worry very much about the order any more, or even being right side up. That is not something of which many even have an awareness, as there is a certain tendency of some to simply put patches wherever they think they look best and take umbrage at the suggestion they are out of line in some manner. Learned to pretty much keep quiet about these things, though took me about 20 years to bite my tongue consistently.

  13. Knots can be a very personal thing, as can be seen by these comments. I would not presume to assume why a leader wears as many or as few knots as he does.

    I believe leaders have an obligation of sorts to our Chartered Organization, to earn and wear them. They are tangible items which reflect the dedication and effort that the CO’s leaders have to the program, and how well the entire program is proceeding.

    As Ron said, knots can also be that conversation starter with your scouts about scouting, service to others, training. This same conversation can be had with adults who are unfamiliar with the program, and the effort these knots represent.

    I would ask that I be allowed to decide for myself which knots are important to me, which knots I wear, if any, or all that I’ve earned or been awarded.

  14. So here is a question that I have been thinking about for awhlie. There are a few awards out there such as the Unit Leader Award of Merit ot the Scouters Key that can only be earned by a Scoutmaster for example. Now I truely understand how hard the Scoutmaster works, but at the same time I know how hard us Assistant Scoutmasters work too. So my question is has there ever been thought given to a “next level” award for people filling the positions of like Assistant Scoutmaster. Thanks.

    • Other than the Scouters’ Training Award as a Boy Scouter, no. The Assistant Scoutmaster role is to support and assist the Scoutmaster, which is why they as a “key leader” have the “stepping stair” award (the Scouters’ Training Award and the Unit Leader Award of Merit) before they earn the Scouter’s Key as a Scoutmaster. Same applies with Cubmasters. Same applies for Varsity Coaches. Same applies with Venturing Advisors and Skippers.

  15. Obviously the rule of 9 is more like a guideline… Especially when you look at the uniform of the National Training Chairperson’s Knot collection! I say be proud of what you have done for scouting and show off! Love the Knots!

    • Hi Jennifer!!

      The reason why your “Extraordinary Service Award” does not have a “square knot” emblem is because it is not considered a national, regional or local Council award approved by the BSA. Your Council may develop such an item but local Councils are being asked to hold off on creating or approving such items until after the BSA has completed the “scrub” of what is out there right now.

      Does this award *need* a square knot emblem? Are there *that many* holders or receipients of the award which would merit such a cloth emblem? Is there *already* a knot emblem or other uniform item which can be used to *represent infomally* that particular award? Those are considerations in developing something “new” or “different” for that particular award.

  16. I’ve been trying to understand the new knots. I really have. This is where I am stuck. There used to be a knot called the CubScouters Award. It could be earned by members of the pack committee. Was this knot replaced or not? I can’t seem to find one. I see there is one for the CubMaster and the den leaders, but I don’t see one for the pack committee members.

    • Hi Erin!

      You wrote and asked: “I’ve been trying to understand the new knots. I really have. This is where I am stuck. There used to be a knot called the Cub Scouters Award. It could be earned by members of the pack committee. Was this knot replaced or not?”

      It was as with ALL SIX of the old Cub Scout (Training) Awards, Erin. They are gone.

      As I posted several screens above, the three Den Leader (Training) Awards have been combined into ONE award, with devices indicating which type of Den you earned the award within.

      The Cubmaster (Training) Award has been replaced with the Scouters’ Key Award as a Cubmaster. This places the Cubmaster on the same “line” with his Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing and Sea Scouting counterparts.

      The Pack Trainer (Training) Award is gone; there is no replacement currently for that position. The BSA is working on an award emblem which WILL NOT be a “knot emblem” for Unit Trainers to earn. They are still working out the details.

      The Cub Scouter (Training) Award you are trying so hard to find is now part of the Scouters’ Training Award and can be earned by any registered volunteer.
      This is the appropriate award for your Pack Committee members to earn.

      Keep in mind that these are AWARDS with a medal and certificate in addition to the “square knot”. The knot emblem is only worn informally. The medal and certificate are the actual awards.

      Hope this helps you out!

  17. Pingback: Ask the Expert: Rapid-fire FAQs, round 3 « Bryan on Scouting

  18. Hi there. I have a couple of questions. For being a Cub Scout Wolf and Bear Den Leader I received the same looking knot each year. Yellow knot on a blue field. Was that correct?

    Also, I am now leading my youngest son’s Den after leading my oldest through until he moved on to Boy Scouts. So, I will likely again earn duplicates of several of the knots I already have. What do you do when you have the same knot twice?

    • Hi Craig!!

      You “don’t get” something for your uniform just for being a Den Leader. The Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award is that – a TRAINING AWARD which is EARNED by Cub Scout and WEBELOS Den Leaders. It’s NOT a “tenure” award.

      The Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award may be earned three times: once as a Tiger Cub Den Leader; again as a Wolf/Bear Den Leader;’ and once again asa WEBELOS Den Leader.

      To signify which type of Den you have earned the Cub Scout Den Leader Training Award in, a small device is attached to the ribbon of the medal and to the square knot insignia. There is a Tiger Cub emblem, a Cub Scout emblem, and a WEBELOS emblem. All three may be worn on both the medal’s ribbon as well as on the square knot emblem.

      Hope this helps you out…but remember, it’s NOT the “getting of the knot patch” which is important — but rather your TRAINNG, TENURE AND PERFORMANCE which gets you the Training Award (and the square knot emblem in addition to the medal!)

  19. There is overwhelming consensus among the Scouter circles I move in that the impetus to reduce the overall number of adult awards is a good thing. (The various Den Leader iterations were a bit over the top considering a Scouter could serve 3 years as a Den Leader and wear 4 knots for training and tenure yet an erstwhile ASM would still be wearing just one for very similar service.) At least they are headed in the right direction.

    We still have a ways to go – the Unit Leader Award of Merit is probably unnecessary as the STA and Key ably recognize that same training and performance but for a slightly longer period of time. There is no real reason for a new Scoutmaster to have three recognitions in three years, is there? Plus, the ULAM is almost identical to two other knots and has a position badge to go with it. Redundancy, anyone?

    The commissioner series? Again, combined with the Arrowhead, there is just a lot of redundancy in there.

    I would also be nice if there a bit more adherence to some kind of heraldic system to help Scouts and Scouters actually recognize the recognitions (isnt that the point after all?). For example, the white and green, white and blue, white and red, white and yellow knots help me understand I am looking at a Scouter who has achieved some recognition. But, the fact that the white and green medal is earned for a unit leader while the rest are nominative for any Scouter kinda throws a wrench in the works. And of course, the District Award of Merit simply defies all of them in knot, background and frame……and has no medal or neck order to go with it. Huh? Does it really make sense that a 2 year training award has a medal but a nominative award with a 5 year service expectation like the DAM doesn’t? Not really.

    It is good that we retain some of the little idiosyncrasies that make awards unique, but eliminating similar awards and creating common heraldry for the remaining medals, knots, etc would go a long way towards keeping the stuff from looking like a pile of random salad. Order of precedence has nothing to with making it more military like. It has everything to do with helping the viewer actually recognize what he is looking at. An order of precedence for say, merit badges, would indeed be silly. For nominative and service awards? Makes perfect sense if you actually want people to get it. Otherwise, we ought to just treat them as unofficial trinkets much like Marines who sew Ranger tabs under their pocket flaps- they earned it but not one can see it.

    I guess my one final beef would be that we should finally figure out how to give a “one shirt Scouter” the ability to wear his shirt with medals OR knots. All of us chafe at the idea of wearing two awards that mean the same thing at the same time. Militaries around the world abandoned sewn ribbons for similar reasons almost 70 years ago. It is a quaint little tradition but considering how easy it would be to just put the knots on a ribbon bar and mount the medals, I dont see why we dont make the leap forward into 1940′s from 1920′s uniforming.

    • Hi Erin!!

      The difference between the Unit Leader Award of Merit and the Scouters’ Training Award is simple: The Scouters’ Training Award may be earned by *any volunteer Scouter* holding a registered position in a unit. The Unit Leader Award of Merit can ONLY be earned by the registered Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Coach, Advisor or Skipper. This makes it a special award which can only be earned by those individuals on their way toward earning the Scouters’ Key Award while in that role.

      So, a registered Scoutmaster, for instance can earn in this sequence:

      - the TRAINED strip for completing the basic training sequence
      - the Scouters’ Training Award as a Boy Scouter (normally, it would take about a year to a year and a half to earn)
      - the Unit Leader Award of Merit as Scoutmaster (normally, it would take about two years or so to complete all of the requirements)
      - capping off with the Scoutmasters’ Key Award (the Scouters’ Key Award as Scoutmaster is called the “Scoutmasters’ Key”)

      Hope this helps!!

      • Thanks, Mike. You are so patient with me. I really appreciate it. I”m the pack committee chairman, and I’m trying to encourage my pack leaders to earn their training awards, and I want to be sure they are working on the right ones. :)

      • Mike, a couple of corrections here. The STA for Boy Scouters has a two year tenure requirement as well as service benchmarks that must be completed over a 2 year period. The ULAM only has an 18 month requirement and the Scouter’s Key (for Scoutmasters) has a 3 year tenure requirement.

  20. Hello, first THANK YOU for putting this information out for us clueless types. My Husband and I just started leading the 11 year old scouts at Church. We are trying to get his uniform together, but I have to admit, the person in the scout shop was probably new and couldn’t answer our questions.

    1. If he earned all three palms as an Eagle, is there something to show that on his adult uniform?

    2. (And this is because I’m a newbie, so please don’t laugh too hard) He earned his arrow of light as a boy scout, is that a different knot than if he were to earn it as an adult leader? The same question for the order of the arrow, Duty to God and On my Honor. Is it a different knot if he earned it as a youth? I guess that’s probably the Religious knot on your chart. I just need to sew on these patches, but I’m concerned we may need to exchange some of his knots.

    What is the NESA life membership award? (He had a traumatic brain injury and can’t remember if he is a part of that. Is there somewhere I can look it up?

    I appreciate your help with this. I’m a little overwhelmed with all this stuff, but excited to dive right in! Things are getting Knotty around here!

    • Hi Sarah!! For some reason the first version didn’t take, so here it is again! You wrote and asked:

      “1. If he earned all three palms as an Eagle, is there something to show that on his adult uniform?”

      If he earned the Bronze, Gold and Silver Palm to his Eagle Scout Award, he should wear the SILVER PALM ONLY (the highest Palm or combination of Palms earned) centered on the Eagle Scout (or NESA Life Member Eagle) square knot emblem. Take a look at http://www.scoutinsignia.com/devices.htm to see how that is done (the discussion about the Eagle Palms along with color illustrations are toward the bottom of the page).

      “2. (And this is because I’m a newbie, so please don’t laugh too hard) He earned his arrow of light as a boy scout, is that a different knot than if he were to earn it as an adult leader? The same question for the order of the arrow, Duty to God and On my Honor. Is it a different knot if he earned it as a youth? I guess that’s probably the Religious knot on your chart. I just need to sew on these patches, but I’m concerned we may need to exchange some of his knots.”

      No, I have answered a similar question fourteen times this morning before getting to Bryan’s blog and your questions — so I’m not laughing at all.

      If he earned the Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout, there is an Arrow of Light square knot emblem he can wear to signify that accomphishment. Boy Scouts do not wear square knot representations of advancement awards — they wear the actual advancement on their uniform. Adults don’t earn nor wear advancement items on their uniform — hence the square knot insignia for the Arrow of Light (and Eagle, Quartermaster and Silver) earned as a youth.

      There is no square knot insignia for *members* of the Order of the Arrow, Sarah. They wear the Arrow pin “dangle” and/or their Lodge’s flap on the right pocket. There IS a square knot item representing the medallion received by Distinguished Arrowmen for service to the Order of the Arrow over a period of time. Check out http://www.scoutinsignia.com/dangle.htm to see what I’m talking about as far as a “dangle” goes…*smiling*

      As far as the two religious emblems — he should wear the youth religious emblem square knot with a Boy Scout program device in the center of it to signify that he received the two religious emblems as a Boy Scout.

      You should not have to exchange any of them if you purchased the right ones. You can go to the back of the Guide to Awards and Recognitions or you can view the full-color versions on my Badge and Uniform Site at http://www.scoutinsignia.com/clotknot.htm

      “What is the NESA life membership award? (He had a traumatic brain injury and can’t remember if he is a part of that. Is there somewhere I can look it up?”

      The National Eagle Scout Association Life Membership insignia (it is NOT an “award”, just a catagory of registration in NESA) can be worn IN THE PLACE OF (not in addition to) the standard Eagle Scout square knot insignia. If he has a card stating that he’s a life member of the NESA, he or you can purchase the square knot emblem (it has a silver border instead of the standard khaki-tan border) and wear the Silver Palm centered on that knot emblem on his uniform. If he does not have a card; or is unsure, you or he can contact NESA directly at nesa@scouting.org and ask them for verification. And if he’s NOT a life member of NESA, he should be!!! *smiling*

      Hope that this helps you out, Sarah…

  21. Just a quick question here – i haven’t seen anything addressing this, unless i completely sipped over it. If so, i apologize.
    If one has the Eagle square knot on their uniform, is it appropriate to also wear the medal for formal occasions, such as Eagle Court of Honor?
    Thanks in adavance

    • Yes. You can wear both the Eagle knot / palms and the medal at a ceremony. I even have a couple neckerchiefs that are Eagle Scout or NESA on them and I wear them at times too. Also found out you can wear the NESA knot (silver border) or the regular Eagle knot but not both. I hope this helps.

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