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Spotted in Scouting magazine: Merit badge sashes worn on belts

“A merit badge sash is never worn on the belt.”

It’s right there on Page 31 of the Guide to Awards and Insignia. The word “never” is even italicized and everything.

Coincidentally, Page 31 of the September-October 2014 issue of Scouting magazine is where you’ll find a group of Scouts wearing — you guessed it — merit badge sashes on their belts.

Two of the Scouts in the photo wear an OA sash and a merit badge sash, also a no-no according to Page 31 of the Guide.

So what gives?

Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard from more than a dozen Scouters who noticed the uniforming mix-up and wanted to contact us.

Here’s a small sampling:

“I have seen this so many times and I can no longer keep quiet,” a Pennsylvania Scouter writes. “Boy Scouts should not wear their merit badge sashes on their belt. … Wear it properly or not at all!”

A North Carolina Scouter adds: “I’d hate for someone to look at the photo and think, ‘Gee, that’s a great way to wear a merit badge sash and an OA sash at the same time!’”

“It is hard to get boys to follow BSA guidelines when they see other Scouts breaking the rules and getting recognized for it!” exclaims a Michigan Scouter.

My thoughts

We at Scouting magazine feel fortunate to have such eagle-eyed readers who notice this kind of thing. It means you read the magazine and care about Scouting.

And we hear you. You’re correct that merit badge sashes aren’t worn properly in the photo.

When out on assignment, we try to correct these types of uniform mistakes when we see them. But we can’t be everywhere and can’t fix everything.

So why run the photo? Because these fine Scouts from Nashville gave up their free time to attend the BSA’s 2014 National Annual Meeting and serve as the color guard.

They deserve our thanks and our recognition — no matter how they’re dressed.

A reminder about how to wear merit badge sashes

What better time to remind you about the rules and guidelines behind wearing merit badge sashes?

My blog post from back in March has everything you need to know.

196 Comments on Spotted in Scouting magazine: Merit badge sashes worn on belts

  1. Looks better than jeans.

    • I think your “thanks and recognition” could have been given in a more positive way than posting these boys on Facebook as the how-not-to-do-it poster children.

      • This was positive. We’ve been saying for years — decades actually — that the merit badge and OA sashes belong on the SHOULDER when worn and otherwise stored or carried by the Scout. It’s a good reminder…and sorry if you feel that feelings were hurt. No different than if I posted a photo of them in the same way.

  2. As a youth I wore on my long sleeve shirt my top 6 merit badges on my right sleeve. Its authorized at least back then. Did the same for my step son. Most adults in his troop had no idea you could do that.

    • This is still an option for the long sleeve uniform!

    • Ron Blaisdell // August 29, 2014 at 10:54 am // Reply

      Actually, back in the day, that was the way you wore merit badges, until you had 6 — since you weren’t supposed to wear a merit badge sash until you had more than 6 merit badges (at least that is what we were told by our SM!)

    • Still is an option. But when that Scout earns his seventh merit badge, ALL of the merit badges are then worn on the merit badge sash — the previous six and any additional merit badges afterward.

  3. Great article and reminder about proper uniforming. The other recurring topic is wearing the OA sash at non-OA unit events like Courts of Honor. Unless they are performing OA service, or at a troop OA meeting such as a unit election for OA, the OA sash should be kept off…also not to be worn on the belt!

  4. It may technically be wrong but it’s a long tradition. We wore them that way back in the late 70s and 80s in both the troops I was part of. Saw it in troops all around us.

    • A tradition that needed to be retired a long, long time ago. This image illustrates that we still have a very long way of retiring that “tradition”.

      And yes, as a Scout and Explorer, I wore mine that way as well…OA sash on the right, merit badge sash on the left. Just because we did it doesn’t make it right — or “traditional”. We were told and taught wrong, that’s all…

      • What humors me is that if so many youth enjoy displaying their badges this way and for so many generations then why not change the rules! They are obviously proud and want to share their accomplishments, so what gives? In this situation why doesn’t the National Executive Board accommodate what is happening at the unit level? According to Baden Powell, who is supposed to be running the show? If the board changed the rule, we wouldn’t have years of debate in all the forums and we could all move on to more important things.

  5. Wait… Hold up… These boys were the color guard at the National Meeting, and nobody spent a moment to make sure they were uniformed correctly?!

    The poor boy on the left with his OA sash slung down, someone couldn’t have done him a good turn and straightened it up for him? Seriously?!

    We’re Scouts here people. Doing small kindnesses is supposed to be our thing. Heavens knows if I were one of those boys having such a visible presentation, I’d at least want someone to point out to me my OA sash had slid down, or I was wearing the Merit Badge sash incorrectly. I wouldn’t want to go out there and be the ire of the uniform police for perpetuity, I’d hope that my fellow Scouts would look out for me and tell me what was wrong so I represented Scouting as best as I was capable.

    So the shame here, needs to be on the leaders in the room, not Scouting Magazine… Just saying.

    • This has long been a pet peeve of mine amd tried at many high visibility functions to correct this only to met woth “My scoutmaster said…” I have pretty much given up correcting scout outside of my troop

      • You know. I was at a young man’s Eagle Court and before the event I was talking to the boys parents. Mom was making sure her son looked sharp, but I saw she had the boy wearing his MB sash on his shoulder and OA sash on his belt. So I asked Mom, “Is the OA coming to the Court today?” She said no, and so I said to her, “You want your son to look his best today, right? Let me show you something. And I pulled up the page on my smatphone on the OA website related to the wearing of the sash. She said she saw lots of boys wearing the OA sash on their belts, why was it against the rules.

        My answer, “The arrow actually means something significant to those who are honored to wear it, If we bend an arrow all up, it wouldn’t be able to fly. That would basically defeat what the arrow is meant to mean. While that would be trivial to someone who wouldn’t wear the arrow, it would mean a lot more to one who does.” She accepted that answer, and took the sash off his belt.

        Usually a couple times a week, I hear myself promising to “Help other people at all times.” As I see it, letting a parent know the proper way to do things is helping them become more connected and better stewards of the program they’ve encouraged their sons to invest themselves so heavily into.

        • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 5:26 pm //

          If I was a leader in the unit, I would be slightly irritated if you address the situation this way because as a leader from outside the unit what gives you the right to start “inspecting” my Scouts. However, if you approached me I would be more than glad to ensure the issue is addressed. Also, it would’ve been nice to at least inform me of the situation, so I can ensure my Scouts understand the reasoning behind the change. I totally dislike it when the powers from above come and start chastising my Scouts about issues, especially when it comes to an Eagle Court of Honor.

      • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 5:08 pm // Reply

        I don’t think it should be as much about “correcting” as it is about “teaching”. If we were more about treating proper uniforming as an opportunity for learning, I think we would make much more progress. Also, if the situation allows, don’t just flat out point out a problem with the uniform and instead address it in a friendly manner.

        • ScoutingManiac, does your unit leadership extend to you non-member parents?

        • ScoutingManiac // August 30, 2014 at 4:36 pm //

          Rob

          Yes, it does but from the way you were acting, it seemed that you were not directly attached to the unit in some fashion. However, if you are an Assistant Scoutmaster or the Scoutmaster then I would be perfectly fine with what you said. So my question to you becomes, in what leadership capacity are you associated with, within this unit?

        • That “teaching” starts with the adults showing and demonstrating the appropriate manner to wear the uniform. “The uniform of the Scouter is the uniform of the Scout”. We all “inspect” each other — and frequently those “inspections” turn into “evaluations” — “Why should my son join this group when they can’t wear the outfit in the right way?”, “Why are some wearing things one way and others wearing it some other way?”, “What’s the significance of the sash with the arrow worn on the pants or belt and its wear on the shoulder…does that mean they are more “important” than the others?” Things like that. If we adults take the time and provide the appropriate role modeling, our Scouts will take those cues and wear and perhaps behave appropriately.

    • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 5:05 pm // Reply

      Unfortunately whether you meant to sound like it or not you were being the “uniform police”. However, I agree that a friendly reminder about proper uniforming especially at an event of this magnitude would be perfectly justifiable. If the leader or Scout doesn’t change it, don’t make this a mountain when it truly is just a molehill.

      • This was a case where a parent was telling their child to do the wrong thing publically… I stand behind eucating the parent politely.

      • Tell it like it is // August 30, 2014 at 9:55 am // Reply

        Friendly reminder… The euphemism that lets people tell other people how wrong they are and give cover to general jerk behavior.

        • Talk about being a jerk….

  6. So why run the photo? Because these fine Scouts from Nashville gave up their free time to attend the BSA’s 2014 National Annual Meeting and serve as the color guard…. Really? Maybe next time they’ll show up in a Class-B T-shirt and scout pants, still better than jeans? How many scouts are there in the US that would jump at the opportunity to “give up their time” to attend the National Annual Meeting? We couldn’t find four that can dress properly?

    • I have to be honest, I’d be concerned about the proper/appropriate display of the flags they are holding. If they are Color Guard, then they are aware of regulation display of the flags. If the boys were not presented with flag holders, they could easily have held the flag high, fully displayed. professional photographers know how to use a lens and get the whole view.

      • Context matters. I suspect these young men were caught in a candid photo at the back of the room waiting to begin. I don’t know, but that is something to consider before deciding what is wrong.

        • Andrew Himebaugh // August 30, 2014 at 3:45 pm //

          Regardless of context, they were seen. This is one of the reasons employees costumed as Disney characters are never visible to the public out of character or without their mask in place.

          Regardless of context, per the US Flag Code, “The flag should never be drawn back or bunched up in any way.” A Color Guard should observe this at all times. These boys are representing an image. They should act the part.

    • Classes of Uniforming (A or B) is a military term used for our uniforming standards set by our respective branches based on our unique military history and customs.

      As we, the BSA, are not a military or para-military organization we instead have a Field Uniform and an Activity Uniform.

      Bryan, we need to do an article on that if you have not already done so in the past.

      • We may not currently be para-military, but we were started as a prep for military for youth, thus there are a lot of military terms in the BSA (look at the Bugling Requirements, they are military calls) Class B is a BSA historical term going back way before I was even born. Granted you don’t hear reference to Class A a lot, but the Class B is what it’s called, you don’t go to activityunifoms.com to find a class b, (not that I’m advertising for something as I find them to not be the cheapest option) you do though have classb.com

        • We the BSA, or we the Scouting movement? I’d like to see a BSA written document from the last 102 years with the military as a prep for youth.

          Bryan…what y’all got in the archives. Can we get the BSA National Museum to look at this and help you write an article? I would love to see the history of our uniforming as well. Heck… I could be wrong…probably am. Been wrong before…most likely will be wrong later today. Maybe we could get the rest of the story as the dude on the radio once said.

          Also, I would agree BP had a vision for a youth organization that gave training to eventually inspire and aid into the British military, but after he saw death of young people in battle the vision changed to a Scouting movement for world peace. Or at least that is what I am remembering form WB.

        • Mr. Don, there’s a decent (but not comprehensive) history of the uniform here: http://scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0210/d-wwas.html Unfortunately, it skips over the uniform from the 1970s (new fabric, new color, collar-less shirts, brightly-colored rank and office badges)

        • I would say that the Scouting movement was built on a manual designed to prepare men for the military, but to suggest that Scouting was started as a prep for military service is incorrect based on my reading of history. The manual that BP wrote wasn’t designed for boys, but for young men who would be joining the military and those who were in to introduce them to skills they needed. It was when boys picked up and started using the manual on their own that drove the idea for Scouting. And even then it wasn’t to prepare them for the British military, but to prepare them to be men of good character. All along BP knew it was about building men not soldiers – exemplified by his phrase about Scouting being a game with a purpose.
          A lot of items are congruent with the military, but often the military took on elements from life and adapted them for their specific use – such as semaphores, and other times developed them and they are useful outside of Scouting. That doesn’t make them military.
          One of the biggest adaptations in the military is the pomp and formality. It’s used in the military to train and develop discipline, and so of course, BP knew that and incorporated it into Scouting.
          My understanding is that the BSA, through it’s charter, is not a para- or pre military organizations, hence the fuss about making the suggestion.
          The history of Class A and B was really a post WWII military adaptation and not ever officially a BSA item. I’m interested to know when we actually started using alternative uniforms for activities – I’m pretty sure that was a post WWII (I’m thinking 1960′s) development. Any insight on that one?

        • FYI – “Class B” is not an official BSA term; the term is “activity uniform.” The website classb.com that you mention is not run by the BSA. As a private 3rd-party vendor they can call themselves (and their product) whatever they want. Don’t let some outside company mislead you as to what the proper BSA name is – check the BSA publications and you’ll see there is no “class b.”.

        • Nutmegger // August 29, 2014 at 2:21 pm //

          Personally, I find Class A and Class B WAY easier to understand and remember than field uniform and activity uniform or whatever the correct terms are. They sound interchangeable. It’s easier to remember Class A = traditional uniform, Class B = unit t-shirt or the like.

          But having an argument about the proper naming conventions for different types of uniforms is a new height for uniform cop squabbling! We’ve moved beyond what is proper uniforming and into proper terminology. To that end, I’m glad no one has jumped on the folks who mentioned the OA dangle… since it’s really a “pocket device.”

      • Don;

        See, there’s a rub here. In some cases you can see “Class A” and “Class B” used in Scouting units. Venturing crews are able to define their own uniform, therefore they are able to call their uniform whatever they wish. In our crew’s case in the bylaws “Class A” and “Class B” are used to denote “Formal” and “Activity” uniforms. Since a crew can define it’s uniform, it can also define its nomenclature and traditions for wear as well. So today, perfectly acceptably I can state that we have units that have “Class A” uniforms.”

        • Venturing is an animal unto itself and I’m trying to learn as much as I can about it in hopes this year to start a crew. So I’m super open to folks pointing me in the right direction if there is more official BSA references out there than I could find on my own. If you have recommendations please post them below. I have the Venturing Leader Manual, so any other pubs would be great to read.
          Thanks for the help.

        • Don, happy to help, contact me off-thread. You can click on my name above for contact details.

      • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 5:00 pm // Reply

        We have covered this topic about field uniforms verse activity uniforms, so many times that it is almost getting tiresome that we must still focus soooooooooooo much attention on this. I personally still use the words class A and class B because that is what most understand and accept. Sure I should be using correct terminology but if I did I would get funny looks. To me this distinction on uniform types is more of a nitpicking situation than anything else and really shouldn’t get the attention as it does. But maybe that’s just because I don’t like hyper-focusing on one Method of Scouting than another.

    • Christopher McCabe // September 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm // Reply

      It’s not called “class B” anymore. (Since the uniform police are on the prowl.) LOL!

  7. Andrea Wailes // August 29, 2014 at 8:13 am // Reply

    I understand following the rules. But really they are proud of all that they have accomplished and like to share it and feel proud of it together. We are a BIG scout family. With OA and Merit badges earned and both our boys are headed towards Eagle. I don’t see anything wrong with this. I’m not trying to break the rules/cause problems, but there are a lot of other things to write a column about. If we could get more boys to wear the sashes, I don’t see anything wrong with it. – Scout Mom

    • One can’t “earn” an OA sash or membership. It’s an honor which is bestowed upon you. A boy can very easily go though a whole Scouting career and not get elected into the OA.

      The OA sash may only be worn at official OA events. Eagle Courts, Roundtables, and Flag Ceremonies are generally not appropriate places to wear the sash. Unless of course these events are run by a group of Arrowmen.

      (If you happened to have the OA be the color guard at an Eagle Court, that would make the sashes acceptable for the color guard to wear. In this case, I really don’t know if these boys are representing a lodge or chapter, so my Spider-Sense didn’t tingle at the sight of them all wearing OA sashes.)

      You’ll likely ask what the proper way to signify OA membership is, and the answer is the Pocket Dangle, _not_ the OA sash. It can be worn at all times. Theoretially a lodge flap doesn’t signify membership in the OA nationally, but it does indicate membership in a particular lodge. People can change lodges though hence the Dangle being the “common” item every Arrowman can wear.

      • ScoutingManiac // August 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm // Reply

        Rob

        I hate it to seem like I’m singling you out but I do have concerns with what you are saying. Obviously, based upon your level of understanding you are an OA member, that to me is clear. However, addressing others outside the OA like you are doesn’t help strengthening the OA-Unit relationship. Yes, understanding and agreeing to the principles and traditions of the OA is extremely important, it still doesn’t mean that sounding pompous and elitist is the best way to gain friends.

        WARNING: This does not match or intend to match the policies and guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America. And only covers a perspective that may or may not agree with the official statement of the BSA.

        I’m sorry but I hate the Pocket Dangle, it rarely stays on the uniform or is regularly loss. This is especially true when it comes to youth members. For example, I myself have bought the Pocket Dangle at least 5 or 6 times and still have not be able to keep track of a single one. Sure, is that the responsible Scouting way, we all strive to achieve? No but there also are limits when it comes to buying parts of the uniform.

        One additional thing, unless your in the OA, you probably have no clue what the Pocket Dangle represents and that is assuming of course that you are looking close enough to ask about that particular item on your uniform. However, the Lodge Flap and most certainly the Sash will be noticed. Which will likely lead to questions and curiosity towards what the OA is all about.

    • So, what if we could get more boys to wear the sashes if we let them the OA sash as a belt, or make a nice origami hat out of the merit badge sash?

      • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm // Reply

        I have to agree. Too often have a heard the comment “those “OA Guys” are so secretive” or another one I hear is “what does the OA do for our unit or how does the OA help the council”. To combat these statements, I agree with you that wearing OA Sashes at non-OA events would help increase the presence of the OA and to recruit members. I know that when I was a youth and wore my OA Sash outside of an OA event I would get all sorts of questions and it made more Scouts interested in becoming involved. I also know that many OA Lodges could desperately use more members to make an even bigger impact.

  8. FYI more than one issue with the picture? Can you find the other two?

  9. The scout who is 2nd from the left is wearing his Philmont patch on the wrong pocket. (And think how much more like scouts they’d look if they wore their neckerchiefs over the collar like we all did prior to Oscar de la Renta’s refashioning it as a 1970′s era disco ascot)

    • Andrea Wailes // August 29, 2014 at 8:33 am // Reply

      I see 4 Scouts proud and representing their country, their Troop and themselves. They have earned A LOT and are proud of it. That is what I see.

      • It’s good that you see that. But what most of my well-intentioned colleagues are trying to say, is that “uniform” is synonymous with “consistency.” There is a right way and wrong way of doing things, and there is actually a published manual of the right way in this case. As leaders we are supposed to ensure our youth wear things consistent with the guide.

        Would you wear white shoes after Labor Day? Would you wear colors that clash? Would you wear a tie with a short-sleeved shirt? We have fashion do’s and don’ts outside of Scouting too. People follow those customs because they don’t want to stick out and look funny. Or they break them so they stand out and attract attention. In this case we try to make the conformity of uniform stand out for itself, as members of a unified organization. You can show a lot of pride by looking your best.

        • Bryan Reynolds // August 29, 2014 at 9:17 pm //

          Since any uniform can be worn, uniform should not be part of the conversation.
          Too much is being made of a minor issue.

        • Bryan Reynolds // August 29, 2014 at 9:23 pm //

          Couple more.
          Guide is a guide, NOT hard rules.
          I do wear sock with sandles, plaids & stripes and colors that might make your eyes bleed.

        • ScoutingManiac // August 31, 2014 at 7:56 am //

          Rob

          I would consider you and your colleagues are not being “well intentioned”. Repeatedly you have choosen to nit-pick and go on about minor details. I guess my whole issue, is that it seems you are not focusing on things that actually matter and instead are focusing on the minor details. Yes, correct uniforming should occur but can we just be glad that they look sharp and probably did great. It reminds me of this saying………..

          “To strive for perfection is absolutely a worthy goal. However in the course of things the striving of perfection is all one cares about, you have most certainly gotten away from what being a human being is all about.”

          Point is…………….Nobody and I mean nobody can achieve perfection in everything they do because we are human and humans only learn through experience.

    • The American Flag is not allowed to free flow, it is scrunched together by the scouts hand.

      • ScoutingManiac // August 31, 2014 at 8:02 am // Reply

        Rob

        I am beginning to think that you are totally out of touch with reality. All you have pointed out is critical thoughts of a group of Scouts performance that you are clueless about. What you are doing is shameful.

        One thing about the Flag not being free-flowing………….I work with Cub Scouts and the majority of them are not yet tall enough to hold the flag in a way that if allowed to be free flowing would not touch the ground. Cub Scouts, last time I checked were encouraged to participate in a flag ceremony. So how am I supposed to flow your standard and let the Cub Scouts participate.

    • that is a troop decision, over to under the collar — not national, set by troop.

    • Yeah…we can go back and forth about how it looks over or under the collar. Personally, I like under the collar because the neckerchief to me is like a tie…but I’ve worn my neckerchief over my shirt collars also. The point is that the neckerchief is worn *around the neck* of the Scout or Scouter, and that’s the importance of the item.

  10. If the boys were at such an event, the leaders present should have pointed it out. Possibly a large spread, also available on the website, could include “do” and “don’t” practices could be done soon. There are many items that could be addressed more publicly. The Insignia Guide is a great starting point, but it doesn’t catch everything that the boys do!

    • I’ve been told that there’s a new insignia guide being put together. This might just be rumor, but I’m hoping it’s true and addresses more of the commonly seen things. However, the 2 things I see most commonly that look worst to me ARE addressed currently (how the sash is worn and that ALL uniform shirts are to be tucked in)

      • http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Media/InsigniaGuide.aspx

      • There is and those topics will be covered in that guide. If you’ve got other suggestions, please pass them to me (settummanque@yahoo.com) as well as to the BSA’s content team (program.content@scouting.org) so that all may be captured. The new guide may not hit your Scout Shops(tm) or trading posts by next year however.

        I have managed and edited the Badge and Uniform Site (http://www.scoutinsignia.com), which covers topics like this in some detail. While not a BSA site, the Badge and Uniform Site is used by hundreds of Scouters and families and dozens of local Councils as an additional resource on top of the BSA’s website to answer and resolve many issues and questions like this.

        • Mike, I’m not discrediting your site (which I thoroughly enjoy), or the importance of dedicated adults modelling a correct uniform. We just have three barriers (besides its no-nonsense simplicity) that cause this tradition to be entrenched:

          1. Boys read their handbook and the inspection sheet. Neither of these mention that belts should not double as sash-racks. There is no requirement for a boy to study the Insignia Guide or look up your site.
          2. Adults don’t have MB sashes, so boys cannot see an adult modelling the correct wear. They will have to wait to be told. In a boy-led troop or lodge, this can take a very long time.
          3. There is no *positive* advice on how to fold and where to put the unused sash in any manual or guide or on your site.

          Obviously some work on #1 might help. We can’t change #2 in the sense that, as demonstrated here, leaders – even if educated – will put varying priority on communicating the finer points of insignia that they can’t even model. That leaves #3, which you could begin to address by gathering suggestions on how to manage the “two-sash no-storage” situation.

          There’s no telling how long will it take for *positive* alternatives that are as resourceful as the scout belt to make it into BSA literature. But, from where I sit, that’s precisely what needs to be done.

  11. Sandra Melville // August 29, 2014 at 8:22 am // Reply

    Perhaps we should consider a change. Scouts have worked hard to earn those merit badges, why should they not have the option to wear the sash neatly at the belt? Similarly, is there a time when OA Scouts are not performing service? They are elected by their fellows who recognize their service orientation, whether they are resource for their troop or out on a service project per se. If they have been elected and completed their ordeal, they should be allowed to wear their sash, as an inspiration to others. Let’s not hide our light under a bushel!

    • Sandra;
      The reason the sash is for specific times is that there is a more modest item that can be worn at all times. It’s called a Pocket Dangle which is a small red and white ribbon with a little metal arrow at the bottom. It’s deliberately meant to be modest because being in the OA isn’t something meant to be flaunted or to be shown off. It’s not a badge, and some great people never get elected in. I’d take great offense personally to seeing an Arrowman throwing his membership in a non-member’s face, and that’s basically the point.

      • Your’s is a good point. However if they wear the MB sash then the OA dangle is covered. I also don’t think you should be offended. You say there are lots of good people that don’t get elected in. I would add there are a lot who have been elected that do not deserve such an honor. I’ve heard & seen PLENTY of un-Scout like words & acts by youth & adult alike during OA events. I’ve tried to address such things when they happen. I know far too many inductees do the proverbial sash & dash. Nevertheless, I would say that I think it would generally be a good thing to promote the desire of membership in the OA. My Unit tries very much to incorporate OA events in our program planning.

    • This is why we wear the lodge flap, to signify that the Scout or Adult is a member of the OA. Sashes are only to be worn at OA events, and specifically where the OA is giving service.

      The subtlety of the OA flap (and per the Uniform Guide, the only thing to be worn on the right pocket) should quietly scream “I am in the OA, and if you want to join, ask me how!”

      • H. David Pendleton // August 29, 2014 at 10:58 am // Reply

        One cannot “join” OA, but must be elected. So asking someone how to get into OA is probably not productive unless the conversation turns the Scout into a selfless leader who is then elected by his unit.

        • Where does it state that a Scout must be a selfless leader to be in the OA? None of the chapter adviser handbooks that I have say that.

          And if the conversation does turn to the “how do I get elected?”, then the Arrowman is doing his duty.

  12. Given the nature of the event and the nation-wide coverage in Scouting and other media outlets, I think a leader (boy or adult) present at the event should have assisted these young men. I wanted to make a comment concerning this, too. Too many Scouters jump on other leaders for being uniform police, though, when someone makes a comment to one of their Scouts. It is my belief that uniform means the same and while the Guide to Awards and Insignia is only a guide it is something we should strive to live up to in the field.

    • Agreed. Still think a change to the guides should be considered.

  13. Jeffrey Herr // August 29, 2014 at 8:30 am // Reply

    Let’s just drop all the BSA standards. As long as the boys have fun, it should be allowed. They mean well, and it’s better than nothing, right? Right?

    Wrong. Life has standards and guidelines. Maybe we don’t have to make a big deal about it, but they are there for a reason…

  14. Just wondering, what is the rationale for not wearing it on the belt?

    • Akela;
      I may say too much here, but the arrow has a meaning, and a trajectory. If you folded it, it couldn’t fly. It would also change the intended course of where the arrow was going…
      Shutting up now on that topic… :)

    • Your first paragraph sums up, sadly, what many parents and adult leaders have told me (sometimes loudly, and sometimes combined with profanity) during my past seven years as a volunteer assistant leader in Scouting.

      However, you forgot to mention the modern policy of No Scout Left Behind: every boy deserves a trophy.

  15. While I do agree it is important to recognize scouts willing to go above and beyond simply attending camp outs and troop meetings, there are clearly several points being missed here. First, one of the fundamental (and publicly stated in print and through Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader training) methods of Scouting is the use of uniforms. As cited in Bryan’s blog, the uniform guide is very clear on where, when and how a merit badge sash is to be worn. Secondly, I found it almost ironic that Bryan made mention of a previous blog entry on proper merit badge sash wear and immediately beside that blog entry was another blog post that referenced an “Ask the Expert” entry from the Order of the Arrow National Chairman on when it is appropriate to wear OA sashes. Putting aside only three of the four scouts pictured are in in OA sashes and that the American Flag is in the wrong location (It would be on the “marching right” if there is only one other flag on display. It should be front and center when in a line with three or more flags), The OA Manual and national leader both state OA sashes are to be worn at OA events or Boy Scout events where the services being rendered require the identification of particpants as Arrowmen. That is clearly not the case here and indicates a shortcoming on both local troop and OA leadership on multiple fronts. It also continues a practice that I and other scout leaders have had discussions with this blog previously. It is not the first time significantly obvious departures from BSA policy and standards have appeared in graphic format. Uniforming is one of the methods of the BSA. Bryan’s blog, representing the official BSA brand and logo should not undermine the BSA requirements and policies by not printing known deficiencies on a repeat basis.

    • In fairness re: the flags issue, this photo looks like it was taken while the boys were standing around waiting for something to start. I wouldn’t get bent out of shape about it.

      Further, if Bryan were to only print photos of properly uniformed scouts, he wouldn’t have many choices.

      I’m all for clean, neat appearance but some of the uniform regulations seem a bridge too far. Let the kids be proud of their merit badges and show off their MBs and promote their OA membership at formal occasions. What harm is being done?

      • In accuracy….there is no such thing as “just standing around” while you are a color guard member. If you have the flag in your hand, you are always “on guard.” Using your logic, it would be acceptable to lay the flag down on the ground when it is not on display.

        Addressing your comment about limited pictures, once again, using your logic it would be acceptable to knowingly publish pictures contrary to BSA regulations and policies. That would certainly perpetuate the problem they already have. In the end it would not be a problem for this blog and the BSA as a whole if leaders (both adults and scouts) actually did what they agreed to do…….namely lead. A leader’s role is not always a popular spot to be. Too many leaders feel it more important to “be a friend” and not address a problem.

        If no one is willing to take on the challenge to reach that bridge too far, then they should turn around and head back home. Leaders lead.

        • Nutmegger // August 29, 2014 at 9:57 pm //

          Am I correct that you honestly expect these kids (or anyone) who are standing around, clearly bored, waiting for something to happen to stand with the American flag bearer in front of the others? They’re not marching anywhere. They’re standing around with the flag in the proper position. I’d even argue that with those three flags, the American flag needn’t be marched ahead of them (it’s certainly how I’ve seen dozens of ROTC guards march 3-4 flags) but I’m no flag code expert.

          I hardly suggested it would be ok for the kids to disrespect the flag and my logic hardly leads to that conclusion. You’re picking at nits that don’t even exist.

          The “problem that we already have” has nothing at all to do with whether some bored teens wore a MB sash improperly while waiting to present the colors in a room full of adults and has more to do with scouting being tuned out by youth and society in no small part due to pendatry like this whole discussion exemplifies. Obsessing about uniforms is missing the forest for the trees. Let’s all stop rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic and address some larger issues like how to keep 21st century kids and their parents interested in what scouting has to offer. Leaders also don’t get hung up on perfecting one small piece of the puzzle at the expense of losing everything else. They recognize when to pick a fight and when to evolve.

          I noticed this photo immediately when I got this magazine. I cringed when I saw this post because I knew it would be flooded with this sort of discussion. It’s too bad.

        • Yep, Nutmegger, you’ve hit the nail on the head: “[Our problem] has more to do with scouting being tuned out by youth and society in no small part due to pendatry like this whole discussion exemplifies.” First, in your use of ‘pendantry’ to describe this discussion. Pedant, n., “1 one who emphasizes trivial points of learning 2 a narrow-minded teacher who insists on exact adherence to rules.” Second, in your observation that it is just this kind of nonsense that turns people away from Scouting. I can see the folks at BSA headquarters, and their consultants, reading these comments and hanging their heads in despair.

      • Andrew Himebaugh // August 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm // Reply

        Ask the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier if they ever “stand around waiting for something to start”. That guard performs their duty with honor, 24 hours a day, rain or shine, heat and cold, hurricanes and blizzards. They perform their duties in without complaint, because it is an honor for them to do so.

        These Scouts are not asked to meet the rigorous criteria the Tomb guards must meet, but they should consider the HONOR portion if they want the title.

  16. Cheryl Dorwin // August 29, 2014 at 8:38 am // Reply

    Hey – what a great idea for Boys Life! A monthly blurb about common uniform mistakes. And a similar one in Scouting Magazine – this was a good start – about uniform issues for both the kids and adults. My family and I are a Navy family and we believe in “if you’re going to wear a uniform, do so in a squared away fashion”. Everyone – go make it a great Scouting day!

  17. In my Unit, I’m the uniform geek. I have been gently pushing for our boys & adult leaders to wear the full uniform correctly. For the longest time, we were a 501 unit; wearing jeans & the Class-A shirt being the norm. We’re not there yet, but we’re moving toward the full Class-A albeit slowly.

    That said, I agree with those who say that we need to try & promote pride in the boy’s accomplishments so that they want to wear their MB sash. Likewise, I think it is good for the OA members to be able to wear their sashes at Court of Honor or other special events to promote membership in the OA.

    I know rules are rules & I agree that for such an event as the national meeting, the boys should be squared away, but beyond that; maybe the rules should be changed to provide guidelines for wearing the MB sash tucked into the belt & to also allow wearing the OA sash as well. I mean why not?

    An old saying; “it often is not so much what you do, but how you do it that matters”. The boys in the photo look great! Fine representatives of BSA!

    • Tim Gaffron (TimGinMN) // August 29, 2014 at 9:15 am // Reply

      Dear Uniform Geek,
      You know that “Class A” and “Class B” are not official terms used by the BSA, right?

      I do agree with you that maybe there should be a rule change to allow the MB sash to be somehow worn, maybe over the belt as shown, when also wearing the OA sash. As you say, Why not? But yes, let’s make it official.

      • AGREED!

    • Because, as we all know. Geeks use proper terminology and never abbreviate! ;)

  18. The OA pocket dangle signifies your successful Ordeal, and your lodge flap signifies you are a paid up member in good standing of your local lodge. We do not ALSO need to wear the sash at non-OA events to signify our membership. Wearing the OA sash properly (in this case, not at all) would allow for the proper wearing of the MB sash.

    • Missed this earlier.
      I don’t think declaring this a non-OA event would solve anything. The picture would just wind up with MB sashes on the shoulder and arrows on the belt! Same discussion, different actors.

  19. Scott Whitlock // August 29, 2014 at 8:52 am // Reply

    it’s NOT a Color Guard! this implies they are armed. The better term is Flag Detail.

  20. I am going to quote someone we might know as a movement: Baden Powell

    “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”

    “Success in training the boy depends largely on the Scoutmaster’s own personal example.”

    My 2 cents says BP might be right about the root cause of the photo faux pas.

  21. Even when I was in the Army uniform rules and regulations were not universally kept. They existed but there were local variations. Heck, even as a West Point cadet we stretched the rules as much as we could get away with. If the military doesn’t stay strict, it’s not hard to believe BSA doesn’t.

    What’s the point of Scouting? Strict uniform rules or learning leadership and citizenship and all the other goals of Scouting? Scouting is run by volunteers who are doing good if they can implement the program well enough for the scouts to advance and learn. Getting into the minutiae of uniform details at this level is asking a lot more of them, especially when there is a long tradition in many places of wearing the sashes this way.

    One of my big hangups was flag ceremonies. My cub scout days and my first scout troop were all on post, military sponsored units. We learned flag ceremony the right way from adult leaders who were military and olders scouts who learned it from them. We learned the right way to do it all. There aren’t that many of us who have and even a lot of my fellow Eagles can’t teach flag ceremonies to the standards I was taught if they weren’t in troops like that. I eventually learned to let perfection go since perfect flag ceremonies is not one of the primary goals of scouting. They do a good job but when you let the boys lead, they just aren’t going to get it just right. Broadly right yes, perfect no.

  22. Mom of an Eagle scout // August 29, 2014 at 9:12 am // Reply

    time to change the uniform guidelines…..change it…looks so old fashion….and you are trying to keep boys involved in scouting…so do it…Girl Scouts have changed with the demands of modern uniform changes why not Boy Scouts? I think it looks nice and neat vs the sash covered in badges all crooked and distracting the eye from the scout and the uniform itself

  23. Bryan wrote: “They deserve our thanks and our recognition — no matter how they’re dressed.”

    I agree. And in case you missed it, this is the third blog post in two months with pretty much the same message. See the July 9 post on wearing kilts with the uniform, which concluded with this line: “While uniforms are one important thing, they’re far from the most important thing.” See also the August 8 post on wearing jeans with the uniform, in which it is said that the pictured troop “has more important things to worry about than what kind of pants its Scouts wear.”

    BSA is modeling (pun intended) the attitude about uniforming it wants us to exhibit.

    • Dan;
      I think the problem is that most people blame the boys when they see things out of uniform. We have a leader in my district who wears his OA flap on his left pocket. His justification is alternately that it’s a “conversation starter” or a way to show off his flap while wearing his sash… I address uniform issues in my crew, that’s my job as advisor. Outside of that, I try to tell the parents or the leader. Chain of Command after all.

      • Hi, Rob! I think the problem is that (encouraged by things like the rules in the Guide to Awards and Insignia, uniform inspection sheets, and other influences such as the “no deviation” rule for advancement requirements), some folks have concluded that there is a single objective standard for Scout uniform wear; there are no excuses for failing to meet that standard (or ensuring that others in your charge meet that standard); and that doing so demonstrates some form of character defect or lack of commitment to Scouting. In other words, that attitude is: If you are a Scout, you wear the uniform. If you wear the uniform, you wear the complete, correct uniform and do so properly. Period.

        At that point, uniform wear is no longer about the (sometimes lengthy) process developing self-reliance (in acquiring and setting up the uniform), developing attention to detail, developing pride in your personal appearance, developing a sense of brotherhood with other Scouts or Venturers, and developing commitment to the Scouting Movement. Instead, the uniform has become simply about Obedience.

        How do you know? Take the picture here, or the picture of the troop with some members wearing jeans. Then step back, and take a look at the _whole_ picture — or better yet, have someone take a look who isn’t intimately familiar with the insignia guide — and ask, what do you see in this picture?

        I think BSA is telling us that Uniforming is part of the _big_ picture of Scouting: developing youth with character, citizenship, and fitness. I think BSA is telling us that the right answer to that question is: I see Scouts with pride in themselves, pride in Scouting, and pride in their country who are excellent representatives of the Boy Scouts of America. Period.

  24. Lesson Learned. It is not about showing the World your Badges or Arrows. Show them who you are with just your uniform to the best you can afford and most important through the service you’re performing. Remember it’s not about you it is about the Community and doing good service to others.

    • (Lackadaisical) – “lacking enthusiasm and determination, careless, lazy, without interest, vigor or determination.” How can you expect scouts (or adults) to provide that cheerful sevice to others if they know you only follow the parts of the BSA Program you agree with? A lackadaisical approach by leadership results in a similar response by the troop as a whole.

  25. All of the nitpickers ought to be ashamed of themselves. Is training leaders and youth to wear the scout uniform correctly an important learning objective? Yes, without a doubt it is. Is it as important as encouraging them to cheerfully serve in many roles and in challenging environments? Not by a long shot. Clearly with the instruction that they had been given, they did their best to look sharp and take pride in their appearance and accomplishments. And that is so important that we codify it in the scout oath. ‘Do my best’ is the single most important principle that scouting teaches.

  26. Gene Barney // August 29, 2014 at 9:19 am // Reply

    As Honor Guard where are their white gloves? At this level of an event?

    • Scouts do not wear white gloves, other special attire, or carry ceremonial rifles/swords for flag detail/ceremonies. Per BSA.

  27. Phyllis Wood // August 29, 2014 at 9:20 am // Reply

    Okay so what are they supposed to do when they earn so many merit badges that they fill their sash up and have enough left over to fill another one by half?

    • Cheryl Dorwin // August 29, 2014 at 9:30 am // Reply

      What I have seen other scouts do, is to sew a large sash to a small sash creating a 6 badge wide sash. I don’t know how this plays with the rules, but it gets the job done.

    • The 36″ sash can display 100+ merit badges. It would be rare that a scout would need to worry about overflow.

  28. ScoutMomOf3 // August 29, 2014 at 9:21 am // Reply

    I think maybe a review of the rule should be considered. There are a TON of merit badges available for these boys to earn, and most of them take a considerable amount of time to complete. I’m guilty as well – when my oldest took his Eagle portraits, he wore his sash over his belt and his OA sash. It was to highlight his achievements. Most of the people who received these pictures aren’t scouts so they didn’t know, but man did they think it was cool to see all of that on him!! I hear the comment about the lodge flap as well, except many times that is covered up by the merit badge sash. I think it’s great for public appearance to show off all of the opportunity and hard work that these boys do. Younger scouts see all of that and get excited for when they can wear them. Community members see that and think of what great future leaders they will have. To the boys and leaders, it really shouldn’t be about how much hardware you have to wear, but to the outsiders looking in, it’s a great tool for recruitment and positive image!

    • So….you are basically saying that because others did not know it was wrong…..that makes it right or acceptable? Ah yes…..it was “cool”.

    • I think part of the problem concerning this debate about OA sashes is like trying to debate what’s the best way to eat cheese. A percentage of the commenters here are connoisseurs, where others have never tasted cheese before.

      Those among the group who’ve never tasted cheese are questioning those who have as to the etiquette and nuances of cheese not understanding them, and those who love cheese are trying to somehow express verbally what cheese tastes like, which doesn’t work so well.

      Please don’t take offense at my oversimplifying this, but what I would advocate for ANY parent here. If you’ve let your son invest themselves into Scouting, invest yourself. You don’t have to be the next Scoutmaster, but you can come to an OA event now and again. You can meet the Advisers, it’s not a secret organization. You can see the ceremonies being conducted, and you can see the care and respect that goes into them. If you don’t get what the arrow means, ask! We’ll explain it, unless we think you might undergo the ceremonies, then we’ll try not to spoil it on you. Otherwise, any adult will explain it all and why. Please approach us, and please ask. You can help us do a better job at reinforcing what we’re all about.

  29. Dang so not only were they wearing it incorrectly, photographed and shared in Scouting magazine. They were allowed to do this at a NATIONAL BSA event. That is even sadder than it being in the magazine! Not one person at this NATIONAL event would correct them? LOL WOW.

  30. G Peter Schmitt Sr // August 29, 2014 at 9:32 am // Reply

    I agree rules are rules …
    So let’s formally change the rules that have been informally changed by Troop for decades

  31. I think that many times we do things that are not correct: HOWEVER, whoever was in charge at the National Meeting had the opportunity to correct the boys uniform prior to the picture. I certainly looked up the uniform guidelines whenever our cubs or scouts had the honor to serve in a color guard. We should expect no less from our National BSA. And Scouting Magazine should apologize for the mistake and not make excuses. Not the Scout way.

  32. Well if this is an “official rule” then it certainly isn’t enforced very well. As a youth member I and everyone else in my troop wore our merit badge sashes on our belt when we wore our OA sashes. No one has ever been told this was “wrong.” And I don’t see a problem with it. If a youth wants to show that he is in OA and also show off his merit badges then so be it. This “rule” just seems to be picking at something that isn’t a big deal.

    • Young man I agree with you & I am very happy when a youth member expresses himself the way you have in this forum.

      I think the official rules should be amended to allow the draped MB sash & also allow wearing the OA sash with the draped MB sash.

      But as an registered adult leader I would like to emphasize the importance of the uniform. In my Unit, we equate it to being a member of a sports team. While you don’t need the uniform to play well or succeed / win (& I’m sure there are plenty of ‘teams’ that are not uniformed), most sports team would not let one of there player on the field “out of uniform”. Lots of kids participate in various sports & there is little if no decent about having to wear the full uniform. Its just a matter of fact. As Scouts & Scouters, we need to take pride in & promote the uniform. In this particular case I think it rather petty to chastise the Scouts in the photo. I think they look great!

  33. Nahila Nakne // August 29, 2014 at 10:18 am // Reply

    WOW, you think the leaders, both youth and adult, involved would help their scouts to be 100% correctly uniformed for a major event like this.

    I’ve been fortunate to help out at major events, and always help get the folks 100% uniformed, to the point of lending items of my uniform to make them look good for the event.

  34. Craig Fosburg // August 29, 2014 at 10:19 am // Reply

    Yes, the rules have stated that the only allowable way of wearing the MB sash is over the shoulder. Yes, the OA rules also state the OA sash can only be worn at official functions either sponsored by the OA or where the Arrowman needs to be specifically identified. (yes these are both paraphrasing)

    That being said, I have always held that both those rules are wrong to some extent. The MB sash is intended to allow the boy to display the hard work he’s completed in his trail to Eagle. The Arrowman sash is worn to designate an honor the boy was elected to by his fellow Scouts, and (in higher membership levels) their hard work on behalf of the Order and Scouting in general.

    In my opinion (and in practice with all 7 troops I’ve been associated with over my almost 30 years as a Scout/Scouter) the MB sash should be worn on the shoulder UNLESS that scout is also an Arrowman, then the Arrow sash takes precedence and the MB sash should be hung over the right hand side of the belt. If the event is important enough that the boy feels it is appropriate to display both (i.e. Court of Honor, parades, flag ceremonies, and other public ceremonies), he should be allowed to do so in a standardized manner. I also think it should not be allowed unless the scout is in full “Class A” uniform.

    • H. David Pendleton // August 29, 2014 at 11:26 am // Reply

      In my military career, I received several awards that could only be worn with the current unit I was assigned to at the time. This included a special belt buckle authorized to be worn by only 1 regiment in the entire army. I was very proud of that belt buckle because it represented over a year’s worth of blood, sweat, & probably even a few tears to earn it. That being said, I had to start wearing the regular belt buckle when I left the unit.

      Likewise, the Army has a special blue cord that is only worn by infantry soldiers assigned to infantry units. When not assigned to an infantry unit, the cord is not worn.

      When assigned to certain units, the Soldiers get to wear historical unit citations (over their right pocket) that the unit has received previously. When the soldier leaves the unit, the unit citations are removed UNLESS the soldier was in the unit when it was earned.

      The bottom line is which of the uniforming rules are we as Scouters suppose to obey & which ones do we get to break? Who gets to decide? What is the standard for one unit is different than another unit. When this occurs, then there is no standard so the Scouts are no longer “uniform.” If Scouters feel the need to change the policy, they should go through the proper procedures to get the standards change. After all, we all are suppose to try to obey the 7th point of the Scout Law AND if we intentionally violate it, what example are we providing to the youth? That they get to decide which rules/laws that they have to obey and therefore there is no black & white regarding standards?

    • The Order of the Arrow is different and should not be held in some “precedence” to anything else. It is a separate organization and the rule is you only wear the sash when at those specific functions. It isn’t too hard, when I was a scout in oa we all knew that. You don’t need to advertise your membership like this IMO.

    • So now you know, you’ve been doing it wrong for 30 years.

  35. Uniforming is just one of the methods of Scouting. I usually don’t worry too much about it at troop meetings unless it is something egregious such as wearing non-BSA emblems or looking like they slept in their shirt.

    But a flag ceremony is a public event. The uniforming issues tell me that there was a leadership issue. This makes me wonder about the ceremony itself. I have performed training for a number of flag ceremonies and part of my emphasis is on uniforming.

  36. Gary Schubert II // August 29, 2014 at 10:37 am // Reply

    Only problem I had/have. Is when you wear the merit badge sash you have no way to recognize The Order of Arrow, because it covers your OA Flap.

    So why would BSA not want up to ware both @ the same time. I always picked OA over the MB, when I was a scout. Cause to me the OA sash ranked my personal MB sash.

  37. the photo could have been cropped so it did not show them at all.

  38. Raymond Gajewski // August 29, 2014 at 10:54 am // Reply

    “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader” BP
    Enough said.

    • One better.

      John 7:8. God.

      Enough said.

  39. Can somebody cue up Taylor Swift’s “Mean” as background music?

    I think it’s great that some average boy scouts who haven’t read the insignia guide and flag code from cover to cover are able to contribute to a National meeting.

    Think about it from the boy’s perspective. They get all this bling for their uniforms. We tell them to be proud of every last part of it. They do their best to display it all in a neat and presentable fashion. And really, they do look pretty sharp. Although non-compliant, the sashes are uniform. They’re making their mamas proud — most days.

    If this weren’t the internet, the lot of you would be keeping your lips zipped.

    Same with the boys in jeans from one of Bryan’s previous posts. Go look at an inspection sheet. Uniform pants count for 10 points. If that was all that was wrong, the boy would score 90%. How many points would you doc for a sash neatly folded on the belt? Maybe I’d subtract 2. I’d probably subtract 5 for an optional patch on the wrong pocket. Another 5 points for the flag holding, if there were no exigent circumstances. (Not that we inspect color guards.) So, these boys are still hovering around 95% in my book. On average they’re A-grade.

    I say WEAR IT PROPERLY OR IMPROPERLY, all I ask is WEAR IT WITH PRIDE! That’s what these boys are doing. Look at the rest of the page. Wayne is smiling. Mission accomplished.

  40. Rules are there to follow! Specially if it spell out in uniform guide. I understand some maybe a traditions in the troop from a 100 years ago where you don’t get a rule book to guide you, or some were told wrongly by their adult leaders. But you are now in 21st centuries, where information is at your scouts and your finger tip. So what are we teaching our scouts? Just because we don’t like the rules it’s ok to ignore them and do what we want? Or be a good example and follow the rule as much as we know and can?

    • It’s not a rule book. It is an “Insignia Guide”. Since you used the wrong terminology, may we ignore your post? :(

  41. Punny Scoutmaster // August 29, 2014 at 11:41 am // Reply

    I guess wearing the merit badge sash as a head band is completely out of the question.

  42. I know it’s not correct to wear the M.B. sash that way, but I feel that it helps show off ” Bling ” what they have learned from scouting. Wearing the O.A. sash during scouting events no but M.B. sash on belt I like. Most boys don’t wear the MB sash unless B.O.R. so this can encourage them to wear it more often.

  43. Looking through the mag and now looking for oops I see an Eagle COH with the scout wearing a O.A. sash and some people doing repelling with the delayer tied in to the respells back up. Also the ATC is way to far from the belayer to be able to lock off if needed. I used to love to look at the mag for great scout stuff now you have spoiled it for me. Lets get to great scouting stuff and ditch the uniform police.

  44. John O'Malley // August 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm // Reply

    I am an Eagle Scout, past lodge chief, hold the the Vigil Honor and served as a Scout Master. I state this to show I have been around the block in scouting. I know the guidelines and rules. As such, if boys want to wear their Merit Badge sash on their belt, I will encourage it. This is a great opportunity to revisit that guideline and to teach boy about civil disobedience on policies that have a vague purpose.

    • People who quote their resumes to justify breaking the rules should be cashiered.

    • Satire obvious I hope // August 30, 2014 at 9:43 am // Reply

      According to many scouters in this discussion, you will destroy scouting for everyone forever everywhere and doom boys to a scoutless life of prison, drugs, crime, dependence, and worse by letting scouts wear a sash around their waists.

      I sure hope you’re happy.

    • Civil disobedience? You are equating this to an unjust law or one that unfairly oppresses a collective entity? Jeeesh……now that is a stretch beyond belief. It is simply nothing more than scouts and leaders failing to read BSA references….and compounded by complacent attitudes.

  45. Richard Souder // August 29, 2014 at 1:50 pm // Reply

    Unfortunately in today’s society the art of sewing is a lost art. Many of these boys when they outgrow their sash don’t have the resources to transfer the badges to a longer sash so they resort to tucking it in the belt. I have a number of scout f’s ami lies that actually take their badges to a tailor to get them sewn on. Do get me started on badge magic. That permanently ruins the uniform.

    • More common sense // August 30, 2014 at 9:37 am // Reply

      Is there something wrong with taking things to a tailor for sewing? We do it; the tailor can do it faster and better than we can, and we support his business.

      • Yes, there is something wrong with taking badges to a tailor for sewing, just as there is something wrong with parents buying the uniforms for their Scouts without getting repaid by the Scout, just as there is something wrong with mom laundering and folding her son’s uniform for him. The purposes of Scouting include promoting “the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others” and teaching them “self-reliance.” You can look it up — United States Code, Title 36, section 30902 (part of BSA’s Congressional Charter). It is no different than little Johnny learning to pack his own pack rather than having Mom do it, set up his own tent rather than having Dad do it, and clean up the troop camping gear that he used rather than leaving it to the Quartermaster.

        The Uniform Method of Boy Scouting is not about having a sharp-looking uniform — something a lot of folks here don’t seem to understand. The Uniform Method is about using the uniform as one of the tools in the lengthy process of developing character, citizenship, and fitness in our Scouts. It is no different than the other tools in Boy Scouting’s bag: ideals, leadership, patrols, adult association, advancement, the outdoors, and personal growth. Our job is to use the uniform in various ways to develop character, citizenship, and fitness. That means things like the Scout earning the money to buy his uniform, a piece at a time if necessary; sewing on his own badges; participating in uniform inspections to both learn where things go on his uniform and to help earn points for his patrol; laundering his own uniform; making it look good for courts of honor and participating in ceremonies, and so on.

        A Scout learns a lot more sewing on one badge himself, even if it looks like crap the first few attempts, than he will ever learn by being handed a complete, perfect uniform.

  46. Bryan, appreciate the post., but believe this time you blew it I honor the Scout’s commitment and the desire to recognize their contribution to the Annual Meeting. But the fact is the BSA’s national publication should NEVER be used to publicize ANYTHING that violates the published rules or what we stand for. Violating our principles by including an inappropriate photo to publicize a noteworthy event is not worth it.

    Your statement that you can’t be everywhere is true, and you certainly can’t control what others do. However, you and your Scouting magazine colleagues CAN control what gets printed. Please do so in the future.

    • Excellent satire! I hope….

  47. Do I hate seeing sashes on the belt? Yes! Do I do my best to educate Scouts appropriately? Yes. Would I have corrected these boys? No!

    First, I “correct” inappropriate and unsafe behavior, etc. I educate on uniform, etc. IF there was adequate time and opportunity I might have tried to speak to their leader about the concerns and let him/her address it with the Scouts. It is not fair to bring Scouts to a big event to provide a service and then hit them with all the things wrong about their uniforms (especially if they think they are doing it right). On top of that, sometimes, the adults “correcting” scouts are wrong themselves. (One of our Scouts was required to use his knife to remove the temporary patches from the back of is MB sash at his Eagle BoR! Needless to say, the District Advancement Chair received a call from me, the Troop CC.)

    What should have happened is that the person contacting the Troop to schedule the color guard/detail/whatever should have reviewed standards with the leader so things were clear up front.

    Regarding the BP quote mentioned a few times above, what did the other uniforms in the room look like? I don’t know what things are like at a meeting at this level, but some of the most egregious uniform issues I have observed have been on adults at roundtable and other Council and Region events–frequently on volunteers with silver should loops! When you have Commissioners wearing multiple temporary patches between the pocket and button, every parent rank pin from their kids, a dozen Eagle Mentor pins, and an Old Goat patrol patch, how can you nitpick a Scout with two sashes?

  48. Hey guys! Let’s brainstorm a sash solution:

    How about sewing the O/A sash on the inside of the MB sash?

    Reverse and fold in the unused green: fulfill your responsibilities as an Arrowman.
    Unfold, flip back to green on top: return to your regular troop CoH already in progress!

    [Bryan, anyway to post the same thing in two threads at once?]

  49. Thank you I have been telling fellow scouts this for a long time

  50. I was considering this as well. Wearing the sash in the belt is in violation of the Insignia Guide, but it is so often done that we might consider a change. The sash is one uniform item that has changed little since it was introduced in 1924.

  51. The Annual National Meeting is an OA event?

  52. If you are going to get excited about this topic, how about asking B.S.A. to adopt a uniform. – as in the same.

    What we have now is a rule to wear what we buy from National Supply – a whole range of garments, easily distinguished from a distance and costing different prices. And they change in easily visible ways regularly

    So some wear expensive and some wear cheaper and some wear superceded, and they don’t look uniform.

    (And while you at it, use the non-optional Patrol Method – far more important.)

  53. Ralph Seher // August 29, 2014 at 6:48 pm // Reply

    With everything else that was pointed out. The original statement says 2 OA sashes. Well, the 2nd from the right, may not be showing the arrow, but, he is wearing an OA sash. And yes, someone should have checked the uniform first. (Obviously got the scouts together for the ceremony in a real hurry.

  54. Ralph Seher // August 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm // Reply

    And in case my other comment, should appear, I would like to correct my previous statement. I stated someone said two OA sashes. Well, there are two showing the arrow. But, my correction is, it is not the 3rd scout, but, the one on far right, who is also wearing an OA sash. Only the white is showing, but, it looks like an OA sash. Someone did get them together in a real hurry.

  55. Someone mentioned another, more important issue, and asked to guess. I’m guessing that person was concerned because the US Flag was not on its own far right of the detail. This person is apparently correct.

    Flag rules have changed. If a flag was in the audience, it stood on the audiences right while a flag on stage stood podium right. Now they are never in the audience and stand stage right.

    Uniform rules have changed. Caps used to be mandatory for flag details. Now whole units can vote for no head covers at all.

    These rules are made by humans for specific purposes. They can be changed by humans, some of whom read this blog.

    • It’s not entirely clear where this detail is with respect to the audience. They could be making an entrance from the behind or to the side. For all we know, the US flag bearer is about to raise his standard and advance in front of the detail. That’s the problem with photos … we might presume a particular context and completely misjudge the actors.

      But, yes, every protocol may be adjusted to fit particular circumstances.

  56. Lets talk about the real BSA uniform.
    Red Top Socks. Where did they go and why?
    By the way I still wear them.

    • Fashion is fickle!

  57. I sincerely hope that none of those Scouts or their leaders are reading these comments. But if they are, I hope they are laughing their sashes off.

  58. As curator of our Eagle portrait gallery, I had the problem of new Eagles thinking they could wear the OA sash on their belts (Arrow always pointing up) still because of an old porrait of the 4 Adams brothers so decked out. It’s hard to point out the error without denigrating the person because modern society conflates the two.

  59. Phil Malone // August 30, 2014 at 4:58 am // Reply

    You said “When out on assignment, we try to correct these types of uniform mistakes when we see them. But we can’t be everywhere and can’t fix everything.” No, you don’t. Since I have been a leader (1990) and have tried to follow and encourage the uniform / insignia guide, I have had your magazine thrust in my guide-quoting face too many times. “See that?” I was always told “if it is in Scouting Magazine, or any BSA print material – it is true.” Either your photo editor is asleep, or you just let things go. It’s frustrating. So, my learned point of view is “if the boy is proud and wants to wear it – so be it.”

    • I like that point of view. The time to learn Uniforming is on inspection day, announced a week in advance by circulating the inspection sheet (http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34283.pdf). There, guess how much your scout will learn about proper sash portage? Well I’ll let you all mull the sheet over and tell me if you see something that I don’t!

      As far as I can tell, these fine young Volunteers (they are from Tennessee, thus capital V) are in “sash compliance” with every piece of literature we’d expect them to read.

    • Common sense scouter // August 30, 2014 at 9:30 am // Reply

      People shove magazines your face to correct you? You need to find new people to be around.

      The problem is that Scouting magazine isn’t an authority, the BSA uniform guide is.

  60. This one calls for a rule change. I believe the uniform standard needs to adapt so that OA members can wear their sash.

    • Phil Malone // August 30, 2014 at 1:17 pm // Reply

      These were all very good Scouters or Scout parents. I have jokingly been called a “uniform Nazi” which was harsh, but true. I tried for the “National Quality” unit every year, and I used uniforming as one of the key methods of Scouting. That means adherance to the Uniform Insignia Guide. I have been to four National Jamborees and the uniform code was tossed in most troop uniform cases. I lead by example in my home troop, and as the District Commissioner. My “inspections” were a time to help and lift up each Scout, not to knock him down for things he had no control over. “Just work on it” was my usual remark. Scouting Magazine is a very good source, as is Boys’ Life, to SEE the uniform worn correctly. Lead by example, folks. Don’t publish anyone, Scout or leader, who has hiccups in the uniform code. In fact, a sidebar with the photos from the Burro, could point out these corrections, NOT to embarass the scouts or leaders, but to help identify what needs attention. Blue jeans are more concern to me than the OA sash AND the MB sash being worn simultaniously. But, that’s a whole different thing.

  61. This whole conversation and its initial catalyst stems from the ability or LACK THEREOF for members of any organization NOT TO ADHERE or FOLLOW the basic rules, regulations, & tenets therein.

    If we, as a whole, are an organization of Leadership, physical fitness and citizenship development, I fail to understand why and where leaders & parents believe such display of the two aforementioned sashes need to be displayed incorrectly.

    If more OA member participated in local Lodge events beyond their Ordeal aka “preventing Sash ‘n Dash”, then the proper wearing and display of the OA sash becomes “Second nature” and should never be questioned in the future…

    Moreover, look for those dirty sashes, there’s the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service…

    Moreover, if our members where more concerned about the Program than Uniform BLING and “show all I have accomplished” mantras, such conversations would be a MOOT POINT.

    As far as the photo appearing in a National publication, I refer to the same failure is the “Eagle Letter” quarterly newsletter for NESA. There is at least one submitted photo with the same SASH faux pas in each issue.

    The whole “Class A and B” issue is a completely different Bee’s nest. Just use the correct terms, “Field Uniform and Activity Uniform” and look at the expression and blank stares you will receive….

    If we adopted a mantra of simplicity or modesty, the sash diatribe would become a MOOT POINT.

    Personally – I BLAME Troop leaders who “look the other way, permit, encourage their charges to don whatever, wherever and to the acme at any Unit event including Courts of Honor as “Christmas Tree Leaders in Training”….

    This is why I have adopted the minimal approach of uniforms – CSP, POR patch, name tag, OA flap of lodge served, US Flag, World crest, necessary colored loops. Nothing else is needed nor required…

    NO CV or resume required – those who know me know what I have done and will continue to do…

    LLAP!

    • Ralph Seher // August 31, 2014 at 8:45 am // Reply

      Mike Clark says: Personally – I BLAME Troop leaders who “look the other way, permit, encourage their charges to don whatever, wherever and to the acme at any Unit event including Courts of Honor as “Christmas Tree Leaders in Training”…. Yes Mike. Troop leaders SHOULD set the example, not allow, hap hazard “rules” just because it is easier. And my two Eagle Scouts always make sure the uniform is proper. The youngest just returned from his 2nd tour as a Philmont Scout Ranch Ranger, with a great review for his performance. And if you are the Mike Clark I know about, then this is your mail carrier replying to your answer.

      • John, thank you for the comment;

        Well, yesterday, a local newspaper arrives with a photo of several Eagle Scouts from the Unit I described; one in the middle has a MB sash dangling down to his knees; four others have OA sashes worn, properly, and one scouts does not even have a current OA Lodge flap. Sloppy, yes; instilled by the SM, YES;

        Moreover, this local Troop does ONE EAGLE COH per year. So, some Scouts will wait months for their due. So much for “timely recognition”..

        If we leaders dropped our EGOS at home, not the car or a meeting place, took a neutral position on such matters and followed/adhered BSA policies, this all would be A MOOT POINT..

        And, we could focus our energies to more worthwhile aspects of the program.

  62. Could you post something on the proper wearing of the cub scout uniform? I would love to share something from you with my cub parents.

  63. How about scouts that don’t have the insignia on the proper pockets? Check out the Philmont patch on the left pocket above the arrow light…and lets all wear our neckerchiefs the same way. Not blaming the boys — but the leader should have inspected them 1st if this is a national meeting color guard

  64. “Hey, look, Steve Scout is doing it wrong!!!!”

    “So who is he hurting and what can I do about it?”

    *crickets chirp*

    Where I’m from, we call that tattling, the preferred past time of second grade girls and Scout uniform Nazis everywhere.

  65. Pete Browne // August 30, 2014 at 9:50 am // Reply

    As we say in our troop – “the standard is what we allow to happen”. If we are willing to let it slide, wearing the sash on the belt because it’s always been done then why have the uniform at all. Either wear the uniform correctly or do not wear it. A cordial review of proper procedures and friendly reminders of proper uniform wear is in order and should be regularly carried out.

    P.S. The OA sash should only be worn at OA functions or when an OA contingent is participating at a special occasion – such as the national event; though only three of the four scouts have sashes.

    • It’s not merely because it’s “how it’s been done.” These rules are not

      1. In the boy scout hand book.
      2. On the uniform inspection sheet.

      Far as I can tell, some adult(s) sat around in a smoke free room reading a letter from some other adult who said “We have to do something about this. May we have a rule? Our boys are doing whatever they want.” This is a violation of my rule #1: “Never ask someone for a rule!” But anyway, they figured the issue wasn’t a hill to die on, so they didn’t push for revision in the two references a boy might use. They just added a few arcane notes in the Insignia Guide.

      Meanwhile, boys across the nation are uniformly making a convenient decision for themselves. They look at each other and say “That’s sharp. Plus, we won’t lose the sash we aren’t using! Aren’t we thrifty?”

      And that’s precisely why we have a uniform. So boys can walk with pride wherever they are, and they can be resourceful as the need arises.

    • Close but no cigar on your statement about when to wear the OA sash. Outside of actual OA events, sashes are to be worn by Arrowmen providing a service or duty which requires them to be identified as OA members. Participating as a color guard at a non-OA national event does quite meet all the requirements.

      • Well, the NOA Chief was speaking. I personally agree with you that this is a non-OA event. However, I also can understand how scouters in the room would prefer to see their colorguard in O/A sashes.

  66. If you want to be on a youth sports team, you follow the rules (including those for the uniform).

    If you want to play on the Scouting team, why not follow the Scouting rules?

    What would Scouting be like, if adults and youth spent less time and energy justifying why they demand to do things differently from the program, and just agreed to be team players and learn why Scouting does things the way it does?

    Would it really harm anyone to follow all of the Scouting rules, whether large or small? Unfortunately, for the units with which I have been associated, I have seen too many parents and Scouts who use Scouting as an individual achievement program (or playtime) and just can’t bear to make the kind of individual sacrifices that are at the core of our Movement’s purpose.

    • Bryan Reynolds // August 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm // Reply

      If you want uniformity, you need to have the part about “once a uniform, always a uniform” removed.
      Otherwise, uniformed scouts may not be uniform in appearance.
      We are not a sports team or military.
      Please stop valuing form over substance.

      • B.S.A. is selling visably different versions of “uniform” now. The “once a uniform” rule just makes it less uniform.

        Since we do not, in fact, have a uniform, what’s the big fuss about?

        Wearing B.S.A. sold garmenst is not required.

        The “control guide” is a patchwork of unclear verbiage.

  67. look…we are NOT the military. So either (1) relax all these uniform rules (when you get down to it, uniforms are optional anyway) or (2) double and triple check all your photos before going to press. If it means no coverage for a worthy story, then no coverage. We can’t have it both ways. It should not be “do what we say, but not as we promote in our photos” If you don’t have the personnel or the patience to run things like the military, neither do the volunteers who try to uphold the rules.

    • Uniforms are optional? What version of the aims and methods of scouting are you using? Last time I checked uniforms were plastered all over the document.

      • You may not trust the source, but here goes …
        “While wearing the uniform is not mandatory,
        it is highly encouraged. The leaders of Scouting—
        both volunteer and professional—promote the
        wearing of the correct complete uniform on all
        suitable occasions”
        BSA Insignia Guide, p. 3.

      • In addition to the clear statement in the Guide to Awards and Insignia cited by q, there is this from the Guide to Advancement 2014:

        8.0.0.4 Wearing the Uniform—or Neat in Appearance
        It is preferred a Scout be in full field uniform for any board of review. He should wear as much of it as he owns, and it should be as correct as possible, with the badges worn properly. It may be the uniform as the members of his troop, team, crew, or ship wear it. If wearing all or part of the uniform is impractical for whatever reason, the candidate should be clean and neat in his appearance and dressed appropriately, according to his means, for the milestone marked by the occasion.Regardless of unit, district, or council expectations or rules, boards of review shall not reject candidates solely for reasons related to uniforming or attire, as long as they are dressed to the above description. Candidates shall not be required to purchase uniforming or clothing such as coats and ties to participate in a board of review.

        Note, in particular:
        “He should wear as much of it as he owns . . . ”
        “It may be the uniform as the members of his troop, team, crew, or ship wear it.”
        “Candidates shall not be required to purchase uniforming or clothing such as coats and ties to participate in a board of review.”

        So while it is absolutely clear that BSA strongly encourages complete and correct uniform wear, the uniform is not mandatory and is not a condition of advancement.

    • Indeed, the BSA is not a military organization. Youth sports teams are not military organizations either, yet they typically have a standard uniform and the team members are Loyal and Obedient and wear them Cheerfully while being Brave and Helpful on the playing field. Why is that? (Scouting is the only sport I know in which the parents can run onto the field and join their children in tearing up the rulebook, playbook, and team legacy.)

  68. you want added proof, check out this recently published photo in the local newspaper’s website:
    http://www.courant.com/community/avon/hc-avon-scouts-0820-20140820-001,0,4564312.photo

    If anything, NOT UNIFORM or continuity.

    Also, this unit has one Eagle Scout Court of Honor per year, so some Scouts will wait for months for his due…. As for the OA members present, “Sash ‘n Dash”

    Embarrassing, YES; more so, I know this Unit and this is SOP for any Court of Honor, Eagle Scout Court of Honor….

    This just scratches the surface of this failing…. Have a nice weekend, Folks….

    • Uniform smiles!
      If the boys are all cheerful, how is it a failure?
      These boys have freed up seven weekends for camping or evenings for bonfires.
      I’d be smiling too.

  69. Serious question to try to generate a more productive conversation:

    Beyond the “it’s a rule* ergo it must be followed” argument, what justification is there for not wearing an MB sash over the belt and/or in conjunction with an OA sash? What’s the purpose of the rule? Folks on here have advocated for changing “the rule” and others have staunchly defended it largely because it’s a rule. I haven’t seen a single comment that defends the purpose of the rule. What is it? Why does the rule exist? If there is some persuasive basis for the prohibition, I bet a lot of the “doesn’t bother me” crowd would think more carefully about their views.

    I’ve thought about this and tried to think of justifications. I thought of two in theory.

    1. Safety. A MB sash over the belt is more likely to snag things or cause an unnecessary risk of injury in the field. That seems like a plausible justification years ago. But in a world where sashes are largely reserved for use in formal or ceremonial occasions, if that *was* the justification, it no longer has merit (no pun intended).

    2. Uniformity. The sash is to be worn one way so everyone looks the same. That sounds good but is also betrayed by the wide variety of other “acceptable” uniform practices, including a wide array of acceptable headwear, neckerchiefs, bolos, slides, belts, shirt styles, pant styles, and even the fact that scouts can wear some merit badges on shirt sleeves. There is already a ton of diversity in the scouting uniform ecosystem. And that diversity only grows with each additional module/program/device that BSA rolls out. Between STEM and multi-part patches and rockers and jambo patches, etc., two scouts could both be 100% correctly styled but one would look like a relatively blank canvas and the other a Christmas tree. I don’t buy this basis either.

    So I’m genuinely curious. Why’s the rule in place? I’d welcome thoughts on the OA sash limitations as well. Why not let them be worn more broadly than just when specifically repping the OA. Why not treat it like medals and such and let them be worn for limited, more formal, occasions. What’s the *purpose* of the rule? Everyone who can read agrees that the rules exists. My question is why does it exist?

    *- Let’s leave aside the rule vs guideline debate and presume the uniform guide is a mandatory rulemaking

    • To be fair, it’s not just the MB sash. Boys have placed, and scouters in authority have opposed placement of, the O/A sash over the belt.

      Restricting the use of O/A sashes to O/A functions is a subtle way of reminding the boys that they are a member of their lodge to the degree that they serve cheerfully in it. Most lodge chiefs in our council model this by not even wearing their sash when speaking on the lodge’s behalf at a district or lodge event. If I get a chance to talk with a lodge advisor, I’ll ask if this is his suggestion, or the boys just decide on their mode of operation.

      I can’t recall a sash ever being worn in the field. I’d consider it to be more of a safety issue if it were on one’s shoulder! It would be a clear disadvantage while playing British Bulldog. ;) Regardless, I only recall pulling it out for awards ceremonies.

      I figure declaring scout-belts-as-unused-sash-racks to be non-standard as all about fashion. If someone was in on the decision, it would be nice to hear from them.

    • There is no practical justification. The “no sash on belt” rule is the same as pretty much all of the rules in the Guide to Awards and Insignia: a style choice.

    • IMO, there is an inherent sense of humility in OA membership. There is no need to advertise you are part of a “special” group. This is a service organization, not a rank, an award or something you advertise. There is no reason to wear or display an OA sash outside of OA events.

  70. Once you have considered Nutmegger’s question, how about this one: What ideal or principle of Scouting is compromised by Scouts wearing merit badges sashes on their belts?

    • Blind military-style obedience to the uniform guide.

  71. Christopher McCabe // September 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm // Reply

    Oh the ‘uniform police’ have taken another prisoner. Yes, it is improper, but many Scouts feel it’s not appropriate to stuff one of their sashes in their pocket. Is it against the rules, YES. Is it something that a Scout should be chastised for, NO.

    Scouts are proud of their merit badges, as they should be, and they just want to show what they have earned (or is it Learned)

  72. Officially:
    As noted, there is no “Class” of uniform

    Also:
    There is no “Field Uniform” any more. And, to the contrary, current B.S.A. publications speak of the “Field Uniform” which B.S.A. announced went away years ago.

    There is no “Activity Uniform.” There was an “Activity Shirt” that came and went years ago. Notwithstanding, at least one B.S.A. training publication refers to an “activity uniform” as an option to be worn by a trainer, and Scouting recently referred to an “activity uniform” as equivalent to the “Class B” that we are repeatedly told does not officially exist.

    There is – in theory – only the “official Boy Scout uniform,” AKA “the uniform,” which can consist of anything Supply has ever sold as “uniform.” BSHB pp. 32-33.

    Further, and as noted, uniforming is optional.

    I kinow that I greatly prefer a neatly unformed troop, but B.S.A. is hardly helping by selling non-uniform (i.e. different-looking) “uniforms,” by expressly allowing wearing of vintage uniform parts that are even more non-uniform, and by inconsistent terminology and descriptions.

    Given these realities, what is the big deal here people?

    • Teams wear uniforms. I’ve always wondered myself what the big deal is about getting Scouts and Scouters into the uniform of our game. If a boy were on a baseball team, he would wear the uniform. Why not with Scouting?

      Yes, there is no required uniform. I’ve never read why in any official publication, but could it be because the BSA doesn’t want the cost of a uniform to prevent a boy from being a Scout, but when a family has the funds, it is expected to support this method of Scouting?

      What do you think about the “Official Policy” on page 5 of the Guide to Awards and Insignia? As one of the methods of Scouting, can the uniform help achieve all those values listed on that page: a sense of belonging; personal equality; identification; achievement; and personal commitment? And, as leaders and Scouts, should we be Loyal to official policies? What’s the harm in abiding by the uniform rules?

      Also, the Guide to Awards and Insignia concentrates on the items in its title. The Scoutmaster / Assistant Scoutmaster Leader-Specific Training course, in its section on the uniform, refers specifically to the field uniform and the activity uniform, and it even spells out the ONLY times that jeans are appropriate in Scouting: when Scouts are participating in conservation projects, other service work, or backcountry camping. The current Scoutmaster Handbook addresses the Scout uniform:

      “A boy is not required to have a uniform in order to be a Boy Scout. However, troop leaders should set a good example by wearing the uniform themselves and by encouraging each Scout to acquire and wear a uniform.”

      “Boy Scouts and Scouters proudly wear the full uniform for all ceremonial and indoor activities including troop meetings, boards of review, and courts of honor. The uniform should also be worn during special outdoor occasions, such as flag ceremonies, Scout shows, and special times during summer camp.
      During physically active outdoor events and informal activities, Scouts may wear an activity uniform–troop or camp T-shirts with Scout pants or shorts or other appropriate outdoor wear.”

      [I do not think that the new "Troop Leader Guide" has been released yet. I assume it will address the Scout uniform similarly.]

      So, right–what’s the big deal? Why do so many adults and youth spend so much time and emotion fighting our team’s uniform?

      • It’s a good question. Why buck the insignia guide?

        Well, the other thing scouting teaches is resourcefulness and preparedness. A kid gets told, “We need a color guard. The lodge chief is going to be there.” Not wanting to waste phone minutes on details, he grabs both sashes. He shows up, finds out which sash is to be worn, stores the other for safe keeping … but where? Well there’s this belt. Nothing in his hand book or the inspection sheet against it so there it goes. Sash(es) still look pretty sharp. Uniform tells a story at a distance. His buddy’s agree.

        So, as a leader, when I see a boy-led decision that makes basic sense and doesn’t really reflect sloppiness on any youth’s part, I go with it. My time is then spent making sure microphones work, everyone has their script, boys have rides home, etc … Personally, I would have tried my best to snag the temporary patch over the wrong pocket, but I wouldn’t have stopped a procession over it. And, it would have to be a really bad day for me to tell a photographer to click elsewhere!

        Now, if we’re kicking back at a campfire sometime, and there’s a lull in the conversation, I’ll try to bring this up in an amusing way: “Hey, did you know sash-rack is not listed among the standard uses for a scout belt?” Then, I’ll see where the conversation takes us. Likewise, I may bring up a discussion about pants: “If it costs 10% on inspection, would you worry about it?”

        But, really, unless something is spelled out in the handbook and inspection sheet, I allow the variance. Until our troop has an SPL who really wants to work the Insignia Guide, it just seems terribly unfair to a boy to tell him he’s not a team player because of a rule he’d be unlikely to read for himself.

  73. “[Scout] leaders should set a good example by wearing the uniform themselves and by encouraging each Scout to acquire and wear a uniform.” Absolutely. Note that it says “encouraging,” not “requiring.” Which leads to your question:

    “So, right–what’s the big deal? Why do so many adults and youth spend so much time and emotion fighting our team’s uniform?”

    Personally, I think the answer to that is very simple: Because unlike sports teams and uniformed professions where the purpose and value of the uniform is obvious, the purpose and value of the BSA uniform are not obvious. We are not competing against another team. We don’t need to be easily distinguished from some other group. We don’t have a function that is aided by us being readily identified. Further, even BSA tells us that the uniform is for indoor and ceremonial purposes, and to wear something else for outdoor activities. So, there really isn’t an obvious practical reason to wear the complete, correct BSA uniform.

    And while wearing the BSA uniform can promote certain feelings in the wearer, you don’t automatically have pride in your uniform just by putting it on. You don’t automatically have a sense of brotherhood and equality just because other people are wearing the uniform too. You aren’t automatically reminded of your commitment to Scouting’s ideals by putting on the uniform. Those feelings have to be developed over time through positive experiences in Scouting.

    But often, Scouts and adult leaders are simply been told to get the uniform and wear it. Sometimes, they are told they HAVE to wear it, or that they have to wear it in a particular way. Why? Because BSA says so (even when BSA really doesn’t). Well, we’re Americans, and just being told to obey without question or explanation isn’t in our genes. Especially when this is a voluntary organization that needs us more that we need it. We tend to rebel at that sort of thing.

    The folks who really take pride in their uniforms and _want_ to wear the complete, correct uniform down to the socks that no one even sees are the people who have been in Scouting long enough to develop an understanding of what it is really about, long enough to develop pride in that and pride in their participation.

  74. I think that this blog article and the comments have raised the following questions:

    1. Is it part of the mission of Scouting magazine to only publish pictures of Scouts and leaders that display full compliance with all relevant rules, policies, and procedures of BSA? Or should Scouting magazine publish pictures of real-life Scouting as it is actually being carried out, but also include features or sidebars setting out official policy?

    2. Is the Chairman of BSA’s Awards and Recognitions Committee, which controls the Guide to Awards and Insignia, wrong when he says “As long as youth are active in a unit, don’t become the uniform police. They can learn skills and have fun in official shorts/pants or blue jeans.” (Bryan on Scouting blog, July 9, 2014)?

    3. Is the Senior Editor of Scouting magazine wrong when he writes “While uniforms are one important thing, they’re far from the most important thing.” (Bryan on Scouting blog, July 9, 2014), that a troop “has more important things to worry about than what kind of pants its Scouts wear.” (Bryan on Scouting blog, August 8, 2014), and that the Scouts pictured above with uniform violations “deserve our thanks and our recognition — no matter how they’re dressed.” (Bryan on Scouting, August 29, 2014)?

    4. Conversely, do the statements in 2 and 3 above, by senior BSA officials, published in an official BSA magazine, represent the official policy of the BSA to which we should be obedient and loyal?

  75. Debra Weslowski // September 2, 2014 at 4:39 pm // Reply

    Merit Badge Sash looks fine worn at waist level when worn with the O. A. Sash. Other wise you can’t see it ,or it makes the Uniform look cluttered. This way it makes the Uniform look sharp. My son looked so nice when he was young enough.

    • Merit Badge Sash and O.A. Sash are NOT the be worn at the same time, and O.A. Sash should NOT be worn at events that are not O.A. related.

    • Part of the thinking with the O/A sash is to put a wide array of scouts (and scouters) on equal footing in the Brotherhood. In other words, the scout with 130 MBS is not to be distinguished from the scout with none.

      Conversely, when not on business of the order, the lodge flap and maybe a “pocket rocket” (ribbon with an embroidered arrow) take up more than enough real estate on the uniform. Hanging the white sash on the belt is excessive.

      That said, I can see why boys find it convenient and unobtrusive to use their belt as a sash-rack. They aren’t always told before a ceremony what they are expected to wear, so this is just their way of being prepared.

  76. So you’re saying, they were at the BSA’s 2014 National Annual Meeting…BSA, a place full of Scouters…AND NO ONE SAID ANYTHING??? Really??? Do they know the rules and regulations of Scouting or are they just there for the status and the uniform?

    • And I’m sure none of the outraged folks here have sent nastygrams directly to the good folks at Troop 31 either. Instead, they’d rather pick nits and rant about the horrors of uniform imperfections on a blog. It’s way easier to act tough at a keyboard.

      For all the discussion of obedience (to the uniform guides), where’s the helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind (to these kids and their leaders who have been e-shamed ad nauseum)?

    • Why did no one say anything?
      A. The color guard looked good and everyone was glad to have them there.
      B. No one wanted to be a jerk by criticizing these fine young men on a trivial matter just before they were to perform a ceremony before a large crowd.
      C. The “violations” were unimportant and certainly not worth mentioning.
      D. All of the above.

      • No idea how many were in attendance, but I’d rule out “B”. Among gatherings of scouters, there is bound to be at least one person with no qualms about being critical on any given day.

        So that leaves us with “A” and “C” and the rest of us having to live with the harsh reality that National is more concerned about who’s in the uniform than what’s on it. :)

        • “I’d rule out “B”. Among gatherings of scouters, there is bound to be at least one person with no qualms about being critical on any given day.”

          ROFL!

          “[H]aving to live with the harsh reality that National is more concerned about who’s in the uniform than what’s on it.”

          Priceless!

  77. Hey folks lets start a Change.org petition to get Troop 31 to mend their ways. :)

  78. At least they aren’t wearing Toten’ Chip or Fireman Chip patches on their pocket flaps – that’s one of my uniform peeves.

    • That’s Firem’n Chit. One of my pet peeves. :)

  79. Dear Bryan:

    Looking back on this blog post and the comments, a few thoughts and questions.

    1. I am very distressed that this resulted in the public criticism and even ridicule of four Boy Scouts, their troop, and their leaders, who went out of their way to do a good turn for the BSA. They certainly didn’t deserve this flogging in BSA’s town square — and for something incredibly trivial that is a common and accepted practice in troops all over the country. But since the blog post came out, not a peep from BSA either supporting them or apologizing to them.

    2. As I pointed out in the comments above, “Bryan wrote: ‘They deserve our thanks and our recognition — no matter how they’re dressed.’ And in case you missed it, this is the third blog post in two months with pretty much the same message. See the July 9 post on wearing kilts with the uniform, which concluded with this line: ‘While uniforms are one important thing, they’re far from the most important thing.’ See also the August 8 post on wearing jeans with the uniform, in which it is said that the pictured troop ‘has more important things to worry about than what kind of pants its Scouts wear.’”

    But you also say in this blog post, “When out on assignment, we try to correct these types of uniform mistakes when we see them.” And Boys’ Life magazine just ran a Facebook post on uniform advice from its September 1962 issue — which expressly stated “no blue jeans.” (The comments were full of ooohing and ahhhing.) Considering those things and item 1 above, I’m wondering whether the “don’t sweat the small stuff” statements I quoted from your blog are to be believed. What is BSA’s official policy on uniform nitpicking?

    3. Was publishing this picture a mistake, or an exception to Scouting magazine’s policy? Is it Scouting magazine’s policy to only publish pictures of Scouts and leaders whose uniforms are complete and correct in accordance with the Guide to Awards and Insignia? Do you make non-conforming units dress up for photo shoots?

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