‘Neatness makes the difference!’ Check out this 1950s uniform inspection sheet

Clean fingernails? Check.

Hat tilted to the right? Check.

Neckerchief folded smartly and snugly around the neck? Check.

With those and a handful of other uniform elements in order, Scouts in the 1950s were ready to score 100 out of 100 on their uniform inspection.

My dad discovered in a box of Scouting artifacts a 1950s-era uniform inspection sheet, not unlike the one we use today. It encouraged Scouts to wear their uniform properly and proudly.

Back then, as with today, a uniform didn’t need to be brand new to earn a top rating.

“No sir, your own Official Uniform, regardless of how old it may be, can rate just as high as any outfit bought day-before-yesterday,” the text read, in that distinctive 1950s style. “Neatness is the big factor and every Uniform, old or new, has exactly the same chance to score.”

Check out the inspection sheet below, and see how it compares to today. One thing I know for sure: “there is only one official uniform … no substitutes.”

My favorite part of the uniform inspection sheet


1950s-era BSA uniform inspection sheet

Click each image to enlarge




    • John Carrillo// May 07, 2015 at 1:51 p.m.//Replay

      During the time when I was a youth in scouting in 1956 when I started we were proud to wear the uniform of the Boy Scouts of America. Parents would go to the Goodwill for those who couldn’t afford it and even then a parent would go out of their way and bought the new uniform from JC Penny’s or Sears. I don’t see or hear to much today in uniform inspections.

      • Sears! I remember that they used to have a section for BSA. Wow…that brings back some memories.

  1. My second class scout receives rank pins. I have a parent ribbon for my parent pin. What should he do with his? I can not find a good answer. Please help. Thanks.

    • If he’s also receiving his Second Class rank patch, there’s no place for the pin on his uniform. Personally, I think that’s a waste of the unit’s money, but it’s not my unit. If you wear a uniform, there’s no place for your ribbon either. Wear it at a Court of Honor, but it’s not appropriate elsewhere.

    • The bigger Rank Pins are meant to be worn on the Scout’s uniform until the new rank patch is sewn on. Afterwards it becomes a part of his memorabilia/collection.

  2. I thank you for this article.

    I am so antique that I also ask BSA to consider returning to a uniform – as in uniformity – as opposed to producing visually different choices . The kids know which trousers or shirts cost more than the alternatives so the “richer” kid often dresses better.

    I understand how choice helps sales, but choice creates a situation where a “brand method” replaces the “uniform method.”

    I yearn for the days of uniforming. I’d like to see one uniformed troop before I go.

    • I yearn for the days when uniforms don’t have the label “made in China” sewn into them. I’d rank supporting companies who sew gear here far above uniformity. (I have a LOT of gear made in USA, will still wear a uniform shirt, but olive drab pants sewn by Americans see my $ first)

    • Tom, check out “Troop 312” on Facebook. You’ll see a fully uniformed troop (even when wearing activity uniforms).

  3. A recent blog post stated that making a scout sing a song to recover a lost item was considered bullying and against BSA policy. Why wouldn’t that same reasoning apply to uniform inspections? Boards of review? I’m certainly not opposed to any of these. I just see BSA headed down a long slippery slope, thanks to the lawyers and risk mamagement folks.

    • I agree…one person’s intimidation is another person’s challenge…it’s all the way we look at it! Although adults should be advocates for the boys, there are some adults and older scouts who are intimidating to the younger ones under the guise of “following BSA rules.” I think that this issue should be talked about more!

    • It was all in good fun, I can remember singing “I’m a Little Teapot” several times to get something I misplaced that a Leader found I didn’t grow up with a complex! They have watered down so much in this country it unbelievable. Even our Cubs: everyone gets a medal for Pinewood Derby so no one feels left out or hurt because they didn’t win a trophy. What’s the incentive to do better when everyone gets awarded. In my day if you didn’t get a trophy you might have cried for a minute or two but then you were determined that next year you were going to do better and get that trophy.

      • Speak for yourself, Ed. We don’t give medals to all our cub scouts at pinewood derby. There are many many tears at our derby supplied by boys who didn’t win.

  4. Roger, almost anything can be a negative experience if done without regard to the feelings of others.

    Imagine calling a Scout forward out of line for being “out of uniform” when his family is still gathering the money to buy a complete suit of BSA brand clothing.

    Imagine “lost-and-found” in the camp trading post, where a Scout who misplaced his cap must ask for it in front of a hooting line of Scouts waiting for ice cones. “He lost his haaaat; he lost his haaat !!”

    Imagine a nervous Scout stammering over reciting the Scout Law on command at a BoR while an adult orders “FASTER! FASTER!”

    Or, as you mentioned, imagine a Scout tearfully singing for his lost item at dinner.

    One “answer” is more and more rules — ever-increasing dozens and dozens of pages of “Commandments.”

    Another answer is teaching values and doing the hard work of making them part of behavior.

    BP’s philosophy of positive points of Scout “law” is the second approach, as is LNT, properly understood. That was an approach I though to be well-understood in BSA scouting..

    However, BSA seems to be tending towards the first, deceptively easier course – more rules. Obviously, this approach has support from some volunteers.

    Whether ever-expanding books or rules actually alters behavior, for example by reducing bullying, is open to question.

    • “However, BSA seems to be tending towards the first, deceptively easier course – more rules. Obviously, this approach has support from some volunteers.”

      You said a mouthful there Tom. The Scout Law seems plenty, if people are encouraged to use their brains. Challenging a Scout to explain which of the 12 he failed at when he makes a mistake seems okay, as does the teapot song, I’ve done both, didn’t hurt a bit. I have no intention of protecting kids from natural consequences of their actions, the mores of a troop should discourage straying from those 12 points….

  5. So is it bullying if a scout refuses to wear his uniform and is the SPL or PL position and is asked to either wear the uniform or give up the POR?

    I am sure if the same thing happened if a quarterback of a high school football team decided not the wear his pads and uniform to a game. He would be asked to keep the bench from floating away.

    Uniform inspections can be done to the individual scout off to the side and any non conformances presented on a separate piece of paper.

    BOR are performed to the individual scout and the outcomes provided in private. Stating in an open forum would be considered bullying.

    The Canadian Scouts go crazy over the tent hats pictured above. Keep this in mind if you plan to attend an international camp out. They are hot trading items.

    I noticed “Brown Shoes” are mentioned. Sneakers do not look good with the BSA uniform unless worn with shorts.

    I remember a few years ago a troop from New Jersey that attended Camp Brule’ They had a good number of first year scouts. The entire troop was in full uniform! They looked awesome!

    • Hi, Kelly.

      Uniforms and safety gear are required in high school football.
      Uniforms are strongly encouraged in BSA scouting and for Boards of Review. However, the candidate is only expected to neatly wear what uniform parts he has available. If the candidate does not have a complete uniform or it is not available for some reason, the Board is prohibited from denying advancement due to lack of a uniform. Guide to Advancement, Section 8.0.04 “Wearing the Uniform—or Neat in Appearance”
      See: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/guidetoadvancement/boardsofreview.aspx

      And just as about anything can be done hurtfully, most things can be done with sensitivity and respect within a given context.

      Canadian Scouts are indeed eager to trade for headgear. I was with a troop that wore black wool berets, and they usually came back from the Dorchester International Brotherhood Camporee mostly bareheaded (except for some polyester Canadian berets).

      Not easy, but I found a pair of brown sneakers. In decent weather, I wear brown leather out of habit.

      I too have seen pictures of uniformly uniformed Scouts. They give hope. I wish I could see a uniformly uniformed troop in person at least once more. Its been over forty years since I did.

  6. While today we still have units who are fully uniformed, there are more now, who don’t seem to
    want to recognize (or care) that uniforming is one of the methods of scouting.
    Yes I know that a complete uniform can be expensive (if bought new at the scout shop), but there are ways around this (uniform banks, eBay, thrift shops, etc.). If people are willing to do so in the first place.
    BSA has always been a uniformed organization. The statement that “a uniform was not required” was addressing a financial need of the scout. One that should not exclude him from scouting if he could not afford a uniform, not an option of not wearing one. From the earliest times in BSA, scouts were encouraged to earn/save money for their own way (a scout pays his own way).
    Sometime in the later part of the 70s-80s, some started to voice the opinion that a uniform was not necessary anymore. There were many reasons voiced about this. (Another topic)
    This attitude brought on the units with blue jeans and basketball shorts instead of pants (a horrible sight at a community flag ceremony or parade), Crocks or flops instead of shoes, Neckerchiefs became optional (so many units did away with them). Too many units look very sloppy and give a poor example of scouting to the community. Many do not know any better, or have been told that “it’s good enough”.
    The sad thing is that these are the same boys (same families) that would never even think of going to a sports team out of uniform, or think twice about getting the latest cell phone.
    As for those who truly are not in the position to buy a uniform, the other options listed above are often not used, instead like the “well off group” noted above, they simply discount the uniform as not needed (and when questioned about their scouts appearance, they would always reply that “a uniform was not required”.)
    It seems that the honored tradition of a scout paying their way, as in earning their uniform is no longer in fashion. As a Scoutmaster and Venturing Advisor, I encouraged our boys to do so. They mowed lawns, collected cans, did odd jobs, and myself, other leaders, and/ or their parents looked for the least expensive options that they could find to get them uniformed. Some started with just the shirt, but they did not stop there. They would continue until they would get the complete uniform.
    It can be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  7. Its not just the youth that are out of uniform. How many times have you gone to a roundtable and observed what the adults are wearing.

    • “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show
      you a poorly uniformed leader.” – our founding father, Baden-Powell

  8. I remember that Uniform Inspection sheet from my troop in 1958.
    We didn’t wear the “leggings” but the belt had to be trimmed so metal met metal. I never wore my neckerchief under the collar or turned the collar under (uncomfortable) and could never figure out why that was done later.

  9. Last Tuesday our Troop sent two young men for their Eagle Board of Review. After it was over the head of the Board came over to the Scoutmaster and remarked about the first young man’s uniform. How clean it was and neatly pressed. Also he remarked about how neat the binder was organized. The Scoutmaster said Thanks, now I have to bring in our other candidate. To which the guy from the Eagle Board said this should be easy.

  10. I sat on an Eagle Board with a retired Lt. Commander of the USCG and we had the scout return at a later date when he got his uniform “squared away”. No belt, sneekers, etc. and he returned with a lot better attitude about the privilege of becoming an Eagle.

  11. What I learn from reading comments on this blog are the following:

    1. Scouting these days is ruined, and everything national does destroys scouting (even though it’s already destroyed).
    2. Everyone is currently doing scouting better than everyone else, and every unit that existed in the past is doing scouting better than anyone doing scouting today.
    3. Youth today are basically being bullied day and night by national’s rules, and the solution is to stop call it bullying and instead say “it’s all in good fun.”
    4. The Scout Law is a wonderful weapon to use if someone disagrees with someone else.

    Seriously, the best thing this blog can do is stop allowing users to post comments. The comments on this post and others grow more toxic , and people looking for advice can easily find it in other blogs, forums, etc. Bryan’s posts are very helpful, and the comments are not.

    • There has been a lot of negativity about National for at least forty years.

      Some criticism seems unjustified but hardly all.

      I lived through The Improved Scouting Program and the loss of 1/3 of our youth in three years. It makes it hard to accept pronouncements on the basis of authority or faith.

      I lived through the 1985 Jamboree. Those who were there know what that means.

      It is frustrating to see BSA issue contradictory statements because, apparently, different “teams” at National do not communicate.

      Training materials could be better.

      It ought to be MANIFEST that BSA is taking input from volunteers as a class of personnel, not merely the select representatives appointed by council. (Our routine representative turns in his conference materials still in the heat-shrink wrapping.)

      Having said that, the constant complaining can suck the air right out of the room.

      What are YOU doing to make things better? Almost everything of significance is supposed done by volunteers, not employees.

      Unhappy with the level of outdoors skill training? No rules prevent your district/council from putting on an advanced outdoors skills day or weekend or session for adults at Summer Camp.

      Unhappy with training of the Patrol Method? Have you volunteered to put on a session on the topic at “other” training events or roundtable?

      Are you not, at a minimum, on your district training team or event staff?

      The “ante” to play the blame game should be actually doing something above and beyond to make things better.

      • I volunteer plenty, thank you. My class A shirt looks like it came off a North Korean general.

        Your notion that national doesn’t listen to volunteers, I don’t know about that, but if you’re saying that somehow the comments on posts in this blog are more representative than the people national talks to, not sure I agree.

        I didn’t say a word about anything but the conduct of scouters in the comments section of this blog. Where you get off saying I’m the one complaining and not doing anything about it, I don’t know. I’m not unhappy with the BSA, or training, or anything else, nor did I say I was. Don’t put words in my comment that aren’t there, please.

        I will suggest this though for Bryan: make it so that to read or reply to comments, people have create accounts with verified email addresses and logins. Trolls die when they can’t be anonymous, and it saves the rest of us from thier toxicity. I’m done reading this blog until something changes.

        • Tim, I know zip about you personally. For all I know, you approach the rebirth of Bill Hillcourt without the accent. I make enough mistakes without someone inventing things I did not say as targets for straw-man arguments.

          I said BSA needs to make it manifest – obvious – that they take input from volunteers like yourself. I did not say BSA never takes volunteers’ input. I know BSA does, at least on occasion, use such input. On the other hand, I have had employees at National complain that volunteer input need to be respected — AND that some at National are not fully knowledgeable about Scouting.

          I find the comments here representative of what I hear — and have heard in forty-fix years in the program — except that the language is less polite and some believe deliberate harm is being done, which I think is nuts. Extreme language is a common Internet thing. I ran the squirt gun rule past the staff and participants at Baloo on Saturday. Without prompting, they firsts thought I was kidding and ended totally against it. That’s twenty votes “No.”

          Nor did I remotely approach saying that you were complaining and not doing anything to make things better. But some do, and they seem to be happy being unhappy. As a District Chairman for several years, one big job was making constructive use of the volunteers who were sure that BSA or our local council had irretrievably crippled Scouting by whatever had the complainers worked up that month. (e.g. the “outrage” of allowing chemical stoves.) What could be done? “Nothing. It’s too late. Scouting’s dead.” Complaining without being willing to work to improve things is a thing that drives me nuts, and if the shoe does NOT fit, please don’t get personally upset. .

          I thought that everyone who posts here has to give a real email address. I gave mine. How else do they receive notices of new posts?

          Sorry you are leaving. Diversity of opinion and experience is the life blood of useful discussion. If BSA didn’t want it, uniformity would be a click away.

          Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  12. Someone mentioned having to choose between tucking the neckerchief under the collar or tuck the collar into the shirt. When I joined in the late ’70s, the shirts of the last all green uniforms had no collars at all, so there weren’t any issues with those uncomfortable options. I don’t know if this was a national or district policy, but when the khaki and green uniform with its collared shirt came out, neckerchiefs were no longer standard, but were only worn if the neckerchief was earned as an award.

    • I would still prefer folding my collar under with a neckerchief, Tim. I would also love a red Filson Mackinaw cruiser with Scout patches sewn all over it, and some sort of wool pants that weren’t made in China. BSA sanctioned, no, but, oh well. I’ll do my best….

  13. “Hi!” Bought a box of the Trails End popcorn from the Scouts at a local soccer game last week. This evening I noticed the Scouts on the box wearing their neckerchiefs UNDER the shirt collars. That looks strange and then I discovered this website and see that it’s apparently the norm these days. It looks strange. I was an active scout in the 1949-1957 era and an adult leader during 1973-1982. Must be one of the oldest Ordeal O/A guys around but I still work the Scout Law into each day. Keep up the good work!

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