Tuesday Talkback: When should Scouts wear hats indoors?

Tuesday-TalkbackWear your hat outside; don’t wear your hat inside.

Seems simple, but it’s not that easy. Take, for example, this exception from the BSA’s Guide to Awards and Insignia [PDF]:

Official headgear may be worn while the unit or individual is participating in an indoor formal ceremony or service duty, except in religious institutions where custom forbids.

Typical indoor activities of this type are flag ceremonies, inspections, orderly duty, or ushering service. In any informal indoor activity where no official ceremony is involved, the headgear is removed as when in street clothes.

There are ceremonial reasons for leaving headgear on, but there are practical ones, too. Requiring boys to remove their hats at the beginning of a Cub Scout pack or den meeting likely would result in most of those boys losing their hats by the meeting’s end. Tough to misplace a hat if it’s on your head.

Social customs are changing, too. There was a time when men removed their hats when in the presence of a woman, but those days have passed — for better or worse.

What I’m saying is the answer isn’t black and white. So let’s discuss this gray area in this week’s Tuesday Talkback. Tell me: What’s your unit’s hat policy? And how’d you decide it?

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“No Hats” photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by Rusty Clark

51 thoughts on “Tuesday Talkback: When should Scouts wear hats indoors?

  1. Indoors without ceremony- hats off. My kids have been taught that since they were little. I’m the Grandson of a police sergeant, and hats were removed as you walked in a door. They even gave my father in law a hard time when he wore his ball cap into the Eagles Club for a fish fry “Grampa, you take your hat off inside!”
    For ceremonies- if it is part of the uniform, it stays. Cubs…make it a game to stack the hats neatly or something like that.

  2. If I can get the boys to remember their hats, I win. When they do have them I rarely ask them to remove them. Although we enforce the customs of wherever we are, like most mess halls at camp, hat off boys!

    • That was my pet peeve at summer camp. All the boys with hats on at the dinner table. My grandma and my mother would skin me alive if I wore a hat inside at the dinner table or inside during prayer. They would let it slide if we were outside during prayer or inside for anything other than at prayer or a meal.

  3. I see no merit in the “everybody’s doing it” approach. Everybody walks around with their shirts untucked and their pants around their knees, let’s do that, too.
    Scouts can come up with excuses for themselves, they don’t need us doing it for them with fluff like “losing their hats.” Clip them on a belt loop. It’s that easy, now we see why excuses are thought of negatively.
    That said, we meet in a non-religious part of our CO, it’s a cinder block room where nothign happens except our meetings, so sometimes it’s a couple minutes before I get my hat off. When some schnook jumps on me about my hat while I’m in the middle of a conversation or trying to get something done, it puts me through the ceiling.

  4. I like the idea of hats off inside, but practically this would be difficult to keep track of the hat. I have Cub Scouts and at the end of the meeting, I usually have two or three handbooks that the boys forget to take with them.

    My understanding from this discussion, they only need their hats at den and pack meetings that are inside. Then what is the point of having them wear their hat when they are at den and pack meetings?

  5. Hats off in da house! Wipe your feet on the mat! Bow (or at least nod gratefully) to the host!

    It’s easy for us because our boys don’t wear uniform hats in general. So ceremonies proceed without hats.

    Old school dictates that ladies may wear headgear indoors. (I suppose that stems from religious custom.) But I’ve never had to bring the issue up with my female venturers. So, fellow advisors, has it ever come up with you?

  6. Hats off inside….hoods too! Pants up, shirts tucked in. We’re teaching these young men how to behave in the real world….not confuse them. Names should be written inside hats. Problem solved.

  7. We have our Scouts remove headgear when indoors unless part of a color guard or there is a ceremonial reason to wear it. Our Cubs learn to hook their hats to their belt loop, otherwise they tend to go missing, airborne, etc.

  8. “Non-religious head gear”

    Please be aware that any head covering satisfies the religious requirement to cover the head.

  9. My son was kicked out of a Troop because his Scoutmaster insisted he wear his Troop (not BSA uniform) hat in a consecrated house of God where its adult male members did not wear head wear. My son moved on and earned Eagle. But in this conversation, remember the social rules apply (applied) to adults. In the Cub Scout program, the Cubs are treated as juveniles and therefore it is proper for Cub Scouts to wear head gear in most buildings. As for Boy Scouts and Ventures (male and female), they are treated more adult like and should follow the custom or social protocol for adults. Unless the building’s owners custom or policy states otherwise, head gear should be removed as the BSA guideline states.

  10. Growing up in through scouts, I’ve looked back at my photos, we always wore our hats inside for pack, troop, den and patrol meetings. It was on unless we took it off, but we hardly ever lost them. It was acceptable to wear them indoors. With that we also knew that when we went to a church or dining hall or any other indoor function, the hat came off. There were no exceptions. It didnt matter what your hair looked like or where you were. Its just the way it goes. I do not see a problem with wearing a hat while at specific meetings. Yes times are changing, and I see the way more and more people are wearing the hat indoor when they shouldn’t, but I also see a lack luster of respect and organization for wearing the uniform properly. I see more and more, jeans and athletic shorts with a shirt half tucked in. No scout belt, no scout pants or shorts and no scout socks. This is the most disheartening for me, it shows a lack of respect for the group and those before you. There is no excuse to be dressed like that. I know its not all troops or packs but there are many that I have seen. This should be the bigger issue than hats worn inside.

  11. Unless there is a religious reason, covers are removed when inside. Clip your cap to your belt loop or a caribiner if you don’t want to adjust it. I learned to stick the bill of a ball cap inside the back of my pants. Fold the bill and shove it in your back pocket. Take your pick, just not on your head when inside.

  12. Do most Troops require headgear? We found that hats go in and out of style and boys only want to wear them when they’re in style. It’s not really a big deal to anyone in our troop, so we do not require hats. There are a few boys who wear them but we have no requirement.

  13. I can’t tell you how many times even experienced Scouters told me to remove my hat (when in full uniform) outdoors for the flag ceremony. I just kept it on and rendered the Scout salute.

    • That’s a great point. I can tell you every year at Cub Day Camp, on the first morning flag ceremony on the first day, you always hear the parents in attendance telling the Scouts to remove their caps, only to be met with a quick, “No!” from the staff, who remind everyone that whatever hat you’re wearing is the official uniform cap for that moment, and that it should remain on. I’ve seen that same thing followed at multiple camps, Cub and Boy Scout, at multiple campgrounds and in multiple councils.

      • If the cap/hat is official BSA, the Scout can wear it for an outdoor flag ceremony. If it is unofficial, it is removed. I had an issue decided what to do with the “plain” off white hat I was issued at Wood Badge. During Wood Badge, we kept them on for the outdoor ceremonies. In between weekends, I had a Bear patch sewn on the front & still occasionally wear it at Scout functions. I have decided to remove it at flag ceremonies because it was not officially made by BSA.

        • David!!

          The hat DOES NOT have to carry a BSA logo for it to be “official”. Your Wood Badge hat is a good example. If a local Council, District or unit creates/authorizes a headgear item for its members, ALL members should wear it and it becomes “official wear” as far the BSA is concerned. This is the reason why the Custom Design Catalog are full of various headgear which DOES NOT carry the BSA’s seal anywhere but may carry one or more of the BSA’s indicia. Because only authorized vendors approved by the BSA may make headgear for BSA members, you can be confident that the Wood Badge hat you wore IS OFFICIAL and may be worn as part of the official uniform. Same goes with neckerchiefs. Same goes with jackets and vests. If a BSA authorized vendor created the item, the item is deemed by the Supply Group as an official item.

  14. Boys can tuck their hats behind their back while indoors…then they won’t forget them…but they should remove them indoors when not conducting a ceremony.

  15. There is no black and white here, because many of you are quoting societal norms for casual headgear, but fail to realize that uniform headgear has its own code of etiquette as indicated by the body responsible for the uniform, which in this case is the BSA. Do you ever notice the Marines don’t take off their hats when the President boards Marine One, even though hat etiquette says a hat should be removed in the presence of a political leader or foreign dignitary? The reason is because it is part of the full dress uniform and that Marine is part of an honor guard with a specific duty. Those of you saying hats off inside at all times are directly disobeying the guidelines set forth by the BSA. The quote from the original article on when a hat should be worn are the correct answer. They should be worn in any formal ceremony unless doing so would offend religious custom where the ceremony was taking place.

    • Totally agree with what you say. Only wanted to point out it does not say should….it says “may.” Required means you must. Should is not required, but inferred. May is an personal option. Most BSA rules are not black and white, which is why I am calling our local council a lot of times when the people in our Pack want to know what the rules state.

      • Oh and our biggest thing in the Pack in formal functions is conformity…..regardless of what is worn or not, we all try to look the same. Even if you are not in complete uniform, hat or no hat, it looks better when everyone in one single Pack looks the same.

  16. we generally follow the protocol that the only ones who shall wear headgear indoors are those participating in a flag ceremony, all others shall be uncovered.

    actually, I kinda wish the BSA would allow the old style bannana caps (won’t say what we called them in the Navy), those were very easy to keep track of.

  17. I bet I get a lot of thumbs down on this one. I always want to do the exact opposite of social norms when they don’t have a logical application. So my questions is “Why?” to these social norms.

    Why are women so important that we remove a hat when they happen to be in the room? Hogwash. They seem to love to wear their hats when us men are in the room.
    And maybe my personal belief system inside my religion says I can wear a hat, maybe not. But that’s my choice.

    Maybe we can site some medieval norm with knights and helmets or something. But last I checked, I live in the technology age of the 21st century. If I’m wearing a hat, I’d prefer to leave it on unless it’s making me hot.

    Now if the religious event I’m at or troop I’m with says to take it off in a situation, then I do, obviously. I’m not obnoxious about it. But because grandma or mother or some old social norm tells me it was “polite”, I don’t buy it for the same reason I don’t take castor oil.

    I hold a doors open for a woman (anyone, really) because I’m kind (law 6), not because I’m “supposed to”. I’ll take my hat off because I’m courteous (law 5), not because I’m “supposed to”.

    I’m with the younger generation on this one: give me a good reason and I’ll do it. None of this “you’re supposed to just because” junk.

    • So you have to have a rule to do the right thing????

      A scout never “Does the right thing” because it is just the right thing to do and falls outside the scout law????

      How sad for you.

  18. Problem was mute when the official Boy Scout head gear was the Overseas type fore and aft cap. It could be tucked in your belt.

    • Now this would be a cool thing to add, something that allows a clip on to a belt built into the hat. The hat I normally wear has a chin strap so it hangs on my back. But some design, addition, clip, specialized accessory would be a cool feature for the Scout Shop to include into the baseball cap design. An idea for the Invention Merit Badge!!!!

  19. In putting together the first edition of the Badge and Uniform Site back in the 90s, much of my email came from “old time Scouters” who first, appreciated that there’s a place online they can point to their peers and say “See, THIS is the right information!” even if it doesn’t appear in a *current Scouting booklet* or handbook. The other part is that the information bares out to what I commonly refer to as “Common Scouter Sense”.

    The information has beared out with five subsequent versions of that unofficial website.

    Bryan asks this question, because the current Uniform and Insignia task force (one of several task forces I find myself assisting) is relooking the question: Just when DO Scouts and Scouters take off their hats (if, like some have posted here, the Troop or Team DECIDES as a unit that they SHOULD wear a hat!) and are asking you and I, fellow Scouters for *what our policy* is.

    Here’s the answer I provided both on the Badge and Uniform Site, and to the seventeen people who posted to me today (no, I don’t know the answer to the “Giraffe Riddle” and even if I did, it’s a fun way to interact with others electronically!).

    This is from one of my favorite references — the BSA’s “Scout Courtesy, Customs and Drills”, which was printed in 1942 and as I stated earlier, provides a lot of “Common Scouter Sense”. Yes, I’ve shared this resource with the Uniform and Insignia task force (and before that the Committee), but it never got past the “that’s nice” stage.

    Your mileage may vary.

    “The Scout hat is an integal and essential part of the Scout Uniform. In many ways it is its most distinctive feature, one which even at considerable distance proclaims that its wearer is a Scout.”

    (they are speaking, of course, to the “broad-brimmed hat” we later called the “Smokey the Bear” hat. It is still “legal” and “official” to wear, BTW.)

    “The Scout hat should be worn at all times that the Uniform is worn. The Scout or Scouter removes his hat, however, in the prescence of ladies or upon entering a home, church, school building, office or indoor public gathering. At church and school assemblies where Scouts are in formation, leaders by prearrangement may indicate that Scouts will remove their hats upon entering the building.

    At Scout meetings, Courts of Honor, circuses, camps and camporees, the leaders should determine the custom to be followed according to the circumstances.

    Scouts attending a funeral service in uniform should remove their hats, unless otherwise requested.

    While marching or standing in a Color Guard, Scouts wear their hats at all times.”

    This information, in more detail, is also found at http://www.scoutinsignia.com/hats.htm

    Hope this helps out….

  20. I have my scouts uncover when indoors. Learned that in the Army – ‘all who enter covered here shall buy the house a round of cheer’ was how they enforced it at em, nco and officer;s clubs.

    When we were at camp this summer one of the commissioners reminded all entering the dining hall to doff their hats.

    As to where to put them, a ball cap bill fits nicely when tucked into the pants at the small of the back. You don’t lose it either.

  21. When I was a leader in Australia, hats were worn for opening and closing and off in between. Don’t see many with hats other than at camp. Definitely off at non-ceremony times

  22. I know that I’m probably in the minority on this one, but despite the ‘good ole days’ of courtesy (the tipping of hats to ladies ‘n such) I also know that the times they are a changin’ (and) I probably have a little rebel in me too. 🙂 I think that way too many scouts are reading far too deep into this controversy and where such energies could be better spent on more critical life lessons.

    While I will always support caps being removed at ‘formal’ gatherings such as church services, O.A. banquets, or Eagle scout ceremonies (even the most rebellious scouts can understand that), …at the same time I also find it completely normal & respectful for a scout to keep his headgear on indoors at ‘casual’ gatherings such as at troop meetings, camp dining halls, or during indoor summer camp classes, etc.

    To me it’s just making mountains outta mole hills. And oh… (just an observation) but the next time someone makes it a point to bring the next gathering to a complete halt to embarrass those with hats on, I would find it much more accepting IF the person asking were holding ‘their’ own hat in their hand. Interesting that it’s usually the ones who never wear a hat. LOL

    Meantime, I sure would appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to sport my headgear and in-turn, I will also respect your ‘courtesy’ in choosing to remove yours. It’s really just not that big a deal IMO.

      • Dave ‘n Mike, what you may not realize: when you keep your hat on for no other reason than to “sport your headgear” is that you are implying to your host that “the roof that you have provided does not give me sufficient honor.”

        Now maybe your host won’t take that meaning. But what do you want to teach your boys? To leave open the possibility that their host will wonder if they are grateful? To make their host wait for an opportunity to be honored in a different way? Or, to choose a simple, common, gesture that, without words, says “I’m really glad to be here, thanks for the roof!”?

        • I have never in my life heard what you describe as dissing a host by wearing a hat. Nor would I ever think that of a person if they were to come into my house. Heck, down here in the South, women still wear hats inside the church building.

          I guess we live in different cultures. So I disagree with your premise that I’m implying anything with anyone by wearing a hat. Nor would I think that I’m teaching that to Scouts. I don’t read all of that into hat wearing like you do.

        • Well, we all know that religion changes everything! Women wear hats because they don’t want to wear veils like St. Paul told them to. 😉
          Likewise, men wear headgear to synagogue (thus the yamaka).

          But we’re not talking about temple. We’re talking the roof that someone took the trouble to put over your head so you could enjoy the meal or chat or watch the game with out the depredations of sun or sky. And just because you’re a gracious enough host to not think less of a fella, doesn’t mean that everyone other host is. What makes it worse, is that probably the folks who we’d want to offend the least are the ones least likely to say anything about it. So, isn’t it better to teach boys to act in ways that command respect, and leave their hat off until the host says they may do otherwise?

        • While the subject is open what about women wearing hats, at a troop meeting a scout knocked my hat off….during the pledge an oath. (yeah I was shocked) Women don’t remove hats…Men do….right???

        • Well, Barb, traditionally a woman’s head covering communicated submission to her husband’s authority. So it’s you’re call! 🙂

          Me, personally, I figure I got about as much business telling a lady to remove her at as I do telling her to tuck her shirt in.

          I just know for my part, half the fun of this wide brimmed leather hat of mine is removing it when I go inside or get on a bus. The other half is tipping it at the ladies when I walk down he street. 😉

  23. Tsk, Tsk, Tsk…. The subject of “Hat Courtesy” goes back at least 400 years. For our purposes, the short answer to the original question is… “It depends” .
    Back in the 1600’s, in England and in many other european countries, folks that had a hat on (and the wearing of hats had as much to do with unwashed hair as with anything else), were expected to take it off as a sign of respect to their “social superiors. There was no law about it , it was just expected, and if you didn’t you might be hauled before the local Magistrate and thrown in jail. Quakers were the first to challenge this, they chose to treat all as equal before God. And were thrown in jail for their timerity.
    So Jews wear their hats in temple, and elsewhere, “church ladies” wear theirs seemingly everywhere, oldtime male Quakers would wear their hats in Meeting (worship), taking them off only if moved of the Spirit to stand and speak a message. Sihks wear theirs everywhere, so do our Muslim brothers, if they wear any. Our military direct that theirs be doffed indoors, unless in a ceremony.
    My Woodbadge cap kept the sun out of my eyes and rain off my head, but got tucked into my back belt when I entered the “barn”, my Quaker sensitivities not withstanding. I took my hat off not out of “respect” for any person, but as part of the expected routine.
    So, “it depends”.

  24. Our troop allows boys to wear scouting hats at meetings but nothing else. We tell them if it’s not a scout hat, don’t wear it to a troop meeting in the first place and you won’t lose it!

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