Everything you need to know about merit badge sashes

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?A merit badge sash is like a trophy case you can wear.

Each tiny circle represents one of the 136 interest areas a Boy Scout has conquered.

But what restrictions are placed on merit badge sashes? In what order should they be sewn on? Is there a minimum or maximum number of merit badges a Scout may wear on a sash? Can a Scout with a ton of merit badges wear two sashes? What about wearing a sash folded over a belt? And can anyone help mom or dad sew these things on?

I’ve got the answers — well, to all but that last question.

These answers come from the expert, Christopher Hunt, head of the BSA’s advancement team.

Where to put merit badges

You have two options for where to sew merit badges.

  • Right sleeve: The first, less common option, is to sew up to six merit badges onto the right sleeve of a long-sleeved uniform shirt. Long-sleeved uniforms aren’t seen very often these days, but if a Scout owns one, he may put up to six patches, in rows of two, above his right cuff (see below). Long-sleeved uniforms were much more common in past generations.
  • Merit badge sash: Most Scouts will choose this option. The Guide to Awards and Insignia says you’re limited to a “maximum of three per row as shown, no limit.” You couldn’t fit more than three in a row anyway. As for the badges’ order on the sash, there’s nothing specified. Most Scouts will simply add them as they earn them. Others like to separate the Eagle-required ones (those with a silver border) in some way.


No minimum number

Chris Hunt says, “I’m taking ‘no limit’ to mean just that. The Scout isn’t limited to wearing a minimum number of badges on his sash.”

So right when a Boy Scout earns that first merit badge or three, I say go ahead and get him a sash so he can show off his new “trophies.”

Only one merit badge sash

Some Scouts earn way more merit badges than the 21 required for Eagle. A handful even earn every available merit badge.

While you may come across a Scout wearing two merit badge sashes in a criss-cross pattern, that’s not permitted. That rule is straight from the Guide to Awards and Insignia: “Boy Scouts may wear only one merit badge sash at a time.”

Essentially, there’s no official maximum number of merit badges a Boy Scout may wear, “unless he’s got more merit badges than will fit three across on the front and back of the sash,” Hunt says.

Where to wear the sash (and where not to)

There’s only one right place for a merit badge sash: over the right shoulder. It can be worn over or under the epaulet (shoulder loop).

And keep in mind “a merit badge sash is never worn on the belt,” according to the Guide.

Who may wear the sash

“Merit badge sashes are worn only by Boy Scouts and Venturers who are earning Boy Scout advancement.”

Varsity Scouts may wear the merit badge sash, too, of course.

Miscellaneous patches

Patches that aren’t merit badges, including camporee or event patches, may be worn on the sash, but only on the back.

Merit badge sash and OA sash

This one’s pretty clear: “The merit badge sash and the Order of the Arrow sash may not be worn at the same time.”

For more on when to wear your Order of the Arrow sash, read this.

The Guide to Awards and Insignia

This information and more is available in the guide.

About Ask the Expert

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  1. I wish more units and Scouters would understand the rules, especially regarding wearing the OA Sash to all Troop events with their MB Sash on their belt. If someone doesn’t like the rules, they need to go thru the proper channels to get them change.

    • I tried a new approach the last time I saw a Scout wearing both sashes. He was a member of a troop receiving new Scouts at a crossover ceremony. First I asked him “what is the seventh point of the Scout Law?” When he answered “obedient”, I explained that he was probably unaware of the rule he was not following. I explained both the prohibition against wearing two sashes and the general rule that the Order of the Arrow sash is worn at OA events or when representing the Order. I suggested he remove the OA sash and wear the merit badge sash properly. I am sad to report that he was still wearing both later in the evening, but I felt at least I educated him rather than criticized him.

      • Most Scouts DO NOT know they are breaking a policy. I applaud you trying to educate him as I would try to do the same. The issue I have is with adults that disobey policy such as wearing both as it is a “troop policy.” I saw a Scout wearing his MB sash over the wrong shoulder at an event where many Troops were present. I asked him if he might be wearing hias sash over the wrong shoulder. He went to another adult at the event (it was in another council) & got the same answer. He never changed despite being told twice he was wrong. I guess the only one whose word he would accept was his own SM.

      • I agree with the thread, I believe we should teach our young men to follow the rules of proper uniforming. Regular uniform inspections on the Patrol level will keep the uniforms up to regulation.

        • Perhaps the Scout did not move the sash to the right shoulder because doing so would have then relocated all of the merit badges to his back.

          His merit badges would all need to be removed and sewn onto the correct side of the sash. Remember the bevel cut at the bottom of the sash. Changing shoulders either puts the merit badges on your back or underneath the sash next to your shirt.

          I know this because I made the mistake of sewing my son’s first few merit badges when I thought the sash was worn on the left shoulder. Arrgh!

    • As someone who did their Brotherhood attended NOAC 60 years ago this year , I totally agree that the Order of Arrow sash should ONLY be worn for OA events.

      The only OA event that ever occurs in a home unit is the annual election. Thus that’s the only time an OA sash should be worn there. We members of the OA already have the OA Lodge flap and arrow insignia to wear on a our uniforms to show we’re in the OA.

  2. I was always under the impression that you could only wear merit badges on the front of the sash – can you verify that they are able to wear them on the back. My son is one of those that is intent on earning them all and currently has 50, so the front is full! Great info! Thanks!

    • There is nothing I could find that exempts MBs on the back of the sash: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33066_Section2.pdf

      With that said, one could wear them on the underside, too. But that might necessitate either ripping the sash seam so one could sew them on just one side or using clear thread so the stitching wouldn’t be obvious on the front side. Of course there’s evil Badge Magic but I wouldn’t go there.

      How about Velcro!

        • oh my goodness, Tim. that would be awesome! i hope someone does that some day. it would require some alternation because the twist would look best at the bottom where it comes together at an angle. But wouldn’t that be just sublime! Nice suggestion!

        • As a scout, that would be bad. Because then the scouts badges on the back side would not be shown.

        • If altering the sash is acceptable, what about sewing together two sashes (making it longer) so it can hold more merit badges. I know two is probably too long but 1 1/2 or 1 1/4?

        • We have a 6′-2″, 15 year-old scout and HAD to add a 8 ” extension to his sash just to make it look right on him and to hold his 33 (and counting) merit badges. He will probably just fill out the front by the time he gets Eagle.

  3. I encourage my scouts to wear their awards on the back of their sash. The historic trails award fits perfectly on the sash.

    These are awards of honor, duty, and accomplishment. Let your scouts show what they have done to the community. You never know, maybe a boy or two will join because he sees what his friends are doing.

    I would however note that I feel a bragging vest would probably be a better place for camp, popcorn, or event patches. There is more room for them.

    • Mr. Scoutmaster: The Historic Trails Award (and the 50 Miler emblem) are NOT designed to be worn on the merit badge AT ALL. They are “equipment insignia” — and should be worn on a jacket, vest, blanket, backpack, day pack — NOT on the uniform and NOT on the merit badge sash. Same with medals and pins — leave them for other ways to be displayed.

      • In addition to these any aquatic awards earned have a very specific place to be worn. All is specifically said in the guide to insignia.

    • Okay, Mike, I was under the impression that the selection of optional patches (be they of past ranks or activities) for the back of the sash were up to the boy — regardless of if the patch was originally designed for right pocket, flap, vest, or backpack.

      (For the record, I don’t have a dog in this fight. None of my scouts ever put anything other than MBs on their sashes, even though I told them they could use the back for this purpose.)

      • Q wrote: “Okay, Mike, I was under the impression that the selection of optional patches (be they of past ranks or activities) for the back of the sash were up to the boy — regardless of if the patch was originally designed for right pocket, flap, vest, or backpack.”

        The key word should not be “optional” but “temporary”. Temporary patches are those given for camporees, Scout shows, participating in various activities, and those similar to that. The Historic Trails and 50 Miler patches, along with the Paul Bunyan Axman and similar awards; aquatics awards (like Mile Swim, Boardsailing, Kayaking BSA, etc.); and Jamboree insignia all DO NOT BELONG on the backside of a merit badge sash. There are specific places (equipment or personal outer gear; swim trunks or suits; and special places on the uniform itself for the official Jamboree emblem) for those items.

        Temporary insignia is worn at the discretion and duration of the Scout. The Historic Trails and 50 Miler emblems along with the Axman emblem are designed for permanent wear by the Scout/Venturer/Scouter on appropriate equipment or personal outer gear like a jacket, coat, vest, or blanket.

        • The current Insignia Guide states on page 31
          “Miscellaneous patches may only be worn on
          the back of the sash.” http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33066_Section2.pdf (it’s page 17 of the pdf)
          There is no mention that they must be “Temporary Insignia” I didn’t see a specific category called “miscellaneous patches” and I understand that to mean that they could be anything, maybe even not Scouting related?

        • Mike – The current Insignia Guide states that “miscellaneous patches may be worn on the back of the sash.” It uses the term “Miscellaneous patches” not “temporary insignia.”

          The Historic Trail Award, the 50 Miler Award and the like are all “miscellaneous patches;” they may not be “temporary insignia” but they are definitely miscellaneous patches and thus able to be worn on the back of the MB sash.

        • Danny wrote to me directly and asked this question: “So, I get it. The leather patches for the Historic Trails and 50-Mile Awards are supposed to go on equipment, like a fly or flag right? So if the BSA made cloth versions of those patches, why don’t they go on a uniform somewhere…isn’t that why they made them that way?”

          Yes, to your first comment — the leather versions of many high adventure and outdoor program emblems — the Historic Trails Award, the 50-Miler Award, the High Adventure emblem, and Jamboree emblems — are designed for “equipment decoration”. Our first backpacks and tents were made of cotton or some other cloth-like fabric and the emblems were made of leather so that as sewn, they would stand up to the demands of the backpack cover, dining fly or tent door.

          As fabrics became more synthetic in nature, and as our camping and outing equipment became lighter, the BSA created cloth versions of those same emblems so that Scouts and Scouters can attach them easily to backpacks and other outer equipment. They have NEVER been designed for wear on the uniform itself although someone sent me an inner cover from the 60s with the Paul Bunyan Axman emblem on the right pocket. When I asked the BSA at the time about this, they admitted that it was an error and future inside covers (our first templates for what goes where on the Scout uniform shirt) changed the emblem to a council patch and later to nothing at all.

          The BSA intends for emblems like the High Adventure patch, the Axman award and especially the Historic Trails and 50-Miler Award emblems, to be worn strickly as equipment and personal outer wear decoration. That’s why they are categorized as “equipment decoration.”

        • Hey Matt; you wrote: “Mike – The current Insignia Guide states that “miscellaneous patches may be worn on the back of the sash.” It uses the term “Miscellaneous patches” not “temporary insignia.” ”

          It does use that term. It’ll be clarified in the next edition.

          ” “The Historic Trail Award, the 50 Miler Award and the like are all “miscellaneous patches;” they may not be “temporary insignia” but they are definitely miscellaneous patches and thus able to be worn on the back of the MB sash.”

          No. The Historic Trails Award, the 50-Miler Award and some other emblems (for instance the High Adventure emblem) are all *equipment decoration* insignia. That’s the category that they are in. “Equipment decoration” insignia goes on EQUIPMENT, not uniforms. They are not suitable for wear on the merit badge sash nor as a “temporary” piece of insignia centered on the right pocket. The design helps to steer people from wearing them as such…although the current 50-Miler emblem is small enough…but no. Those items do NOT go on the sash but instead attached to equipment or personal outerwear.

        • Here’s what the *current* Guide to Awards and Insignia has to say about the Paul Bunyan Axman, 50-Miler and Historic Trails Awards:

          “Paul Bunyan Woodsman,
          cloth, No. 98; Boy Scout
          and Venturer; equipment

          50-Miler Award, cloth,
          No. 187; leather, No. 243; Boy
          Scout, Venturer, and Scouter;
          equipment decoration.

          Historic Trails Award, cloth,
          No. 188; leather, No. 244;
          Boy Scout, Venturer, and
          Scouter; equipment decoration.”


          Not on the uniform. Not on the merit badge sash. On equipment. The BSA also allowed this insignia to be worn on personal outerwear (like jackets, vests, jac-shirts).

      • Well, the insignia guide (and the wording in the blog) says neither “optional” nor “temporary”, but rather “Miscellaneous patches may only be worn on the back of the sash.”

        Where is a scout supposed to read and learn that some patches he acquires are the wrong kind of miscellaneous for his sash?

        • I’ll take this as a item for the BSA’s Uniform and Insignia Task Force in a month and a half. I was unaware that the current Guide refers to “temporary insignia” as “miscellaneous patches”. Temporary insignia may refer to insignia which is NOT BSA-specific.

          For instance, a Scout may buy a patch from Mammoth Cave National Park and choose to wear that on his uniform pocket; or for the purpose of this discussion, on the backside of the merit badge sash. He may later visit with the rest of his Scouting unit an air base and receive a patch from the air base and decide to wear that as a temporary item.

          Both emblems are permitted — as long as the emblem is in good taste, displays no copyrighted logos or seals, and is designed for public wear and is not “restricted to those entitled to it”.

          For instance a Scout can’t wear or display his father’s Eagle cloth badge because while Dad may have given it to him as incentive or a family heirloom, Son has not earned Eagle and should not be wearing it until he does earn Eagle).

        • “… displays no copyrighted logos or seals…”

          This is way more difficult than one might think. Copyright is automatic when an image is placed “in fixed form,” as on a patch, and the creator must take explicit steps to place a copyrighted image into the public domain. Perhaps this ought to be “displays no copyrighted logos or seals without the permission of the copyright holder.”

        • I don’t make the rules…it’s hard enough for me to follow many of them!

          Tim, the BSA is serious about this…the idea is not to infringe on anyone’s official trademark or service mark. We have a lot of badges and insignia pieces which use the logos of colleges, schools, cities, cartoon characters, movies and TV shows, and people. Most of the people who created or authorized those patches or insignia pieces (OA flaps and CSPs are the most common “offenders”) have sought and have written permissions to use those items. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who say “they’ll find me when they find me” and have made little to no effort in asking for the rights to use the logo or emblem or likeness.

          So the BSA basically said “no”. Unless you can prove to the BSA’s marketing and licensing folks you DO have written okay, they really don’t want you wearing anything which tramples on someone else’ trademark or service mark. I know…I have several Road Runner and Coyote items in my personal collection… but I can’t wear them because I don’t have anything in writing from Warner Brothers (the owners of the cartoon characters) which says that they authorized whomever I got the patches from the usage of their cartoon characters. So they sit in a binder and somewhere down the road, they will belong to someone else and THEY can figure all of this out! *smiling*

          So like I said…I don’t make the BSA insignia rules…I have a tough enough time following many of them, let alone explaining them. But I try. I hope this explains the rule about “no copyrighted or trademarked logos or representation…”

        • Mike Walton – I see that you like to make us think that you’re the authority on insignia by capitalizing “DO NOT BELONG” and “NOT” and “AT ALL”, etc, but you’re wrong here. The insignia guide does not specify what miscellaneous means because they leave it up to the scout to decide what’s important to them. You can take it up with the Uniform & Insignia Task Force, but I suspect they’re also going to tell you that you’re wrong.

        • Sorry, coming late to the conversation. My approach to the question of ‘how is a scout supposed to know’ is that if there are restrictions on how and where badge can be displayed, I tell them in the Court of Honor/Troop Meeting when the badge is presented. That way they hear it plain and clear, as do the parents and all the rest of the scouts in attendance, and hopefully we eliminate a lot of future problems before they ever pop up.

        • We, as the Adult Leaders, teach out young men about proper uniforming. I have never sewn on a “50 Miler” leather patch because we have all the young men on the trip sign the back of the patch. We also include the date and where we went or what section of the trail (ie… The Appalachian Trail) we completed.

      • in 2014 it was stated the guide would be revised, that only temporary patches are allowed on the sash (besides merit badges). Now it’s 2016 and the guide still says ‘miscellaneous patches”. So the 50 miler patch still seems to be valid for the back of the sash based upon the published document.
        Seems like any other interpretation goes against the policy of making up our own rules.

  4. What is the rule about Square Knots? How many should you wear on your shirt, and when should you get a sash to wear them on?

    • Funny Lev! Chris did mention this but Byran should have bolded this… merit badge sashes are ONLY WORN BY BOY SCOUTS AND VARSITY SCOUTS and (MALE) VENTURERS.

      Cub Scouts don’t wear a sash. Female Venturers don’t wear one. We adults do not wear one. It is a (male) YOUTH ONLY item.

      As far as the number of “square knots” to be worn on your shirt, the BSA has gone back and forth on this — currently the RECOMMENDATION (not policy, a recommendation!) is that no more than 9 to 12 should be worn on a uniform shirt, to allow space for the World Crest and tenure (year) pins to be also worn.

      There are many of us who wear in excess of that 9-12 number and that’s okay. We’ve had a separate conversation on Bryan’s blog about this issue…if you want to know more, use the archival tools above and seek it out. We’re talking Merit Badges and their sash here… *smiling*

  5. Thanks everyone – that saves me the cost of another sash at least until he earns over 100! Merit Badges have opened his eyes to so many new hobbies and potential job careers!

    • Actually Roy, I am working on a demonstration which I hope to be done by this summer: I have purchased an extra long merit badge sash and am attaching all of the available merit badges to that sash. When this is done, I am getting my Eagle Scout youth friend to wear the sash while I take photos of the front and back and will be posting it to the Badge and Uniform Site to illustrate the fact. I agree with you…without my exposure to many of the merit badges I earned as a Scout and Explorer, I would have floundered out there trying to figure out “what career or interest really excites me enough to work in those fields?”

  6. I know it’s the rule.. but I totally disagree with not allowing the scout to wear both the Order of the Arrow Sash and the Merit Badge Sash. These are both symbols of what they have accomplished, and by limiting the wear of the OA Sash…you help to further they mystery (and thereby the feeling of “I’m not interested”) Allow a Scout to drap the sash neatly over their left or right leg…it can be done, and was done for years.

    • S. Moore wrote in part: “I know it’s the rule.. but I totally disagree with not allowing the scout to wear both the Order of the Arrow Sash and the Merit Badge Sash.”

      Do you KNOW why it’s the rule? No, not because someone doesn’t want Scouts running around with sashes like third-country dictators. Here’s why.

      Before 1961, the only way one can identify an Arrowman — a member of the Order of the Arrow — was through a small Arrow pin “dangle” which was suspended from the Arrowman’s right pocket. Vigil Honor members wore the small Vigil Honor pin on the red and white ribbon of that “dangle”. That was all which was needed to ID Arrowmen when not performing service — like when attending Troop meetings and outings.

      Back then — as now — the ONLY time Arrowmen wore or displayed their sash was when they were performing service AS ARROWMEN, not as Troop or Team members.

      Some enterprising Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster had the idea to wear his OA sash suspended from the right side of his uniform belt. It caught on with others, and off to the races we went. It has taken the OA literally YEARS to discourage this activity. Along the same time period, Scouts started wearing their Merit Badge sashes folded and suspended from the left side of the uniform belt.


      Today, unless Arrowmen clearly needed to be IDed as part of a service or tasking element, there is NO NEED to wear the Order of the Arrow’s red and white ceremonial sashes. Why? Because today we have multicolored OA lodge flaps when are to be worn by dues-paying Arrowmen from that Lodge. The flap is worn over the right uniform pocket. The OA “dangle pin” can also still be worn, but many Arrowmen do not wear it because its easily lost.

      You also wrote: “These are both symbols of what they have accomplished, and by limiting the wear of the OA Sash…you help to further they mystery (and thereby the feeling of “I’m not interested”)”

      Isn’t that the purpose of the FLAP, however? To ME, you further the mystery by keeping the sash back for those few times it needs to be displayed – when you’re providing service as part of an organized or impromptu OA activity. Otherwise, the flap says everything it needs to about the wearer’s OA participation.

      So the reason why, Q, is because there is a uniform item — two of them actually — which better demonstrates that Scout or Scouters’ election and participation in the Order of the Arrow — the “dangle pin” and the Lodge’s flap.

      (More on the dangle pin and other OA items are found at http://www.scoutinsignia.com/dangle.htm )

      • Mike,

        Hate to say it, but some lodges still have restrictions on the lodge flaps, i.e have to do x number of service hours as a member, so the new Arrowmen, do not get flaps.

        I know of one lodge that almost changed the policy, but when national decided to do away with “honor borders” on flaps, the youth voted to do keep the restrictions.

        • Understand that some OA Lodges restrict the flap to their members who must complete X number of service hours before they can wear the Lodge’s flap. Other lodges restrict their flap to paid-up members of their Lodge and then restrict the number of flaps they can purchase. I would take that up with the Lodge. But the Arrow Pin is still available for ANY Arrowman to wear and that is suitable recognition for any Arrowman. I wear the Arrow Pin “dangle” sometimes with no flap on the shirt. Wear the sash ONLY when performing tasks as an Arrowman.

        • Having you do “x” hours of service per member to wear their lodge flap is less Brotherhood of Cheerful Service and more Brotherhood of Indentured Service. Sorry but we don’t require Scouts to do “x” number of service hours to wear a council strip or a unit patch.

          If your lodge has to force people to work…there is a leadership issue.

    • Though you probably can’t see the lodge flap when wearing a merit badge sash, a Scout could place a nice, visible OA patch on the back of his sash if he really wants people to know he is an arrowman.
      Everyone loves wearing their OA sash, though their are only specific, prescribed times it should be worn.

    • It was done for years, but it was not allowed. for any of those years…

      The OA Sash is not worn on any event except OA events or business because the Arrowman is supposed to have their primary focus in their unit.

      The OA Sash is not worn on any event except OA events or business because one serves because he serves not because he seeks recognition.

      The OA Sash is not, as you seem to believe a “symbol of what they have accomplished”, rather it is a symbol of the service they will provide for the rest of their life, of what they have yet to accomplish!

      Hanging either sash from the belt minimizes whichever sash it is being worn incorrectly. Choose one, wear it with dignity.

  7. Merit badge sashes are instant conversation starters with the Scouts. I always try to take a moment and discuss a Scout’s sash with him, especially if I am meeting him for the first time. A badge I don’t recognize or noticing a pattern to the placement is an easy thing for me to bring up that the Scout is bound to have a story about. Favorite, least liked, even the one that is still on the horizon……………

    I treat them like a Scout’s wampum belt and encourage him to do the same.

    • You can fit up to 126 on today’s long sash without squeezing. Reasonably 123 can fit if you leave a gap over the shoulder to demark the front to the back. (The best option for a heavy sash it to include a gap over the shoulder where you can create a button hole in the sash so you can easily attach it to the shirt under the epaulet thingy.) 60 would be on each the front and the back with three filling in the seam at the “V” oriented vertically. After that, the cleanest approach in my opinion is to overlap in an alternating cascade down the front again. To me, the modified sashes with four across or six across the front are a bit much. If you want to see what a lot of people have done you can find many examples at http://www.meritbadgeknot.com. I think the extra long special order sash that Mike mentioned may be a bit much as well as it would dwarf most boys.

      • The last time anyone did it, he was a staffer for the then-Supply Division. He filled both sides of the merit badge sash with the then 138 available merit badges and then gave the sash to Chief Scout Executive Ben Love to show at a press conference introducing a new merit badge — can’t recall off the top of my head which one it was. He made it a point to have a local Scout from Circle Ten Council present to wear the sash to show that indeed all of the available merit badges could be worn on one single sash.

        I hope to recreate that with the current merit badge listing. Someone asked me how I’m going to get all of the merit badges and I had a simple answer for that person: ebay. Since we’re not allowed to purchase the merit badges directly from the Scout Shop(tm) or trading post without an Advancement Report, the next best thing for me to do is to purchase them from sites like eBay. I know that I’ll get a lot of duplicates, but the aim is to get one of each current merit badge (since 2000) and place them on the sash. Then have an Eagle Scout to pose with the sash to demonstrate how they can be worn.

        (I have to keep reminding people that I am NOT a professional nor do I work at the BSA’s National or any local Council office. So I have no “strings” to pull to get someone to send me one of each merit badge to place on a sash. My project — my money…)

        Someone else suggested I just cut out the merit badges from the merit badge poster which is annually made by the BSA. I wrote back to that person that you’re taking all of the fun from the exercise. Besides, sewing paper onto a cloth sash isn’t a lot of fun!

        As far as the extra length sash I mentioned earlier, we’re talking six inches longer (36 inches is the current “long length”; the BSA says they can make one 40-44 inches in length) so most Scouts will only have to deal with four to six inches more for their height (the average height of a Scout-aged boy is 55 inches tall, so the “extra long length” sash would extend on one side about eight to ten inches. Until the Scout grows another four so inches tall and probably two or three inches thicker.

        • Mike- This staffer had to have used a sash longer than 36 inches. Merit badges are 1.5 inches in diameter making my statement above accurate (when there is a gap left over the shoulder). Without a shoulder gap you can include three more with about a half an inch to spare and without squeezing. You can see photos of this here (the comments on the photos will help explain what you are looking at): http://www.flickr.com/photos/121036663@N05/

          I have included photos of the button hole I mentioned earlier as well. I have had many people ask me about this over the years.

          The 42 inch sash would allow for an additional 24 merit badges (12 front, 12 back) which would be sufficient for today’s maximum number of merit badges (including the 2010 historicals), but maybe not in the future. Considering that most scouts who set the goal to earn all of the merit badges don’t set the goal when they become new scouts, I would go along with the poster who suggested scouts to always go with the long (36 inch) sash. If they run out of room they can use the overlap method (also illustrated in the Flickr images above) rather than add length to the sash. To avoid overlapping too much, they can be cascaded down the sash like this:


          And yes, the idea of merit badges is to “capture the experiences of working alongside men and women (merit badge counsellors) in learning about a skill, hobby or vocation.” It’s all the better if they want to learn about all of them!

        • The last time a demonstration was done, we only had 122 merit badges. It was back in the early 90s. I am confident that all 132 plus four “historical” merit badges would fit on a “standard” 36 inch merit badge sash. I think that the extra long one would have a problem as well fitting all of them, but I’ll see when I start my experiment in a few weeks. Thanks for the photos…I will find a way to add them somehow without distracting from the content on the page.

  8. When the book says, “back of the sash,” does it mean the part of the sash that sits on the wearer’s back (still facing out), or does it mean on the inside surface of the sash that sits against the wearer’s shirt?

  9. “Notes from experience (both mine and others):
    1) ALWAYS buy the LARGE MBSash. The smaller one just gets filled up , then one has to think of REsewing all them MBs, and the 2-row sash is a waste of time.
    2) MB can and are sewed on in what ever order the boy desires. I saw one sash that was arranged in sections, with empty spots for specific MBs the Scout intended to earn, Eagle silvers at the top, other topics further down. Score keeping and self-encouragement, I guess.
    3) The back of the sash can be used for more MBs and/or “tempo” badges illustrative of the Scouts advantures and accomplishments. A walking curriculum vitae. But be careful, I advise GLUING and sewing , as I heard a story of a boy who had a badge razored off the back of a jacket at a campfire. He never noticed until he got the jacket off and saw the cut threads. Not all Scouts are “Trustworthy”, I guess.
    4) Need more room? I saw one boy (tall fellow) who had TWO large sashes sewn neatly together, lengthwise. On his frame, it was not out of proportion .
    5) As a “yoooth”, I was a “belt draper”, but I discourage it now. I see the need to be proud of one’s accomplishments, but I counsel the need for practicallity (all that stuff to drag around?) and that there is a time and place for everything.
    6) Even saw a sash which had pockets sewn (mom?) on the INSIDE surface, for pens, notes, etc. I admired such “preparedness”.
    7) Pity the poor ADHD Scout whose mom and dad INSISTED he do his own sewing, which he pursued with diligence. His SM had to sit him down privately and remind him that the sash should be arranged for the RIGHT shoulder (pointy end down!) and his FC badge on the LEFT pocket. None of his buddies corrected him. They knew him.

    • James…thank you for the comments… Please allow me to followup on a couple of them.

      You stated in part that “4) Need more room? I saw one boy (tall fellow) who had TWO large sashes sewn neatly together, lengthwise. On his frame, it was not out of proportion.” I have been talking with the Supply Group’s buyer of the material used for the Merit Badge sash. You may purchase what we are both calling an “Extra Long Length” merit badge sash but it will be a long more money than purchasing two merit badge sashes and taking them both to a local seamstress or tailor shop and asking them to lengthen one sash to accommodate your son’s height and his potential growth. The Supply Group wants to charge you $27 for the “Extra Long Length” (44 inch in length from top to tip) merit badge sash as opposed to the $9 “Long length” (36 inches from top to tip) sash. It is a special order item and must be ordered and paid for from your local Scout Shop(tm). It may cost that amount of money to extend a sash…I don’t know for a fact.

      You also stated: “6) Even saw a sash which had pockets sewn (mom?) on the INSIDE surface, for pens, notes, etc. I admired such “preparedness”. ” I had a friend of mine who bought a pair of Scout pants — back then, they had large cargo pockets and a snap — and took it and his sash to a local seamstress. He had them to remove the pocket and attach it to the inside of the merit badge sash halfway down. In this pocket he would place all of the merit badge pocket certificate/cards and other pocket certificate/cards along with his BSA membership card. His explanation to me: he wanted to be ready in case someone questioned whether or not he earned the merit badges displayed.

      When the Innovation Engine was first going and they were looking for ideas for the new “Centennial Uniform”, I remembered Oscar’s cool sash idea and sent it to them. Guess it wasn’t cool enough…but someone did suggest the “tech pocket”… If you have an idea, don’t keep it to yourself but send it to the Innovation Engine for consideration down the road. I’m sure that Byran can point us all to it…the email address I used to have keep coming back as undeliverable.

      • Hey Mike, I just wanted to let you and everyone else know that I checked with the local scout shop and also with their supplier scoutstuff.org and they do not have a special order longer merit badge sash. They recommended that I buy two sashes and have a seamstress sew them together (or a portion of one to a full sash) to make it longer. If you have another contact before I go this route, I would appreciate it! Thanks!

        • Roy wrote and asked: “Hey Mike, I just wanted to let you and everyone else know that I checked with the local scout shop and also with their supplier scoutstuff.org and they do not have a special order longer merit badge sash. They recommended that I buy two sashes and have a seamstress sew them together (or a portion of one to a full sash) to make it longer. If you have another contact before I go this route, I would appreciate it!”

          I sure do Roy! I’ve been working with him on providing a longer merit badge sash than the “standard long sash”. Send me an email to settummanque@yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to forward you the email and the details! Thanks for asking me!!

  10. So I am not sure there is a rule on this but what is the suggested arrangement of the merit badges on the sash? If not What are some of the most common arrangements or order of the merit badges?

    • As several here has explained; and as Chris Hunt explained above, there is no specified method. Here’s the ones I’ve seen in the past:

      – chronological order. The order in which the Scout earned the merit badge seems to be the most popular. Makes it easier to note on various forms and books and online too. (This was the order in which I worn my merit badges as a youth).

      – required/non required order. There are (depending on age) 15, 17 or 19 required merit badges (11, 12 or 13 required which the Scout selects for Eagle; there are other options which he did not choose (for instance, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving; Environmental Science or Sustainability; Hiking, Cycling or Swimming; Cooking which is now required; and in the past, Nature and Sports which are not required). Some Scouts choose to wear the required (ID’ed by the silver border of the badge) merit badges at the top, give a space, then all of his optional/non-required merit badges (those with the green or brown borders depending on age) after that. A little chaotic but it works for a lot of Scouts.

      – alphabetical order. Don’t ask me why…but some Scouts want to display their earned merit badges in the “book order” — alphabetically. I sure hope THOSE SCOUTS and not their moms or dads are sewing those puppies onto the sash!! *smiling*

      – activity order. Some Scouts have chosen to wear the merit badges they earned within the Troop or Team, at summer camp, at the Jamboree, at a merit badge fair, etc. etc. as a group. A little offshoot of the chronological version but distinctive enough for their own “method”.

      – from the bottom up. I’ve seen now five Scouts who have chosen to wear the merit badges they have earned from the bottom edge and working their way to the top. When I asked one Scout about this, he simply said “starting from the top is so old school; we started from the bottom in Scouts and worked our way up to Eagle. So the sash shows how I started with my first merit badge (which was Home Repairs) and over time I earned a few more and then more and halfway up I earned Eagle.”

      – straight line down. Instead of three merit badges across in a row, this Scout wore his straight from top to bottom in a line. Don’t know if that’s official…something tells me it is…but the Scout wore them with pride.

      Those are all of the ways *I’ve* observed. Others may have seen other methods. The most important thing is that the Scout wears them on the sash (or on the shirt sleeve if he has less than seven) and shows the experiences and types of interest areas he has done on his way toward Eagle and beyond as a Scout.

    • No suggested arrangements. It’s completely up the Scout. I’ve seen several patterns and all of them were interesting. The most common is with Eagle required badges at the top or along one column but there are plenty of Scouts that go with a totally chronological arrangement.

    • When I was a youth, the tradition in our unit was that your top three were all Eagle Required, and then the left edge were all eagle required so that they looked like an “L” that had been rotated. It was so that the Eagles were closer to your heart, and stood above the others.

    • My son has the required silver borders down the middle with a regular one on either side, in the order he earned them.

  11. So, my son has filled up the front of the sash with Merit Badges and will likely start wanting to place additional Merit Badges earned on the back of the sash. Do any of you have suggestions on placement on the back of the sash? Does it make sense to start at the top (from the back) just as we did in the front? Should the Merit Badges read “right side up” from the back, or should they continue around from the front, which would mean they would read “upside down,” which doesn’t make sense to me. Has anyone done this and would they be willing to show photos? Thank you for your assistance!

  12. Just a note to Bryan or whoever, the Guide to Awards and Insignia, Section 2, needs to be updated. It does not include Cooking as one of the Eagle-required merit badges yet. Likewise, it doesn’t mention several newer merit badges at all (e.g., Sustainability).

    • The Guide to Awards and Insignia will be revised later this year as part of the BSA overall rehab of all of the volunteer publications. Between the changes to Venturing, the Cub Scout program stuff, the new merit badges, the new volunteer and professional positions and their related insignia, and the dropping of some of the “square knot insignia”, we’ve been a bit busy *smiling*. Give it until October or early November and you’ll have a new Guide good for the next couple of years.

      In the meantime, as Chris Hunt would share with you, the Boy Scout Requirements book and the Guide to Advancement are two basic books you or any other Boy Scouter would need. The Boy Scout Requirements book supercedes anything written in the merit badge pamphlet; the Guide to Advancement is the overall guidance as to how the BSA (and your local Council) views advancement with the program.

  13. Maybe the other thing to add to the post is where the first row of merit badges begins. The guide says 3” from the top but I’ve seen lots of scouts with their badges starting at the bottom by the point of the sash where the seam is.

    • As I noted earlier, Marci, while the Insignia guide states “three inches”, that is really too far down to start the rows of merit badges. On the Badge and Uniform Site, there’s an illustration showing the first row of merit badges one-half inch from the top edge of the sash. This allows for more merit badges to be displayed on the sash. I also noted that there are some Scouts who choose to wear the merit badges from the “bottom up” and it kinda makes sense in some ways…at least I bought the explaination from a Scout telling me why he did it that way.

  14. Great post here, all very important information. Slightly off-topic, but it seems that the Digital Technology requirements have been released early, foregoing the “April 2014” expected date. The reqs are on the Scouting.org site – http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/MeritBadges/mb-DIG_TECH.aspx

    I don’t know if the pamphlets or even the patches are available, but at least there’s the requirements and patch image (which looks really good).

  15. With all the flag-waving about clarifications in national uniform policies, particularly as they pertain to the sash, it’s time for some change in some key areas. Namely, the wearing of a second merit badge sash.
    The notion posted above about sewing merit badges inside the sash serves only to tell the boy “great job earning that badge, but we can’t show anyone how great your accomplishment(s) is/are. We must HIDE them so we don’t make others feel bad about their relatively few merit badges when you’re around them.” Rubbish!
    My own sons set a goal to be the first brothers from Northern Virginia to have earned all the merit badges in Boy Scouting. From what I’ve gathered, there’s just a few over 200 who have ever done it, and they are only TWO away from that goal (expected completion second weekend of May, weather permitting). These boys are 13 and 11, and have several years ahead of them in Scouting at countless opportunities to be proud of their sashes as a key component of their Class A uniforms.
    When I called the national office for some clarification of what a boy is supposed to do when he has earned more than about 90 merit badges, and simply run out of room on the front and back of his sash, the reply was a far-less-than-kind and surrealistic “…BSA doesn’t want a Boy to earn all the merit badges.” Really? then why hang this pinata out there for boys to swing at? Why publish a BSA poster “The Merits of Scouting”? Of course it’s a goal – and there are countless goals within Scouting.
    Before leaping on the noise train about my sons not seeking broader opportunities within Scouting, and focusing only on merit badges, My 13 year old is the SPL for his Troop, and was just elected to OA last night (in his troop’s first-ever OA election). He’s complete with his Eagle project, is a serving Den Chief, and is just this summer eligible to be a CIT at his council’s summer camp. His 11 year old brother is a Star, who boards for Life in May, he is his troop’s Bugler, a Den Chief, and an assistant Patrol Leader. By any measure, these two boys are seeking the fullness of Scouting, and earning 133 merit badges to date is just a part of their individual (and fraternal) journeys.
    Long diatribe, but my vote here is to change the national policy so that a boy may only wear a single merit badge sash so long as there is room on that sash for merit badges (obverse and reverse). Only when the first sash is completely filled three-abreast, with some minimal space between the rows, may a Boy wear a second sash. These sashes are worn one over the other (not bandolier style), and sheaved so that a fourth row appears (the first inside row of the lower sash). The sashes must be worn in such a fashion so as to complement the appearance of the uniform, and no modification (other than a tailored length for proper fit on the Boy based upon height) is authorized to the sash(es).
    No doubt, there will be a dog-pile of claims that no Boy so young could possible earn this many merit badges this quickly. To that I would ask that if the same level of effort of any Soccer Mom or Baseball Dad, with some frequent flier miles and a flexible schedule, wouldn’t yield the same outcomes. Each of their Counselor would be surely be offended at the suggestion that ANY shortcuts were taken in ANY of their merit badges earned. And no, my signature doesn’t appear on a single one of their blue cards…
    I yield the floor… Yours in Scouting,

    • I have some scouts who sew some of their miscellaneous patches, awards, etc. on the inside of the sash. I’ll tell them about the pocket idea.

    • Mark – I have seen lots of sashes over the years including the two wide, the bandolier, the method you are suggesting, the two long, the flap off the side, and more. My personal recommendation is always the overlap. It keeps the sash reasonable in size without modification and certainly has the wow factor. See photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/121036663@N05/ These photos also show how a buttonhole can be used to secure the sash over your sons’ shoulders. Heavy sashes don’t like to stay on the shoulder, but this will keep them where you want them.

      Regarding National’s response to you . . . unfortunately I wouldn’t expect anything better on this topic. Why anyone would discourage scouts from setting a goal such as this? I’ve heard it over and over.

      Good luck to your boys. Good thing there are plenty of avenues for them to stay active once they have advanced through the ranks.

      • personally, I am not a fan of overlap method, I feel like even with the cascade pattern you did it looks messy. I like the rest of it, especially the personal finance badge there.

        My only questions to Mark in terms of his sons age would be when did you 11 year old son join boy scouts, and how far from 12 is he. While not common, if your son was 10.5 when he joined and about to turn 12 I could believe it a little bit more than if he had only been in the troop 6 months. To be honest though I would say slow your sons down. I have seen many scouts go full force their first year or two and then just get burnt out. The Boy Scout program is not designed to be finished in 1 or 2 years, the most valuable years I and my fellow scouts had were when we were 14-17, but many get burnt before then.

        • Three key points here: First, my youngest bridged on his 10th birthday with his Arrow of Light in hand – a little put out that he had to wait until 5pm that evening, and wondering why there wasn’t a collective enthusiasm for a bridging at 12:01am! He doesn’t turn 12 until August. He’s 24 months behind is older brother in age, and 14 months behind him in Boy Scouts.
          Second is the issue of believability: Every BSA procedure pertaining to their merit badges and advancement have been followed to (and beyond) the letter, so as to avoid the perception of impropriety. My older son never signed-off anything in his brother’s advancement; my signatures appear on not a single one of their blue cards; and everything is completely auditable. “Believability” in the context of second-guesses from Cyberville is moot, and may even border on being unkind considering our oath of Trustworthiness. The boys both wholly embrace the Scout motto in “Doing Their Best.”
          “Slow Down” is a non-starter, falls woefully short of “Doing Their Best”, and it’s likely a group-think mentality that okays so much mediocrity in our society. So long as the boys have the fullness of Scouting at heart, I’ll keep playing taxi-driver to their events. NYLT, Philmont, SeaBase, Northern Tier, hiking the AT, Counselors at their Council Camp, OA (and the eight-nights-a-week I suspect that will entail at some point) – all are activities in front of them. “Slow Down” in Scouting terms is a little akin to taking your son to Disneyland, and telling them they can’t ride anything west of the Teacups and nothing south of Tomorrowland. While we must always be mindful of not wanting a Scout to burn out on the Candystore of Scouting opportunities, “slow down” – at least for our family – means their enthusiasm and energy would need to find a focus outside of Scouting – beyond their current and concomitant involvement in their Church, academics, school sports, school band, and volunteerism in their local park. Monitoring for even the slightest sign of Scout-fatigue is a challenge I gladly embrace – especially considering the huge numbers of parents who watch their sons watch their opportunity to earn eagle slip away with their 18th birthday; or the Scoutmasters who shrug their shoulders when Bobby or Jimmy succumb to the “fumes” of high school and just sort of walk away from Scouting with a half-dozen partial merit badge blue cards in the books.
          Both my sons are leaders (aren’t they all?) in their young (and small) Troop, and expect they have some responsibility to grow their Troop, and groom its members for OA, high adventure, and those activities that pick a Scout up on the green end of the bridge, and leave him a productive man in Society when he takes off his merit badge sash.
          Your message of not burning a Boy out on Scouting in his early years is not lost here. But so long as they each keep finding new levels to set their personal bars, and ways to keep reaching that bar, what parent or Scouter wouldn’t cheer these successes as Scouting at its best?!
          As for me – I hope when I go face down in my mashed potatoes, I get the Paramedic and ER Doc who DIDN’T “Slow Down” in Scouting, and lived “Doing Their Best” as a LIFE imperative…

        • Mark, I agree with a lot that you said, especially the part about transparency during rank advancement.

          Our former scoutmaster signed off on his boy’s advancement requirements without even knowing the material. In one instance, he okay’d a requirement about compasses and maps for his son, even though his son only brought in a road map of Wisconsin and a compass app on his iPhone. Several parents argued that the requirements had not been met. He signed the requirement anyway.

          In another instance, he wrote a statement saying his son completed his 20-mile hike according to the requirements for the Hiking merit badge. We know that he didn’t because he started his hike at 5pm and stopped around 9pm completing only 10-miles. The next day he went out again and finished the hike. Unfortunately, this scout was given, and “given” is the correct phrase, his Eagle scout.

          When our scoutmaster raised a concern, he was told to leave it, because it was up to the merit badge counselor to verify that it was done.

          That is why my son’s advancement was a hands-off affair. We took him to another troop to make sure there were no shenanigans.

        • Mark, first let me apologize if I came of on the wrong tone as a scout is also courteous. I was not trying to accuse anybody of being untrustworthy, which is partially why I suggested the time frames that I did, to alleviate any concern that someone else may have had. I know first hand the time frame that your youngest son has, because I too was an August birthday, and we do everything younger because of it. You will also notice, I didn’t say anything about your sons meritbadge councilors, because I have spent 7 years as a meritbadge councilor at summer camp and for local units, and there is nothing more frustrating than people questioning your abilities to teach having not sat through the course themselves. Much of the frustration that I had because of these misconceptions were also do to my young age, as well as people doubting me as an Assistant Scoutmaster while I was in college.

          From what you say, your sons both have something that 99% of boys their age don’t. Part of my slow down comment that I may not have worded well or at all was also that there are somethings in my opinion that can only be appreciated when a little older, though there is always the exception and it sounds like your sons may be it. Philmont for example while always being a magical place, teaches much more different lessons to a scout who is 13-14 than a scout that is 15-17.

          It definitely sounds like you have to good scouts on your hands though, and as an Eagle myself, I would happily welcome them into our ranks. Again, my apologies for any ill words I may have conveyed

        • Geometry. You can put more badges in a given space by alternating 3 then 2 then 3 then 2 then 3 etc. in a row, chock-a-block to each other.
          In sufficiently large areas, this will allow more circular “units” packed. Think bottles and cans in a box.
          Doing this, I have no doubt more than 125 can be attached to a regular LARGE sash.

    • Mark, first let me apologize if I came of on the wrong tone as a scout is also courteous. I was not trying to accuse anybody of being untrustworthy, which is partially why I suggested the time frames that I did, to alleviate any concern that someone else may have had. I know first hand the time frame that your youngest son has, because I too was an August birthday, and we do everything younger because of it. You will also notice, I didn’t say anything about your sons meritbadge councilors, because I have spent 7 years as a meritbadge councilor at summer camp and for local units, and there is nothing more frustrating than people questioning your abilities to teach having not sat through the course themselves. Much of the frustration that I had because of these misconceptions were also do to my young age, as well as people doubting me as an Assistant Scoutmaster while I was in college.

      From what you say, your sons both have something that 99% of boys their age don’t. Part of my slow down comment that I may not have worded well or at all was also that there are somethings in my opinion that can only be appreciated when a little older, though there is always the exception and it sounds like your sons may be it. Philmont for example while always being a magical place, teaches much more different lessons to a scout who is 13-14 than a scout that is 15-17.

      It definitely sounds like you have to good scouts on your hands though, and as an Eagle myself, I would happily welcome them into our ranks. Again, my apologies for any ill words I may have conveyed.

  16. I know the primary focus of the the comments here is on the merit badge sash, but I’ve been fascinated by the ‘throwback’ option of wearing 6 badges on the sleeve. I noted the restriction of the merit badge sash to only be worn by Boy. Varsity, and Venture Scouts, but can an adult wear badges on the sleeve? I could see this being a great way to market some of the badges for which I am a counselor.

    • NOOOOOO….Sean, the merit badge program is for the BOYS, not us adults. While I can appreciate you wanting to show your support and market some of the merit badges you counsel, having them on the sleeve AS AN ADULT isn’t the right way to go about it!!

      If you’re serious about letting Scouts know about the merit badges you counsel, how about asking the Senior Patrol Leaders of the area Troops for about 15 minutes. Prepare a brief (like no more than five slides!) PowerPoint(tm) presentation on the merit badges you counsel and hand out cards with your name and phone number (don’t provide your email address unless you really have the time to answer silly questions like “I’m not interested in your merit badges – do you know the name of the X or Y merit badge?”)

      The Merit badge program is for Boy and Varsity Scouts. VENTURERS (not “Venture Scouts” — they aren’t SCOUTS — they are VENTURERS) may earn merit badges if they are also registered as Boy/Varsity Scouts — they have their OWN advancement program which doesn’t involve earning of merit badges and working with counselors.

      • While I totally agree with this, I so wish there was a program for adults to not necessarily “earn” the merit badges, but somehow go through the Boy Scout program. I dropped out of Boy Scouts after a week and now, of course, regret it as an adult. I’m fully involved in Scouting as much as I can on the local level. But wouldn’t it be neat or cool or profitable have an adult program (with adult requirements) that we could go through?

        Just thinking out loud.

        • Sorry you were unable to be a Boy Scout, Mike… truly I am. There was at the earlier days of the BSA a way for an adult to earn First Class and later Eagle. The BSA cut it off for the simple reason that the adults forgot what their role in Scouting really is all about and started “competing” with the youth toward First Class and Eagle. As a parent, I would not want adults trying to compete with my son or daughter toward a youth adult. I’m sure that most Scouts today would be “wigged out” at the premise of having to “compete against” or be in some sort of goal setting thing with adults.

          At the same time, we do allow adults to earn their GED and high school equilvancy documents for jobs. It’s not the same as the diploma, and meets a different need for those adults who dropped out of school and discovered that education and their attainment of it is essential to getting and keeping a job — and the income which comes along with it.

          The BSA does expose adults to elements of what youth go through in our volunteer training programs — the basic training, the intermediate and advanced training (Wood Badge) programs. But they are not competing against youth for things designed for youth — merit badges and youth advancement. Instead they are competing against themselves as they learn and share skills to make Scouting better.

        • Sea Scouts have “SEAL” (Sea Scout Advanced Leadership) training for youth and Sea Badge Underway for the adult leaders. Both are run in a similar manner and put dynamic leadership skill into practice. I also only made it to “Life” and by completing SBU, made it all worth while.

      • Hey Mike,
        You are in error when you say “a Venturer cannot earn a MB unless he is multiple registered in a troop or team”.
        A male Venturer can progress in scouting rank if he has achieved the rank of first class. He may earn his Eagle solely as a member of a crew.
        No need for multiple registration.
        Nothing on this will change in the new Venturing program.

        • Hey Ron…thanks for correcting me!! From the 2013 Guide to Advancement:

          “ Boy Scout Advancement in Venturing and Sea Scouts

          Venturers and Sea Scouts who earned First Class rank as registered Boy Scouts
          or Varsity Scouts are qualified until their 18th birthday to continue with Boy Scout
          advancement. If desired, they may maintain multiple (dual) registration in a
          troop or team, and also in a crew or ship, and work on ranks in either unit.
          Wherever the member is registered, the Scoutmaster and crew Advisor or
          Skipper decide with the young man which one will oversee his advancement. If the Advisor or Skipper does so, but is unfamiliar with Boy Scouting, the district advancement committee should identify an experienced Scouter to assist. It is important for Venturing and Sea Scout leaders to understand that Boy Scout
          advancement procedures must be followed. With the exception of the Eagle and Quartermaster service projects, any work done while a Venturer or Sea Scout can count toward both Boy Scout and Venturing on Sea Scout advancement at the same time. The Eagle and Quartermaster projects must be separate and distinct
          from each other.

          Position of responsibility requirements for Boy Scout ranks may be met by the Venturer or Sea Scout serving in crew or ship positions as outlined in the Boy Scout Requirements book. The Advisor or Skipper conducts the unit leader conference. The crew or ship committee conducts Star and Life boards of review, and Eagle Scout boards follow the local council’s established procedure.”

    • The idea of some ‘marking’ of adult merit badge counselors could serve a purpose and possibly indicate the particular merit badge(s) that they serve as a counselor.
      No to put more embroidery on the Scouter’s uniform … but to show who are the MB counselors and as a visual “conversation starter” for the Scout who is thinking about working on a particular MB.

  17. Hey Dave! You wrote: “Mike Walton – I see that you like to make us think that you’re the authority on insignia by capitalizing “DO NOT BELONG” and “NOT” and “AT ALL”, etc, but you’re wrong here.”

    No, *I* am not the “authority” on insignia and uniforming, but I’ve been exposed to what others (including myself as a part of the BSA’s uniforming and insignia work groups) are thinking through when applying the BSA’s policies and guidance on insignia and uniforming.

    There’s a reason why the Insignia (Control) Guide and the current Guide to Insignia and Uniforming placed some items into categories. It is to “control” what goes where and how the uniform should be worn by our youth and adult members. Naturally, *I* nor anyone else can “force” or “demand” to you or anyone else what you wear, how much of it you wear, and where on the uniform you wear it. We (the volunteers on that task force) can provide guidance, direction and point you to the BSA or WOSM policy which backs up just *why* the BSA wears some things some places and why not.

    I provide the “why or why not” where I can, to include on the Badge and Uniform Site, to further explain, in this case, why things like the various aquatic insignia, the stuff designed for equipment decoration (the Historic Trails, 50-Miler, Paul Bunyan Axman, High Adventure insignia, etc.) don’t go on the merit badge sash.

    “The insignia guide does not specify what miscellaneous means because they leave it up to the scout to decide what’s important to them. You can take it up with the Uniform & Insignia Task Force, but I suspect they’re also going to tell you that you’re wrong.”

    The wording has changed, I’ve been told, but the intent is the same: temporary insignia earned or given to a Scout or Scouter for participating in a Scouting activity; or non-Scouting insignia (i.e. location or activity patches) which are purchased or obtained for the “memory” of participating in an activity. Those items are still up to the wearer to wear, ONE AT A TIME, centered on the right pocket of the various field uniforms and cannot exceed the dimensions of the pocket. (As a note, there’s a reason why both the Historic Trails and the original 50-Miler emblems cloth emblems are the size they are — so as to discourage their wear on the field uniform.)
    Scouts (and parents) still determine what’s “important to them” to wear as temporary/miscellaneous insignia.

    The Historic Trails, 50-Miler, aquatic insignia like Mile Swim or Boardsailing BSA, and like insignia *have a category* and therefore are NOT “miscellaneous”. I’m sure that those other volunteers working uniforming and insignia issues with me would likewise say the same.

    We are saying basically the same things, Dave. I’ve added emphasis; you did not.

  18. The only other award that may be worn on the Merit Badge sash other than Merit Badges is the Varsit Scout letter that is earned by Varsity Scouts. It is worn on the bottom front of the sash.

  19. I have a forest green MB sash as an Explorer and recall seeing grey-blue Air Scout MB sashes, including the three blue edge aero merit badges from the 1940s (to 1952?).
    Were there “official issue” white or blue MB sashes for Sea Scouts (as they were called) or any other colors BSA merit badge sashes?

    • An Old Scout wrote and asked: “I have a forest green MB sash as an Explorer and recall seeing grey-blue Air Scout MB sashes, including the three blue edge aero merit badges from the 1940s (to 1952?).”

      Yep. I have one of the forest green merit badge sashes as well. My merit badges were taken off of it and framed however along with a photo of me at our Council’s Eagle Recognition Banquet.

      “Were there “official issue” white or blue MB sashes for Sea Scouts (as they were called) or any other colors BSA merit badge sashes?”

      They were called either “Sea Explorers” or “Sea Scouts” depending on how far back you want to go… I have not been able to find a white or dark blue MB sash. I have been able to find several khaki-green MB sashes however.

      You also made comment about insignia pieces for merit badge counselors: “The idea of some ‘marking’ of adult merit badge counselors could serve a purpose and possibly indicate the particular merit badge(s) that they serve as a counselor.”

      Only thing is, the vast majority of our merit badge counselors do wear and do not choose to wear a Scouting field uniform. Only those few counselors who are associated in some other manner (for instance, are Assistant Scoutmasters or Committee members) would wear a uniform. So creating a “counselor badge” for them would not work out well…they’ll end up on a shelf gathering dust until the BSA woke up and discovered that was not a good idea.

      I mentioned business cards or other non-uniform manners of IDing merit badge counselors earlier — to *me* that’s the way to go, especially in a unit or local Council setting.

      • That second from the bottom paragraph should have started out with… “Only thing is, the vast majority of our merit badge counselors do NOT wear and do not choose to wear a Scouting field uniform.” Sorry for any confusion there…

    • Mike Smith, if the Scoutmaster (SM) is registered *with the local Council* as a merit badge counselor for those merit badges, he or she can indeed meet with the Scout and assist the Scout in the completion of those merit badges. If he or she is NOT registered with the local Council AS A MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR and merely as a Scoutmaster, no he or she cannot. But that’s a different discussion…we’re talking merit badges on sashes here right now… *grinning from ear to ear*

      • Mark, I really don’t know how much that is enforced in most councils. When I worked at camp, it was pretty much expected that it would be the SM or ASM finishing the meritbadge with the scouts if they got an incomplete. I also don’t know of any councils that register their camp staff as meritbadge councilors, if they are already registered as an adult in another position. Even away from camp, I have taught classes and signed off on them and never had somebody at the office give it a second thought.

        • It should be enforced in ALL Councils, Brandon. The Guide to Advancement is really clear about this. Merit badges are signed off by *registered merit badge counselors*. Scoutmasters or Assistant Scoutmasters don’t get a “pass” or “bye” with that requirement. If as Scoutmaster I’m signing off on merit badges and I’m NOT registered with the local Council as a merit badge counselor for that merit badge, when that Scout advances toward Eagle — the merit badge may be “discounted” as complete and the Scout will have to complete the merit badge with a *registered merit badge counselor* before he can meet the rest of the Eagle requirements. The local Council may not catch it, and you may have been able to do in the past, but be assured – this is why we don’t have more Eagles than we do…because a lot of times, those applications are returned to the Council as “please verify”.

      • Mr. Walton,
        You have mentioned several times that the merit badge counselor must be registered with the local council. The current Guide to Advancement clearly states that “It is acceptable for a counselor registered in one council to approve merit badges for Scouts in another.This is an important consideration, especially in areas where counselors are scarce, or when Scouts are away from home and want to continue advancing.”
        http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/GuideToAdvancement/TheMeritBadgeProgram.aspx#7011 see side note.

        • Sm13…yes, the fact that a counselor registered in one Council (as I’m a registered merit badge counselor for four merit badges in the Transatlantic Council) to approve merit badges for Scouts in another (as I’m also a part of Direct Service and have counseled Scouts in Public Speaking, Communications, Journalism and Citizenship in the World). But I MUST be registered with *a* local Council as a merit badge counselor for *those* particular merit badges.

          That does not change the fact that there is no such thing as an “automatic” merit badge counselor. The fact that I’m a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster doesn’t mean that when Scouts return from camp with a partially completed merit badge that I can “jump in” and finish the badge with that Scout — UNLESS I’m also a *registered merit badge counselor* for that particular badge.

      • The troop asks scouts not to wear the sash until they reach first class. The intention is to be some kind of incentive to get to first class. Merit badges can still be worn on the uniform sleeves per the Guide but I cannot find anywhere that it says the sash is a mandatory part of uniforming or that it cannot be denied/prohibited.

        • Hi Ed!!

          You are correct that the Guide to Advancement and the Insignia Guide does not state that the merit badge sash is a *required part* of the field uniform. It should not, in my opinion, state this. Nor is there anywhere in either publication which states that a unit leader cannot “restrict the wear” to Scouts attaining a certain rank, or age, or tenure in the unit.

          The merit badge sash serves one purpose: to display the merit badges (and optionally, other activities which that Scout participated in) in a _formal, _organized_setting_. It was never designed for wear during Troop meetings, on campouts or other outings — it was one of the things which distinguished the “informal wear” of the uniform from the “formal wear” of the uniform.

          I personally would not recommend that the sash be “restricted” in any way. It is a part of the FORMAL WEAR of the uniform, and therefore any Scout who earned a single merit badge should be able to display that badge proudly on his sash, suspended from his shoulder and draped down in front.

        • (I wish that WordPress allowed their posters to edit their postings *after they post them*…*smiling* I was going to add the following but I hit that “post comment” button too fast…)

          Wearing the first six merit badges on the sleeve is tough — especially if you’ve got a short sleeved shirt!! My solution to wear the six merit badges circling the bottom edge of the sleeve really doesn’t work well for most Scouts — not enough material!!

          So Ed, in that Troop’s case, I wouldn’t recommend it. I would recommend that the leadership remember why we have such an item — and it has nothing to do with tradition and everything to do with an official place to attach the various “merits” to the uniform in a formal manner.

          (okay…*now* I can press that “post comment” button below! *heheheheee*)

  20. I noticed that there was one important question that was not covered in the article…the word “WHEN”…when would you consider it appropriate to wear the Merit Badge Sash? As an Eagle Scout (Class of 1992) I usually wore mine at two functions…Summer Camp and Courts of Honor. The final time I wore my Merit Badge Sash was during my Eagle Scout Court of Honor.. What say you?

    • In our troop, we only wear the sashes for “special occasions”. For example:

      Board of Review
      Court of Honor
      Eagle Court of Honor
      Blue and Gold (for Den Chiefs)
      Special community events (9/11 ceremony, parades, etc)

  21. My sons (3 Eagle Scouts) wore thier sashes when ever we traveled with our class A uniforms on. Can’t tell you how many times the boys were noticed and asked about thier merit badges they earned. Past Scouts talk to the boys about thier experiences when they were scouts! Amazing stories we have heard! I tell my youngest son to be proud of each one you have earned. Each of the older boys earned 50+ but no matter the amount display them and let others see your accomplishments! Be proud! I know as a leader and a parent I was and am of our boys in our unit!

  22. The sash needs a counter balance on the back in weight or the sash constantly slides down in front….As a Scout master and Skipper for decades, I always checked the competency of the merit badge councilors. If the coverage was lacking, I took up the slack without fanfare. This was a part of my ongoing review and redundancy and diverse coverage of all requirement coverage. We offered the Troop, Venture and Sea Scout advancement. Unfortunately, girls aren’t given equal opportunity with the troop program, yet. Girls seriously need the skills developed in the troop program to function safely and competently in the Venture program. No boy was ever failed after earning but I made sure each boy (or Girl), covered and learned the requirements once and then were given the opportunity to teach what they learned if possible.

  23. As a Scout I wore my sash on my belt when I only had a few badges. We wore them like pelts, off center, but only when we had a few badges >12. We never dragged them! We just felt silly having all this empty space blocking the rest of our uniforms. Now as a Scouter, I don’t see any of our boys doing this. Which is good since it is the rule, but I think they should be changed. “A folded and tucked sash with 12 badges or fewer may be worn on the belt, off center, on the front.”

  24. Lets keep all BSA instructions and rules etc very simple for everyone to understand.. adults and especially the Scouts. From this BLOG it is obvious all these wonderful people have been left confused by documents a professional wrote..

    It is my belief that such items as the Kayaking, Paddle boarding, Paul Bunyan, Historic trails etc all “should” be worn on the back of the sash. The Insignia Guide, is just that a guide, or else call it something else like Uniform Specifications and Regulations.

    What is needed is a guide for how far to start the first row.. maybe try 3 ” from seam??
    The back of the sash should only hold BSA patches and awards etc, should be neat and uniform and not cluttered, one patch per area no stacking…

    Although the scout stores still sell that badgemagic.. after about 3-4 years I’ve seen scouts lose their merit badges.. it does really work well in the long run and has ruined numerous shirts.

  25. One of our council leader’s came up with a great idea: have all the merit badges “printed” ghostlike on the sash. That way the boys are aware what they’ve earned, need to earn, and can earn.

    • Kim: Another reason to not “read” the guides/Handbooks/manuals? Why not then “Shadow” print the location of the council patch, rank, patrol, etc.? The uni is a blank canvas to be filled in, true, but I would not want a “paint by the numbers” canvas. Let the older Scouts help the younger, let the mom and dads guide the Scout’s needle and thread
      .*** we do need a “sewing” merit badge…. Embroidery? Knitting included? Macramé? We do wood carving, basketry…. Why knot? Include it in Pioneering MB?

  26. A Scout hit me with a question I’ve never heard before: Can they place the merit badges in rows 4-wide? This would mean not 90 degrees to the sash itself, basically installed straight across (horizontally) when the sash is worn at an angle over the shoulder.
    I assume that this is improper but they saw it on another scout.

  27. I always got a chuckle when I’d see an article in a NESA newsletter when some 13- or 14-year old dynamo achieved the rank of Eagle and earned all 124 merit badges (in the late 80s and early 90s). You see quite a few photos of scouts wearing two crossed merit badge sashes like an English redcoat or Pancho Villa. During my era you had “time in rank” requirements, so seeing Eagle scouts that young was an anomaly.

    Then we had a guy that would go to camporees wearing an older style uniform along with his merit badge sash with all badges from the 50s. Found out from an adult leader that in his time you could still earn merit badges as an adult, so long as you were registered.

    They really just need to have small, medium or large sashes, as the “one size fits all” option doesn’t work with some teenagers that are a large as adults.

    • When I was a Scout in the late 70s and early 80s there were two troops in my district that were notorious for ensuring that ALL of their Scouts earned the Eagle rank between the age of 12 1/2 and 13, even with the time-in-rank requirements in existence.

      When I was 16 I became friends with a guy that had been a member of one of those troops. That very subject came up in one of our conversations one day and he told me that the high level of achievement was simply expected to the point that it seemed as if it was a requirement. It was so much a part of the culture of the troop that the few boys who took a little longer to earn their Eagle were literally hounded by the other boys daily over the phone and in person to make sure they were constantly working on whatever requirement(s) were necessary to get that rank.

      That was also back when your proposed Eagle service project had look like it would take a minimum of forty hours to complete, or it probably wouldn’t be approved by the district.

      So, 13 and 14 year old Eagle Scouts were far from an anomaly back then. It just depended on one’s motivation and dedication to the program. When I think about it, maybe I should have been in one of those troops, then I probably would have earned the Eagle myself! 🙂

  28. My scout has many event patches. When he got his very first patch as a tiger cub, he wanted to show it off. So we got a plain canvas bag and designated that as his scout bag. He keeps his uniform and book in there, as well as anything else he might need to take to a meeting. We sew event patches on the outside. Sadly, the first one got stolen (who does that?) but we replaced it and have since run out of room. We replace old patches with new favorites and keep the rest in his “Eagle box” so we can display them again when he has his Eagle ceremony.

  29. Bryan, in the article on the new Signs, Signs, And Codes merit badge, the article stated, “Today the Boy Scouts of America officially releases Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge, making it the 135th current merit badge.”

    However, the beginning of this article states, “Each tiny circle represents one of the 136 interest areas a Boy Scout has conquered.”

    Which is it?

  30. E for Eagle. That was the option my mom devised for the sash I wore. Five lines were used on a three across sash, and thus the letter E can be created with silver bordered MBs.

  31. Very well explained. Now if we could just get adult scouters from wearing Eagle Mentor pins and Parent Rank Pins on their uniform instead of on their civilian clothing where they belong, I’ll be happy 😉

  32. Just a suggestion here for National to consider.

    One of the toughest awards to wear is the National Outdoor Awards, Our troop keeps track of the progress towards these awards, but we haven;t come up with a good recommendation yet about how to practically wear the awards. The center pentagon is smaller than a “typical” temporary patch, the rockers are even tinier, and hard to sew onto the pocket without stitching it shut, and wearing the very tiny gold and silver pin devices is completely impractical on the right front pocket.

    So why not reserve the top few inches of the front of the merit badge sash for this award? You earn the awards currently for rank (First Class or higher) for a specific suite of merit badges for each of the five (soon to be six) categories, and additional activity for the devices. It relates most closely to the merit badges worn on the sash, so why not wear it there, where it can be easily displayed on formal occasions, and actually displayed instead of ending up in a plastic bag somewhere.

  33. Mike Clinch: Scouts can wear the National Outdoor Award and the segment patches on the backside of the merit badge sash. The emblem — these are *my words* — was designed terribly. The basic patch should be a bit larger and the segments which go around it should be a bit larger so that it would be a nicer emblem to wear centered on the right pocket of the uniform shirt. You are correct that the small pins representing additional awards of the segment is larger than the actual segment. The emblem needs to be enlarged so as everything can be worn together.

    My color illustration on the Badge and Uniform Site of where the emblem could be worn on the red jac-shirt is valid and it does look nice there.

  34. When my sons joined Boy Scouts I bought them the longer sash which looked too long on them. I pleated the top one merit badge length so it was shorter. As they grew I took out the pleat and added merit badges in that space. Glad I did this as they both needed both sides for merit badges.

  35. I am a pretty big guy for my age, my sash is rather small (the tail rests near my diaphram). I “attempted” to extend it, But that is an ongoing project. Is there a size larger than a 36″?

  36. Was there ever a Merit Badge Sash issued that was only two Badges wide to fit under the epaulet? Because back in 1981 when I crossed over from Webelos and started earning Merit Badges, that is what I got. Wore it all the way to Eagle. I was told it was an experimental design that came out with the “new” Oscar DeLarentis designed uniform. If so, it obviously did not catch on. Probably because you could get 33% fewer Badges on it!

  37. The one thing I don’t see addressed here (and that my son wants to do) is put his former position patches on the back of his merit badge sash. He is currently Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. Former positions include SPL, ASPL, webmaster, scribe, etc. He is proud of the positions he has held and thought the back of the sash would be a great place to put them. Your thoughts?

  38. Regarding the miscellaneous patches. Our leader told us (after I’d sewn everything on the back of the sash) that we were not allowed to do so…only merit badges on the sash. So which is it? it’s hard to have kids obey “rules” when leaders all do it differently.

    • First, Julie, leaders DO NOT WEAR merit badge sashes. Second, there are some patches you may call “miscellaneous” which actually have catagories — for example, aquatic emblems (Mile Swim, Boardsailing, etc.) belong on swim trunks — not on a uniform sash. The emblems one gets for participating in a Scouting activity — summer camp, camporees, etc. — those may go on the backside of the sash at the option of the Scout (and of course Mom or Meema who’s sewing the emblems onto the sash).

      There’s only ONE SET of rules, which apply to ALL youth and ALL adults. Everyone should be doing the same things….

  39. The camporee patches as well as summer camp patches may be worn, one at a time, centered on the right pocket of your son’s Scout uniform. They may also be worn on the backside of the merit badge sash, on a jacket, vest or blanklet, or framed in a display at your home.

  40. If the requirement for having “1” merit badge sash is followed, than sewing 2 sashes together forms 1 sash …Right?

  41. Is there a minimum patch count you can have before wearing your sash? I have told my boys that once they get 6 merit badges they can wear there sash. One of my leaders said it was 3. ? Does anyone know? Can one be worn??

    • the guide doesn’t say anything about a minimum on the sash. If they have the long sleeve shirt, they can wear up to 6 on it – but I’ve only seen one of those in my troop.

  42. My grandson has several event and camping patches that won’t fit on his sash back and has opted for a blanket to put them on. I know it’s a red blanket, but are there specs for it’s size and a guide for placing the patches or is it owner’s discretion?

  43. This is interesting, thank you. I confess that I’ve only read some of the comments so I may be repeating someone. I wonder whether, when the boys wear the OA sash folded over their belt, and the MB sash across their chest (or vice versa), they don’t think that they’re actually “wearing” the one that’s tucked in their belt — hence not breaking the rule, in their opinion.

    Also, thank you for the advice that it is indeed permitted to wear specialty patches on the back of the sash! I see that now and then. By “back,” you do mean the visible back, not the inside, right?

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