The troop’s number, 501, is no coincidence.
Named for the famous Levi’s jeans, Troop 501 allows its Scouts to wear any kind of pants or shorts they want with their uniform shirt. Yes, even denim.
Made up of Scouts who can barely afford to participate in Scouting, Troop 501 has more important things to worry about than what kind of pants its Scouts wear.
Personally, I’m still impressed when I see a group of Scouts in their full field uniform, including Scout pants. But units like Troop 501 prove that the clothes don’t always make the man. A Scout in jeans is always preferred to no Scout at all.
As you can see in the photo above, the Scouts of Troop 501 look sharp in their field uniform shirt, denim or cargo shorts, neckerchiefs, and — for the older Scouts — campaign hats.
In fact, the troop was named sharpest-dressed unit during its week at Camp Geiger this summer.
What’s their secret? It’s a really great story.
Troop 501 meets at New Hope United Methodist Church in Arnold, Mo., and has no “feeder” pack from which it draws new recruits.
It’s one of four troops on the same street, so competition is high.
But the troop intentionally seeks out boys who can’t otherwise afford to participate in Scouting. By not requiring uniform pants, one cost is eliminated for new Scouting families.
“If they cannot afford an official shirt, we have a uniform closet from which we can draw,” says Scoutmaster S. Craig Hufford.
These Scouts are only required to wear the the official field uniform shirt and troop neckerchief.
As for pants, “we tell them that they can wear green cargo pants or cargo shorts. At the very least, nice jeans or denim shorts,” Hufford says.
Then there are the hats. Senior-ranking Scouts (considered in Troop 501 to be First Class and above) wear campaign hats. How do they afford them?
The Stratton hat company gave them “quite a deal” to buy the hats.
“It’s really amazing to me that a Scout will work so hard to earn the privilege of wearing a campaign hat,” Hufford says.
In addition to being named sharpest-dressed unit at summer camp, Troop 501 will serve as the color guard at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game next month.
“I know that Scout honor guards at sporting events are not uncommon, but given this troop’s history, and grassroots nature, it is kind of a rags-to-riches story that shows how important the uniform, as a method of Scouting is,” Hufford says.
Troop 501, I salute you.