Uniform and insignia of the Boy Scouts of America
The Uniform and insignia of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) gives a Scout visibility and creates a level of identity within both the unit and the community. The uniform is used to promote equality while showing individual achievement. While all uniforms are similar in basic design, they do vary in color and detail to identify the different divisions of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Venturing.
While original uniforms were very similar to military uniforms of the time, they slowly began to evolve into a more civilian attire. In 1980, the current uniforms were introduced, with much of the design by Oscar de la Renta, who donated his time for two years.
The uniform and insignia are variously protected by copyright, trademark, and congressional charter. The BSA does allow usage for movies and other events, but this is done on a case by case basis. BSA has rebuked instances where it was felt that the uniform was used inappropriately and without permission. BSA rules and regulations also forbid the use of Scouting emblems for commercial or political purposes. The wear of camouflage or military style apparel as part at the uniform is also prohibited. Wear of the uniform and insignia is described in the various handbooks and the Insignia Guide.
Official uniform shirts and blouses are of the button-up style with a pointed collar, two front button-flap pockets, and long or short sleeves. All shirts come with a US flag attached to the right shoulder and a BSA logo strip above the right pocket. The shirttail is tucked in.
All shirts except the blue Cub Scout shirt have shoulder straps (often referred to as epaulettes). Colored shoulder loops (often called tabs) are worn on the straps to indicate the program level. Cub Scouting adults at the pack level and Webelos Scouts who choose to wear the khaki shirt use blue shoulder loops. Boy Scouts and troop-level adults use green shoulder loops, while Varsity Scouts and team-level adults use blaze (orange) loops. Green shoulder loops identify Venturing youth and adults at the crew level. Adults or youth with a district or council position wear silver loops while those with area, regional or national positions wear gold loops.
A wide variety of insignia in the form of cloth patches are worn on the uniform. In general, patches that represent a position of responsibility or an award of merit are referred to as badges and all others are emblems. Other insignia is in the form of pins and medals.
Boy Scout uniform
The official Boy Scout uniform is the default uniform of the BSA and can be worn by any adult leader, by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts, and as an option for Webelos Scouts. The shirt is khaki (tan) shirt, with buttons. Adult and youth males wear olive green pants or shorts while female leaders may wear olive green pants, shorts, culottes or a skirt. In 2006, the National Supply Group introduced the Switchbacks ™ official uniform pants as another option. These are made of lightweight nylon material and zip off at the knee to convert them into shorts. The official Boy Scout uniform also includes a variety of options for official socks and belts.
The official cap is olive green and a stitched Scout emblem. The troop may also choose the campaign hat, but today these are seen mostly in historical troops (i.e. pre-World War II), and by leaders in a training course. Many troops elect to create custom caps.
A variety of official neckerchiefs are available or the troop can create their own design. Many troops now opt not to wear a neckerchief. Special neckerchiefs such as Eagle Scout or Wood Badge are generally worn on formal occasions. Insignia such as sashes, medals, and pins are generally only worn only on formal occasions.
Boy Scout and Varsity Scout youth may wear the merit badge sash and Order of the Arrow sash on ceremonial occasions.
Cub Scout uniform
The official Cub Scout uniform is worn by youths in the Cub Scouting program. The basic Cub Scout uniform consists of a navy blue shirt, navy blue pants or shorts, navy blue socks with gold or orange tops, a navy blue web belt with brass buckle with Cub Scout logo, a neckerchief with slide and a navy blue cap with a colored panel. The cap, neckerchief, neckerchief slide and belt buckle vary by program section: Tiger Cubs, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos Scouts.
Female Cub Scouter uniform
Female leaders in the Cub Scout program have the option of wearing the classic yellow blouse with navy blue pants, shorts, skirt or culottes instead of the official Boy Scout uniform.
"The recommended uniform [for Venturers] is the spruce green Venturing shirt with green epaulette tabs and gray backpacking style shorts or gray casual pants. However, the uniform, if any, is the choice of the crew."Some sources also indicate that while the uniform is their choice, Venturing youth "should not wear the Boy Scout tan shirt with green shoulder loops."
Official Venturing uniform pieces available from the National Supply Group include a spruce green short-sleeve button-up shirt or blouse with a pointed collar, two front button-flap pockets, and. shoulder epaulets with shoulder loops. The other components are charcoal gray trousers or shorts, gray socks and a gray web belt with brass buckle. The gray cap and the gray brimmed hat with Venturing logo are also available for use by Venturing crews. The shirt comes with a US flag attached to the right shoulder and a Venturing — BSA strip above the right pocket. Venturers who wear the official Venturing shirt or blouse should wear the proper insignia as outlined in the Insignia Guide. Either the official Venturing emblem or an approved crew specialty patch may be worn on the right sleeve. Green shoulder loops identify Venturers at the crew level. Adults or youth with a district or council position wear silver loops while those with area, regional or national positions wear gold loops. The shirttail is tucked in.
Sea Scouts uniform
Sea Scouts use traditional naval style uniforms sourced directly from the US Navy with buttons and other insignia from BSA Supply. The Sea Scout white cap with logo and the activity shirt are now available for wear.
Scouter dress uniform
The Scouter dress uniform is appropriate for professional Scouters and all Scouting leaders on formal occasions. The current version consists of a dark-blue, two-button blazer with white shirt or blouse and heather gray trousers, slacks or a skirt. The blazer's gold-plated buttons bear the universal emblem and an embroidered Boy Scout (or specific program) emblem is worn on the left pocket or lapel. A black leather belt with gold buckle is to be worn with trousers or slacks. Silk neckties with red, gold, and navy stripes are available for men and women. Black dress shoes and black socks or stockings are worn with the dress uniform.
Various insignia are worn by Scouts and Scouters representing unit membership, activities, accomplishments, honors, or training completed.
The Council Shoulder Patch (CSP, sometimes called Council strip) is an arc-shaped patch worn at the top of the sleeve that identifies the local council. Some units may elect to wear the older community strip– a red arched patch with the name of the community and a rectangular patch with the state or territory. As one of the most distinct regional insignia, Council Strips are widely traded and collected.
Below this, Scouts at the unit level wear a unit number and units with veteran status may wear a veteran unit bar above the numbers. Lone Cub Scouts and Lone Scouts wear the Lone Scout emblem in place of the unit numeral.
Below this is worn any leadership emblem that represents a position of responsibility. The trained emblem may be worn below or above the leadership emblem as earned depending on whether the shirt is a standard uniform shirt Centennial uniform shirt with a sleeve pocket. A trained emblem may only be worn in conjunction with the current position. Qualified commissioners may wear the Commissioner Arrowhead Honor in the bottom-most position.
Youth who are serving as a den chief may wear a den chief cord around the left shoulder instead of the emblem. Den chiefs who earn the Den Chief Service Award or Webelos Den Chief Service Award may wear the service award cord in addition to the den chief cord, and may continue to wear it for as long they are a youth.
Official uniforms come with the US flag sewn to the top of the sleeve.
Below the flag, Cub Scouts (including Webelos) may wear a den number and Boy Scouts and Webelos Scouts (as an option) may wear a patrol emblem. In the next position, Scouts and Scouters may wear the most recent Quality Unit emblem earned by their unit. District or Council level scouters may wear the most recently earned Quality District or Quality Council patch. Venturers may wear the official Venturing emblem or an approved specialty emblem below the flag. Scouts and Scouters at the area or regional level may wear a region emblem below the flag.
Other items that may be worn on the right sleeve include the Musician badge and National Honor Patrol stars. Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts wearing a long-sleeve shirt may also wear up to six merit badges in two columns of three near the cuff.
The space on the left pocket is reserved to indicate a Scout's rank. Rank badges that may be worn by Cub Scouts include Tiger Cub, Bobcat, Wolf, and Bear, accompanied by arrow points earned. Webelos Scouts wear only their current badge of rank (Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, or Webelos) centered on the left pocket. As an option, Webelos Scouts that have not earned the Tiger Cub rank may wear all four diamond-shaped ranks arranged as a diamond on this pocket. Scouts in any program that have earned the Arrow of Light badge wear it centered below the pocket. Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts wear their current rank badge centered on the left pocket. Venturers may also wear their current Boy Scout rank badge on the official uniform shirt until they reach the age of 21.
Scouts and Scouters may wear up to five medals that they have earned centered just above the pocket seam. Rectangular square knot patches are worn immediately above the pocket, centered in rows of three. These indicate awards earned, and are worn mostly by adult leaders, though a square knot representing religious emblems may be worn by Scouts. There are other square knots available to youth. If a medal is worn at the same time as the square knot representing the same award, the medal is worn so that it extends over the knot.
Service stars are worn 3/8" above the pocket or top row of square knot patches if worn. These pins are accompanied by colored plastic backings and indicate tenure in each program. A numeral on the pin indicates the number of years in each Scouting program. Gold is used for Cub Scouting, green is for Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting is brown, red is used for Venturing and blue indicates adult service. Scouts and leaders with tenure as Tiger Cubs prior to 2000 may wear a service star with an orange backing Those who served in the Exploring program prior to 1998 may wear a service star with red backing.
All Scouts and Scouters may wear the round World Crest patch centered horizontally over the pocket and vertically between the top of the pocket and the shoulder seam. This emblem is found on the uniform of most other Scouting organizations and represents unity with other Scouts around the world.
The space on the right pocket is reserved for one temporary insignia, such as patches from summer camps or other activities, which should be centered on the pocket. Members of the Order of the Arrow may wear lodge insignia on the flap of the right pocket.
Official uniforms have the words 'Boy Scouts of America' either sewn or adhered immediately above the right pocket. There are several insignia that can be placed above the BSA strip, including interpreter strips indicating foreign languages spoken. Varsity Scouts and Boy Scouts in a Venture patrol may wear the corresponding program strip above the interpreter strips. If worn, a name tag may be placed just above the BSA strip and interpreter, Varsity, and Venture strips if worn, or on the flap of the right pocket if no lodge insignia is used. Scouts or Scouters that have participated in a National or World Jamboree may wear the corresponding patch centered between the right pocket and the shoulder seam. Visitors to such events may not wear the patch.
Female Cub Scout leaders may wear one temporary insignia centered between the BSA strip and the shoulder seam.
Merit badge sash
Certain insignia may also be worn on the optional merit badge sash. Merit badges may be worn on the front (and back, if needed) of the sash. The Varsity Letter with earned pins and bars may be worn on the bottom front corner. Temporary insignia can be worn on the back of the sash. Previous rank badges and other insignia should not be worn on the sash.
A number of emblems are awarded that are not intended for wear on the uniform. The emblems for aquatics qualifications such as BSA Lifeguard, Boardsailing, Kayaking, Mile Swim, Scuba, and Snorkeling are intended for wear on swimwear. Other awards such as the Fifty-Miler Award and Paul Bunyan Woodsman are worn on equipment such as a backpack or on a blanket. The Totin' Chip and Firem'n Chit emblems are also intended for equipment or blanket display.
Non-official patches, badges, emblems, shoulder loops and other insignia are readily available from third-party suppliers. These "spoofs" are parodies of existing emblems. For example, spoof versions of the "Trained" emblem include Over Trained, Potty Trained and Untrainable. Common spoof interpreter strips include English, Klingon, Brooklyneese and Southern Drawl.
Officially, the uniform described above is known as the "Field Uniform." The "Activity Uniform" is also defined as the official pants or shorts, socks, and belt with a Scouting related T-Shirt, polo shirt or other shirt. Often, members refer to these two classifications as "Class A" and "Class B," respectively. Some units further distinguish a "Full Class A" or similar classification, that may involve wearing the merit badge sash, special medals, etc. Such terminology is not used in any BSA publications and is officially discouraged, to avoid any military connotation. Nonetheless, the terms "Class A" and "Class B" continue to be commonly used by many members.
- Peterson, Robert (2002). "From Doughboy Duds to Oscar de la Renta". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0210/d-wwas.html. Retrieved 12 January.
- Walton, Mike (2000). "Celebrity Costumes- or Uniforming?". The Badge and Uniform Site. Walton, Mike. http://www.mninter.net/~blkeagle/celebs.htm. Retrieved 12 January.
- Walton, Mike (2001). "Camouflage/Military Uniforms and Scouting". The Badge and Uniform Site. Walton, Mike. http://www.mninter.net/~blkeagle/camo.htm. Retrieved 7 February.
- "No 'camouflage' uniforms". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. October 2005. http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0510/d-lett.html. Retrieved 7 February.
- Insignia Guide 2005. Boy Scouts of America. 2004.
- Venturer Handbook. Boy Scouts of America. pp. pp. 6, 93. #33494B.
- Michael R. Brown. (August 11, 2006). "Venturing Uniforming Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/venturing/UniformingFAQ.html. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
- "Cub Scout and Webelos Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet". Boy Scouts of America. 1997, 2001 revision. #34282B. http://www.scouting.org/forms/34282.pdf. Retrieved 20 December.
- "Boy Scout/Varsity Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet". Boy Scouts of America. 2000. #34283. http://www.scouting.org/forms/34283.pdf. Retrieved 20 December.
- The Tiger Cub service stars were eliminated when Tiger Cubs were integrated into the Cub Scouting program in 2000.
- "Female Leader Uniform Inspection Sheet". Boy Scouts of America. 1997, 1999 printing. #34281A. http://www.scouting.org/forms/34281.pdf. Retrieved 20 December.