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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sea Scouts do things differently: Sea Scouter Avery Chipka writes, “Sea Scouts BSA uniforms have different knot guidelines, including one that says only a maximum of six knots may be worn on the dress uniforms. Some uniforms do not allow knots at all.”

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