Open for debate: What’s your Scout unit’s uniform policy?

Ask 90 different Scouters for their unit’s uniform policy, and you’ll get 90 different answers.

Sure enough, that was the case a couple of weeks ago when I polled Scouting‘s Facebook fans on the subject and got 90 responses.

The Boy Scouts of America Insignia Guide says it’s your responsibility as an adult leader to “promote the wearing of the correct complete uniform on all suitable occasions.”

But what constitutes a “suitable occasion”? And what exactly is considered a “correct complete uniform”?

Here’s what you had to say on the subject:

Get your priorities straight
“Would you rather they learn how to be good men (including, I believe, that a Scout is thrifty) or how to be good dressers? Not that the two have to be mutually exclusive, but flexibility among the troops as to the required uniform should be informed by the national organization as far as is possible and then practicality should be the guide.”
 Jen S.

Encourage recycling
“Field uniform is a must all the way down to the socks; no other pants are acceptable. Old or new pants are acceptable, so we have an exchange program in the troop to help cut down the cost of uniforms.”
– Jerry C.

Do your best
“Our Patrol Leaders Council decides what the uniform is, and currently they allow jeans but encourage Scout pants/shorts. We are an inner-city troop, and some of our boys can’t afford the uniform shirt much less the pants. We help them with buy/find/earn the shirt (top priority) and do not focus on the pants so much.”
– Tim B.

Uniforms should be uniform
“I’m going to work on improving our Scout uniform requirements ’cause the uniform is an important part of the program. Try telling your football or soccer coach that you aren’t wearing the team uniform and see what their response will be.”
– Ellie L.

Put the program first
“While jeans typically shouldn’t be a part of the uniform, and are absolutely inappropriate for an Eagle Court of Honor, we have Scouts who cannot afford the regulation pants. It is far more important for the guys to learn and to be a part of a group than to expect a single unemployed parent who receives no child support to purchase said item.”
– Nancy M.

Pay your way
“Cost is a lame excuse, ’cause you hear years later, ‘Oh, we still can’t afford them!’ What about a Scout paying his own way? The uniform is a part of Scouting, and it’s not like buying a house. Mow a lawn or two and earn them!”
– Steve T.

A time and a place
“Seems to vary with ours. Big events like a parade call for full uniform except for footwear (but it has to be shoes, sneakers). Otherwise we allow jeans generally.”
– Frank D.

Show some pride
“The uniform in one of the most important parts of Scouting; it sets us apart from the group of boys on the corner. When the public sees a Scout in full uniform, they give the boy a little more respect and in some places are not afraid of the youth. Lord Baden-Powell would be rolling over in his grave if he saw a Scout in jeans and sneakers.”
– Michael O.

Free from exclusion
“I totally agree with Nancy. While you can ‘require’ pants (NYLT does for their program) there remains that portion of kids who, for whatever reason, can’t afford pants and socks. To exclude anyone like that would be a really bad idea.”
Joel H.

Little to interpret
“Full uniform is pretty specific … not sure why there are so many units that do not use it. I cringed when I saw a picture of a Scout leader in jeans while his senior patrol leader was in full uniform presenting a wreath at a Memorial Day ceremony.”
– Ron B.

Where do you fall on the subject? Leave your thoughts as a comment here.

99 thoughts on “Open for debate: What’s your Scout unit’s uniform policy?

  1. Pingback: Your uniform questions, all sewn up « Bryan on Scouting

  2. Well being an Eagle Scout and having been through NYLT (nagatamen) and Worked as part of a Summer Camp staff (Chief Logan Reservation) I see the importance of having a full and complete uniform, I do (many times over), but as an Asst. Scoutmaster in a troop in southern Ohio i see that every one cant afford them so we allow jeans to be worn and we have an exchange program and try to get everyone with a complete uniform. But we are flexible. Guys try to look presentable and many who cant get all the uniform go and get pants that are similar in color and look as the scout pants and you cant really tell the difference.

    • As a military family (19yrs in) uniforms are nothing new. However, with being a one income family, due to health issues, we cant afford the entire uniform. My husband is the new Cubmaster for our Pack and is dressed properly, down to the socks. I serve on the committe and my son is a scout. Taking into consideration that we have to be at every campout and event, which gets costly, my son wears pants that are dark blue(not BSA) and I have yet to buy my uniform and cringe at the almost $100 I will have to spend to look resectable.

  3. And yet whether the school is in the poorest farm country or most poverty-stricken inner-city, every single football player has a full uniform including cleats.

  4. very lax. they are allowed to wear the t shirts to den
    meetings, and are only required to wear blue shirt at pack meetings

  5. what is the rule when indoors in regards to caps. I know they can leave them on when saying pledge, outdoors, when in complete uniform. my question is: Aren’t they supposed to remove caps when indoors, as is with any other uniform?

    • In the Guide to Awards and Insignia under Headgear Regulations in the Special Regulations section, it states “In any informal indoor activity where no official ceremony is involved, the headgear is removed as when in street clothes.”

  6. Pingback: Tuck everlasting: Scout uniform shirts should always be tucked in, BSA says « Bryan on Scouting

  7. This was just a discussion at our Troop Committee meeting last night. At our last CoH, we had boys show up in jeans, shorts, etc. It was far from a “uniform” appearance. For whatever reason (tradition, I guess), we do not require our Scouts to wear the uniform pants. Or even neckerchiefs (except at formal occasions, like CoH). Can’t say as I agree with this, but at least we’re starting to spiff the CoH’s back up, and I’m hoping that this will trickle down to our everyday meetings.

  8. I believe that they should be in full uniform. “Uniform”, by definition is that everybody looks same, that is why it is called a uniform in the first place.

  9. I am a firm believer in the value of the uniform. The change in behavior when my Scout puts on the uniform is remarkable. But it’s the shirt and neckerchief hat are important. Extending the uniform to pants was counterproductive (and the socks are just silly). Boys outgrow pants too fast. I can get away with buying a really big shirt to make it last for several years of growth. I can’t do the same with pants. Buying uniform pants that can only be worn a few times before their outgrown just doesn’t make sense. Whether the Scout can afford it or not, it’s wasteful.

    My argument against socks is that you can’t see them (except when wearing shorts which in NE Ohio is a fairly small window). We tolerate diversity in shoes and don’t have any rules about underwear – why do we care about socks?

    The uniform should stop at the waist. Pants, socks and shoes should be neat and tidy but there is no incremental value to forcing parents to buy them from the Scout Store.

  10. I believe the full uniform should be worn as much as is practical, as long as a scout has the correct color green khakis I will accept them. Our scouts are told this up front and we do maintain a lending system for shorts and pants. COH and anytime we represent scouting in public all scouts are told to wear complete uniform to include sash, hat and neckerchief. I even insist they tuck in the activity uniform.

  11. Uniforms are one of the methods of delivering the program to youth. They show that we belong to an organization that has a set of standards. It allows the boys to be a walking billboard for others to see what they have earned. A well run program will find a way to afford those uniforms. I’m in a deep south very rural part of Alabama, and our youth all have complete uniforms. They earn them through fundraisers, or they are given as a gift for holidays/birthdays. We have a uniform bank and exchange program within the Pack. I will not take the excuse that they cannot afford 25$ for the pants, when their child is wearing 80$ sneakers. At least with the pants, you can adjust the hem.

  12. We have implemented our version of Class A uniforms (shirt, neckerchief & slider) within our troop and everyone is on board except the older scouts. All these scouts will be having their Eagle Board of Review and I realize we cannot hold back their advancement because they are not wearing their uniform but I also cannot believe we are the only troop that this has / is occurring. What have other troops done in addressing this situation – have they ? This soon to be adults are really putting their heels in the sand.

  13. As the mother of an autistic child that has sensory processing disorder i feel that no one should be excluded. there may be boys who do not wear certain fabrics because those fabrics feel like thousands of tiny pins pricking them all over. i think that everyone is entitled to decide for themselves and their troop what the appropriate level of uniform is and that no one should decide that because someone may be a little less strict they are not a good scout or leader.

    • With all due respect, letting everyone decide for themselves what level of uniform to wear ignores one of the methods of scouting (uniforming). If you go there, why even have uniforms to begin with? (to answer that, please refer to the methods of scouting).
      Scouting (both Cub & Boy) is a uniformed organization, period.
      However there are exceptions, your situation may be one of them. What types of fabric are acceptable for him to wear?
      Have you tried to find a camp t-shirt of that type for him to wear?
      There are many types of such t-shirts available, similare to what he might wear on a daily basis. Talk to his Den Leader and Cub Master to find a good solution.

      What we have to becareful of is for everyone to “do their own thing” for what ever they feel is a good reason for them.

      While you may have an actual medical reason, there are far too many who don’t want to be bothered with a uniform, or hate the uniform concept.
      They will use every excuse in the book, especially the line where ” A scout is not required to have a uniform to participate in scouting”.
      While that may be true, if you read further and learn about why that was put out. You will find that is for finacial reasons. BP and out early Scouting founders did not want a boy turned away from scouting just because that cound not afford a uniform. Sadly, people use that line when they feel the uniform is out of fashon,, the older boy dosent like to wear it (or has outgrown it), they don’t want to deal with the patches, etc.
      Cost, should not be an issue. With the internet, Ebay,, Craigs List, Uniform banks, and good leadership,no boy should go with out.

  14. The long-sleeve BSA uniform shirt is currently being sold for $14.44 (a reasonable price for a long-sleeved, button-down collared shirt with pockets and epaulets)

    Meanwhile the short-sleeved uniform shirt is $44.99 (and up):

    Why is the short-sleeved shirt more expensive than the long-sleeved shirt (it uses less materials) and why in the world is it three times more expensive! And why is it nearly $50!

    I could buy three (3) long-sleeved shirts for less money than buying one (1) short-sleeved shirt! That’s crazy! And goes to show the mark-up BSA puts on the uniform (a core “method” of their program). You could outfit an entire patrol in long-sleeved shirts for less money than outfitting just yourself and your son in short-sleeved shirts.

    If the uniform was affordable we wouldn’t have to debate uniform policies or fighting to get families to put their kid in one. I don’t own any other $44 shirts…and I’m hesitant to take the one that I do own camping or to a service project where it may get stained, torn, or worn out.

    It costs well over $100 to get a full uniform (shirt, pants, belt, socks)…and they don’t last a lifetime (kids grow, and clothes wear out). It’s a barrier to the program. BSA should sell the uniform at cost (and look to keep that cost as low as possible). And make a mark-up on all their other Scout Shop items…. but not on the uniform!

    • The $14 shirt is an old style that’s in closeout. It’s also 4x, which is large enough to fit an entire den into.

      My big beef with uniforms is that the sizes (at least for adults) are crazy big. The cost can be contained by shopping at thrift stores and ebay. My BSA pants were about $20 on ebay. You just need to be patient and look around, like anything else you want to save $$ on.

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