uniform-wrong-patch-placement

Tuesday Talkback: What do you do when a Scout has a patch sewn on wrong?

Tuesday-TalkbackYou’ll notice it right away, of course.

You’ll see Tristan across the room at your pack or troop meeting this week and instantly spot the unit numerals on the wrong sleeve, the rank patch on the wrong pocket or the World Crest way too low on his field uniform shirt.

What do you do? Call Tristan out in front of the group so other Scouts learn from his mistake? Hand him a needle and some thread and send him out of the room? Email his parents after the meeting? Something else?

Leave a comment below with your answer, and let’s have a discussion about the best way to handle this common concern. This is the first of a recurring series of posts I’m calling Tuesday Talkback

15 years ago…

Look back in time with answers to a similar question from the September 1998 issue of Scouting magazine.

See also

For an excellent look at sewing on Scout patches, including tips you can send to parents, check out the rundown on Clarke Green’s unofficial blog.


Note: Just so we’re clear, the Life rank patch is on the wrong pocket in the image I used for this post!

109 thoughts on “Tuesday Talkback: What do you do when a Scout has a patch sewn on wrong?

  1. Flogging? No, that doesn’t seem right. Probably something about that in the GtSS. :)

    I’d take him aside, mention it, and give him a week to fix it.
    Mom probably sewed it on for him and didn’t know. Getting the mirror image thing correct in one’s mind is sometimes tough if you’re challenged in that department.

    • And after browsing Clarke’s blog, I must disagree. For the love of everything good in the universe, DO NOT USE BADGE MAGIC! It’s evil.
      It will ruin the fabric and eventually fall off after several years.

      STAY AWAY FROM BADGE MAGIC!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Bryan,

    If one Scout has it wrong, chances are others do as well. It’s not fair to single out a Scout, especially when they may have not made the mistake themselves. As a Pack Committee Chair, I will email the entire Pack with guides such as the one you linked, or directly to bsauniforms.org. It’s just a friendly way to let parents know and you don’t embarrass a Scout in front of his friends.

  3. I would definitely not be in favor of making his mistake public among the den. It would be embarrassing to the Scout, which is contrary to our goal for Scouting to be a safe place. I lead Cub Scouts, so their parents are probably ones showing the badges on. I would mention it to the parents only after I had the exact guidelines ready to cite to them (and perhaps an example to show them, such as an excerpt from the Insignia Guide).

      • Pushback comes in at least two forms here. I’ve seen both. The first is the parents give an excuse of some type, “Well, that’s the best I can do and it’s staying.” The other common one is simply to agree to make the change – then do nothing about it. I’d personally rather deal with the first. That’s a statement I can address with a solution. The latter is a passive-aggressive battle that I’d just assume not enter into (although to be fair that hasn’t been a common response).

        • I feel sorry for the scouter in both these cases. It says that “I don’t care if I get my son’s uniform correct.” I then try to point out to the parents the uniform should be a point of pride for the Scouter and that eventually the other Scouters are going to notice. Then the uniform becomes an item of embarassment for the Scouter.

      • Brian, How about those scouts that should know better.
        Like at a BOR (or even a EBOR).
        All to often you get the tired “cop out” of, “well a uniform is not required” (this said of the scout with $150 shoes and the latest I-phone).
        National should put a big * next to that notation (uniforms not required) and say that it was never intended to have the uniform an optional, just that the cost (financial hardship) should not discourage/prohibit a boy from scouting.

  4. They came out with the Centenial Uniform and didn’t put a button on the left pocket. BSA had been selling plastic rank patch holders that used a button. Why was the button removed?

      • I misse dthe word “left” in stormadvisor’s post. My shirt has a button under the right flap, I don’t know about the left one. What Mike says below makes sense. TG

    • Stormadvisor: the reason why the button on the left pocket was removed is because the insignia on that pocket is designed to be WORN on the left pocket, not dangled from the pocket. The items on the right pocket are TEMPORARY IN NATURE, and therefore the button to allow a temporary patch to be hung from that button was appropriate.

  5. Regular uniform inspections using uniform inspection sheets will avoid singling out individuals and help prevent mistakes in the future.

  6. I tell the parents, off to the side, of each my cubs what is in the wrong place. I encourage correct placement but as long as it is neat (not crooked) I’ll live with it. I never single out anyone.

  7. I’ll pull the scout aside and mention the mistake. I have copies of the uniform inspection guides with at the meetings and I’ll send a copy home with the scout and ask him to correct it for the next meeting.

  8. Uniform inspections.

    At the troop level, it’s how we fix uniform deficiencies. If the uniform isn’t worn correctly, then the SPL or the Inspector (always a youth Scout leader, never an adult) can point out the errors. For example, on any given week, the SPL or Inspector will point out one particular part of the uniform that he sees wrong on a Scout’s uniform (upside-down patch, lack of patch, no necker) and use that as a learning tool.

    If Timmy has his rank patch wrong, the SPL/Inspector will say “OK, I am looking for correct Rank patches, patrol patches, and socks tonight” Then a point system for those who are all in uniform correctly.

    It works for us.

  9. Regarding the badge magic issue…yes it makes it easier to just stick the badges on, but to get the glue removed we have been told to take the shirts to the drycleaners and that they can get the glue removed. Haven’t tried it myself…but others said this works.
    As a leader, when any new scout joined my den I always gave the parents the handout with the badge placement on it. And when they moved up to Webelos and switched to the tan shirt…I did a refresher course for my parents…..so that they wouldn’t put all the cub scout badges on the tan shirt. Bringing in an actual shirt with the proper placement is helpful for the parents…especially when they are first starting out.

    • I took mine to to the cleaners and had them use the “perc” solvent on it while cleaning. It removed every trace of Badge Magic from the shirt and the patches were completely reusable afterwards. I found that tip on the Badge Magic website.

  10. A public flogging is warranted. (Just kidding). There certainly is no need to make a mountain out of a mole hill or embarass the scout publicly. However, it is important that “Uniforming” is one of the tools of the BSA and should be given importance as well. If the situation involves a Cub Scout Pack, I would recommend making a discrete mention of the situation to the applicable Den Leader. If it is a Boy Scout Troop, that same discrete mention to the Patrol Leader or possibly the SPL. Bring the applicable individuals who should be making these observations/corrections into the process without hoopla. One other point to consider would be uniform inspections conducted on a regular (annual or semi-annual) basis. That not only emphasizes the importance of uniforming, it literally forces scouts and parents to look at uniform requirements, including patches and placement. A close look at the BSA Uniform Guide would amaze most readers that it even contains an inspection checklist for scouts, parents and units to use. Who ‘da thunk it?

  11. BSA has been selling plastic “Oval Emblem Holder” that use the button that is no longer on the Centennial uniform. They use the button that is on the right pocket instead. We heard a lot about that.

    • I personally have a strong dislike for those plastic hangars on any uniform. They give the impression, “Hey, just passing through here. This is not important enough to commit the time and effort.” They send the wrong signal to the scout and everyone around him.

      • I recommend their use especially for patches that are worn on the Right pocket, the “Temp” position. In that case,the patch is “just passing through”. Many patches have loops/dangles to hang on the pocket button, however, the newer uniforms either do not have this or the button is not secure enough to prevent the patch from being lost.
        Lost patches, create another problem in itself, the scout not wearing it afraid of losing it and the difficulty of replacing it.

    • Stormadvisor: the reason why the button on the left pocket was removed is because the insignia on that pocket is designed to be WORN on the left pocket, not dangled from the pocket. The items on the right pocket are TEMPORARY IN NATURE, and therefore the button to allow a temporary patch to be hung from that button was appropriate.

  12. When I was a scout, i had seen all of the above including run laps and being asked to leave for not having it right. I had one scoutmaster who had been a drill instructor and was very serious about the uniform My eldest is a cub now and I see so many kids who don’t have anything sewn on but multiple things safety pinned on.

  13. Treat Tristan with respect. Don’t dress him down, but build him up — groom his leadership by example. At an inconspicuous moment, quietly and discreetly pull Tristan and one if his buddies aside and have them inspect each other’s uniforms. Leave them to identify similarities and differences. Allow them to discuss and resolve to take action they believe appropriate. (Wood badge, 1989)

  14. We occasionally have uniform inspections at meetings and we use that as an opportunity to point out items such as incorrect patch placement. They lose a point or two in the inspection if the patch is not in the correct location, but still get some credit for having the patch. I also remind them in a SM conference if I notice things and ask them to get it updated when they can. We are a full uniform Troop (seems oddly rare these days in lots of places) so we do a fairly good job with uniforming.

  15. Love Clarke Green’s unofficial blog! Unfortunately his pdf didn’t include the ‘Centennial’ sleeve pocket which places the ‘trained’ patch ABOVE one’s position patch, on the pocket flap instead of under. It got pointed out to me during summer camp by another leader that I was wearing it incorrectly. It worse when the person sitting at the next table over is incorrect so I had to find another way. Should be in the Camp Scout Shop or the staff should know, you would think. Never saw a staff get so worked up over a patch! Their reference was the Scout handbook which is also incorrect. I exited out of that conversation as there really is no need for heated discussions. Ended up having to google and print the pages. Delivered those pages quietly to the other leader and the Scout shop to prove I had done my homework before placing.

    Patch placement can take on a life of its own and become a heated discussion as rightness needs to be proven for some. I think a quiet approach is best while having a copy of the pdfs of both the centennial pocket sleeve uniform and the old standard uniform. One needs to point out that even when ones is different that one needs to take it a step further in researching since not all Scout stuff is correctly updated. (Hopefully the new handbooks editions will be.)

  16. “Praise in public, criticize in private.” Don’t single out the scout in public.

    Usually it just takes a casual mention when there’s a quiet moment, but I’d prefer to have the SPL do it.

  17. Public flogging of any time is never recommended, but it all depends on the magnitude of the transgression if it should even be mentioned. We all know the uniform police in our units, districts, councils, OA lodges, etc. Some measure to the millimeter and are not shy about mentioning any vistage of transgression. If the uniform is blatantly wrong, some coaching is warranted, by the youth leadership if possible. We have to keep in mind that in some cases, Timmy Cub Scout has to affix his own emblems to his uniform and it may take him quite some time to do so. Moving a rank to the correct pocket is probably warranted, but moving it 1/4 inch to the right is probably not. As several posters have mentioned, semi-regular troop/pack uniform inspections help to point boys in the right direction early.

  18. Doing a troop inspection as a UC, I saw that one of the Scouts had the MBs on the wrong side of the sash–because he was wearing it over the wrong shoulder. I asked him if it was correct. “It’s what the SM said.” So we asked the SM: “It’s wrong?” So we looked in the BSHB and discovered that, if the BSHB is the only reference, there was no way to tell which shoulder. So we caucused with the mom, apologized profusely, but explained that it really needed to be done correctly. All done with good humor. Fortunately, it was a young Scout with only about 8 MBs. Ended up ok.

  19. This is handled in our Troop through regular inspections. Our Inspections are conducted by the SPL. He inspects the Patrol Leaders and the Patrol Leaders inspect the patrol. The Scoutmaster inspects the SPL.

  20. I would pull aside the SPL and have him address it with the scout on the side, no way I would have it done in front of everybody else.

  21. My husband created a uniform game a few years ago for our Cubs – felt board uniform and felt emblems. We divide the boys into teams and have them race to get the emblems on and in the correct locations. It helps everyone know where items belong in a fun way so there are fewer errors to correct.

  22. Along these lines, I have my own troop under control, but what do you do when you see other scouts with problems with their uniforms. My biggest problem is when I see camp staffers wearing their eagle medal around at summer camp.

    • Can someone provide an official BSA link that describes the protocol for wearing the Eagle Medal? All I can find is information on the proper placement of the medal but not the protocol of wearing the Eagle medal.

      • Tara wrote and asked: ”Can someone provide an official BSA link that describes the protocol for wearing the Eagle Medal? All I can find is information on the proper placement of the medal but not the protocol of wearing the Eagle medal.” Tara!! There is no official “protocol” for the Eagle medal, except that it is worn formally and the cloth patch (for youth under 18) or square knot emblem (for those older than 17) should be worn. However, go to http://www.scoutinsignia.com/eagmedal.htm for information on how and when to wear it.

        Hope this helps! Settummanque!

        ________________________________

      • Tara wrote and asked:

        “Can someone provide an official BSA link that describes the protocol for wearing the Eagle Medal? All I can find is information on the proper placement of the medal but not the protocol of wearing the Eagle medal.”

        Hi Tara!! There is no official “protocol” for the Eagle medal, except that it is worn formally and the cloth patch (for youth under 18) or square knot emblem (for those older than 17) should be worn. However, go to http://www.scoutinsignia.com/eagmedal.htm for information on how and when to wear it.

        Hope this helps!

        • Thank you Mike! That is the information I wanted…the how and the when to wear it. This site is a great resource. Thank you everyone.

  23. I have sent out the information on proper badge placement. Each family gets a troop handbook with the information in it when he joins. I try to remind the newer scouts that the information is there on occasion. Most parents sew them where they think they go because they don’t know. If we get the information to them and remind them on occasion it should work. I occasionally mention in a joking manner “you know that badge doesn’t belong on the uniform”. The older scouts sometimes say they will fix it or I don’t care. Usually they get nervous about it when Eagle Board time comes but mostly nobody ever says anything to them so it stays incorrect. Personally I’d like to see the World Crest come already sewn on the shirt. It would also help if the Totin’ Chip and Firem n’ chit were not shaped like pocket flaps. Everyone thinks they go on the flaps and they don’t.

  24. Most of the comments show we have great people out there as Scout Masters. When my son first started Boy Scouts, I sewed his badges on but made sure he had to tell e wear they went. If the boys are reading their books, they should know were they go. In JROTC now and Senior Patrol Leader, he and the older scouts go over the uniform with new scouts. They learn together and help each other look good. It’s all a learning process as any good Scout lead troop should be.

  25. The one time I saw it happen was when a scout appeared before me for his Eagle Board of Review. I am the District Eagle Coordinator. I requested he stand in front of a mirror and look at his uniform and see if there was anything wrong. The mirror was already in the room. He looked for about 30 seconds and said there was nothing wrong. I pointed out that his rank insignia was on the wrong pocket and upside down. He said oh and explained that he stood in front of a mirror at home and put the patch on then looked down turned it around so it was right side up for him looking at it and sewed it on. We got quite a laugh about it. He did great on everything else and is now and Eagle Scout. We still laugh about it.

  26. It’s easier to correct this ‘problem’ before it becomes a problem. All incoming Scouts parents (or guardians, to be politically correct) are handed a copy of the uniform sheet, page 2 that lists proper placement of patches. Also, a cover letter explaining that there are two meanings to the word uniform. First, the uniform itself, but more important ‘THE SAME.’ The push-back parents will push back on almost anything you tell them, uniforms, behavior, preparation for trips, events, etc. The proper placement of patches can also be handled at the Patrol meeting level. There’s nothing wrong with the boys learning how to sew on patches correctly. Yes, they may be a bit off-center, but they are in the proper location. Many, many years ago, a local tailor / cleaning shop offered a discounted price to sew the patches onto new uniforms (council strip, troop number, patrol insignia, etc.)

    As another poster said, ‘Praise in public, correct in private’

    Steve E. Long Island, NY

  27. Proper patch placement is all important the main reason that mistakes are made is lack of communication. Uniform inspections are all important and when a new scout is given his registration form they should receive an printout of where to place their patches at the same time along with the local source for uniforms and guidence, a Boy Scout Council. My biggest peeve is scouts who do not tuck their class A’ shirts inside their pants. It stands out more to me than a misplaced patch this includes some adult leaders. When I see a scout or adult leader with their class A’s outside of their pants I ask them to tuck it in no matter where we are at . A scout who follows proper uniform protocol will more likely to have great success in scouting.

  28. Scouts? Heck no (unless they are an Eagle Scout). Kids make mistakes, kids learn from mistakes.

    Scouters? That’s something different; they KNOW better.

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