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When is too much emphasis placed on uniforms?

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Our Troop, at a minimum, expects the following at Troop meetings:


Troop issued hat;

Troop issued Neckerchief

Scout shirt with tabs;

Correct and complete insignia, including QUA, Trained, POR, etc.


We encourage Scout pants and belt, or at least OD field pants like Dickies or Cabelas (almost identical to Scout pants at a third of the price).

We TOLERATE, but do not LIKE blue jeans.

We STRONGLY FROWN upon sweatpants; gym shorts or other "athletic" attire.


For formal events, such as Color Guard Duty and Scout Sunday, nothing less than a complete and correct Class-A uniform, with pants, belt, shoes and boots, and relevant sashes is permitted. We have a core of Scouts who do adhere to this, and only they are permitted to particpate in the listed formal functions. If the others want to, they are welcome IF they wear the correct uniform.


For camping trips, we let them wear casual clothing.

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Let me add that we reinforce that notion that you only get one chance to make a first impression.


When I was a Cubmaster, several area Troops came to our Crossing-Over ceremony to welcome their new Scouts. One Troop was represented by their Scoutmaster and their SPL. They really stood out to me, but for all the wrong reasons.


The Scoutmaster was dressed in Jeans, sneakers, Scout shirt, no neckerchief or bolo, Major League Baseball cap (I won't mention the team to avoid getting off the subject).


The SPL (an Eagle!) was even worse. He had on a half-unbuttoned Scout Shirt, Hawaiian floral shorts, and flip-flops.


I was Appalled, and it was only because my ACM came over to me, winked, and patted my back that I didn't go over to these two bums and ask them to leave.


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Broccoli with Cheese Sauce - always remember what business we are about here:


The BSA goal is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, educational programs, and, at older age levels, career-oriented programs in partnership with community organizations. For younger members, the Scout method is part of the program to inculcate typical Scouting values such as trustworthiness, good citizenship, and outdoors skills, through a variety of activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking



The program exists for precisely the reasons listed above - the broccoli


Use whatever is needed, within BSA policy restraints, to bring the boys to the program - the cheese sauce.


Uniforms can be a very strong tool to teach the elements of our mission statement, but they can also run counter to our mission. My point is each group of young men is different, don't loose focus of what is important.


For the record I do wear my full uniform at all events, and meetings, although it is not always required. The best way to lead is by example.

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One of the best reasons for the uniform was something I heard Tico Perez say, and its not just because Tico said it.


The uniform is your scouting resume, you don't wear anything on it that you haven't earned. The youth's rank, the adults knot, all tell you something about the person. The position patch tells you what they do, the Wood Badge beads, the Den Chief shoulder code, the temporary patch, the prescence of a National Jamboree patch, all tell a story about the person. If they are wearing an OA Lodge flap, what color tabs they have on. They all are an encapsulazation of the person.


That you have to earn what you wear is singular in American Culture, you can't just pimp out a uniform because you want (I know several do, thats another discussion, I am talking pure "the way its supposed to be" here)




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For Stosh...


Considering the time of year, I'm not thrilled about any element of the uniform in the field. The Centennial uniform is designed, from what I see, for a warm, dry or warm, wet set of climate regimes. It's not designed for either cold, dry or cold, wet.


I'd be far happier if the beads were awarded for being able to discuss layering, thermal protection, and vapor barriers and pass-throughs.


I'm not thrilled about your usage of Scout Spirit. I interpreted it as "cheerleading of Scouting," not "Live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily life." If anything, the kid who could explain why he was layered up deserved the gold beads, because he was being prepared.


Both of OGE's posts really make sense to me ... the one about do we want to abandon the concept of a society in miniature, for the model of HS/college athletic teams, as well as the one about the uniform being the resume.


To conclude, what bloody fool would want anyone to wear BSA Supply sox in a snowy environment? They'd have trench foot and/or frostbite all too quickly...

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Appropriate Action?


I like Oak Trees suggestion:


"I do not condemn you. Go, and rebel against the program no more."


-- Aims and Methods --


Our uniform is just one of the eight methods, and it appears that none of the eight takes precedence over the others, so why the fuss?


I find it hard to believe that any unit has such a perfect training tempo that it follows all of the methods and achieves all of the aims 100% of the time, ALL of the time. We humans are fallible, and fallible implies were less than 100%. That doesnt mean we cant try, or that we cant succeed for awhile, but it does take a certain level of credulity to believe we ARE 100% all of the time. I say dig deeper, because weve missed something small, like our level of humility. Passing the adult or youth uniform inspection doesnt mean weve achieved the three aims.


Ive worn a uniform for my country too, so I know that inspection-ready uniforms have a place in esprit de corps. But being a fierce garrison-warrior doesnt make one a competent leader in the field any more than wearing a full scout uniform makes one a competent scout or scouter. OK, so someone stands counter to the method of using a uniform (or is at least interpreted to do so). What do we do?


An absolute argument against the uniform seems ludicrous, given its prominence as a method, and as a historic artifact. Besides, no one forced us to join an organization that has historically emphasized its uniform for recruitment purposes. But consistent non-use of the method is just thatconsistent non-use of a method. It might also be tactical non-use to achieve an operational goal, over time, of being 100% uniformed, like when one needs to buy a uniform one piece at a time. Quite different, I think, is the issue of not wearing the uniform properly, as in unbuttoned shirts or clothing with non-scouting messages. This seems to be disregard for the uniform itself, not the method, which I dont think anyone in this thread is advocating (I could be wrong).


-- Interpretation --


I dont think the views Ive read in this thread are arguments AGAINST the uniform, or are arguments FOR wearing a given piece of the uniform improperly. Instead, they seem to be arguments that wearing a complete uniform, in all its forms, all of the time, is not the ONLY valid reading of the method. I see in them a plea for understanding that there are times when individuals and units are unable to obtain complete uniforms, or perhaps that current social conditions challenge Baden-Powells 19th century views about proper clothing for the outdoor program. For instance, the exorbitant price of the campaign hat is more than a full uniform, a handbook, and probably some camping gear thrown in. But, BP specifically recommended the hat as the best headgear for the outdoors. Should we not stand by his wishes? Of course not, because social needs and inflated prices required a change to oversees caps, then berets (remember?), and now baseball caps made in China (CHINA!!!).


Face it. We may have a future in which the only way to recruit units in some areas is to offer an option with a minimum focus on uniform (I hope not). The great thing about Scouting is that it adapts to the culture its used in, i.e. charter organizations. Churches, unions, public schools, civic clubs, etc can mold the aims and methods of scouting to fit their particular view (within reason). Scouting would be a small movement without this philosophy. That means charter organizations are really at the heart of this argument, not individual scouts and scouters. What will the next uniform look like? A soccer shirt and shorts? Baggy hip-hop pants? Overalls? (It might.)


So maybe this issue needs clarification by members over our volunteer-non-pay grade, like the Key 3, who can issue a definite uniform policy that addresses all sides. Until that time, arguing against a method we putatively agreed to support seems silly, and so does transposing the method into an extreme pro-uniform posture.


-- A Solution --


I dont recall any mention in this thread of a Charter Organization or the Unit Commissioner (maybe I missed it). All a representative or chairman has to do (as far as I know) is deselect an offending scout or scouter during the recharter process. Common courtesy and best practices demand counseling before resorting to that, but it can be done.


Unit commissioners can also remove a volunteer for bad performance. My crisp, new copy of Administration of Commissioner Service mentions some types of poor performance as bad chemistry, bad politics, and bad job. The book then suggests guiding volunteers before taking action because sometimes easy solutions work.


The most philosophically interesting part to me, however, is the last section: Learn for the Future. It suggests that the real problem is leadership: fully understanding the organizational need, recruitment, training/coaching, clear definition of good performance, and a more controlled process of assigning duties to new volunteers before they are ready to accept them. In other words, the problem is setting volunteers up for failure, rather than their being bad people. I agree.


"I do not condemn you. Go, and rebel against the program no more."


Yes, maybe leadership at the charter organization and committee level is the easiest and best solution. Charter organizations and committees choose leaders, so they can un-choose them. Chairmen interpret national and local policies to the troop (Troop Committee Guidebook), so the Key 3 seem to be open to local differences. Maybe proper use of these leadership tools can clarify the relative importance of the uniform for the charter organizations units, instead of individual opinion. Maybe thats how we can properly use the method of uniform to achieve the three aims, satisfy local needs, and admonish local deviants.


Hows that for appropriate action?




[in reference to my first post: Ive never met the Key3, but they do represent all of us. If weight is an issue, then they also represent the problem, based on their group photo in the Scouting magazine I mentioned. Does that mean theyre schlubs? I dont know, but Ticos uniform has more awards than Ive earned, so I doubt hes anything other than an outstanding scouter. But what if he chose to wear flip-flops (being from Florida), would that make him less? No, at least not any more than being fat does. And so goes my argument against the uniform police. If the Key 3 can so obviously violate an aim to be physically fit (as my own porcine form does), which is philosophically higher than a method, why all the fuss about people outside our units who we cant control? Does that mean we cant be good scouts and scouters unless we conform to all the methods and aims at the same time, at least to suit everyone elses interpretation? I wonder what the Key 3 would say? Again, just asking . . .]


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It is difficult to make a point about cold weather wear when the boy doesn't show up in his ineffective uniform while wearing a cotton t-shirt under a cotton hoodie, under his nylon windbreaker. Of course there were very few stocking caps and athletic footwear seemed to be quite prevalent as well.


As an older person who does not have the body metabolism of a teenager, I stayed plenty warm wearing my full uniform along with other warm weather precautions.


The temps were in the upper 20's and after a long cold winter, most of the boys thought it was a pretty warm day. I stood around most of the day with my coat open to my uniform anyway. Had my felt expedition hat on and kept my hands in my pockets. I was fine.


Had the temps been down around zero with a negative wind chill, I would have given gold nuggets for proper winter wear instead of uniforms.


I live right across the street from a high school, and from the kids walking by, now that it's getting up near freezing, it's time to break out the shorts and sandals. I kid you not!


Welcome to Wisconsin! :)





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When I attended CS meeting we generally wore full Uniform Shirt/Pants/Neckerchief/cap


I suppose different Dens have different standards-although if given a choice between a beret and smokey the bear hat-I'd take Smokey's hat!



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When is too much emphasis placed on uniforms? How about this excerpt from a email my sons troop recently sent out:


"Next, at this coming meeting we are going to be doing uniform inspections. If you do not have the proper uniform (this includes socks, pants, shirt, neckercheif, and slide) on you will be sent home. A Boyscout rule is being at the meeting in complete uniform."


This policy has been implemented for ALL meetings. Full uniform or you go home.


To me, that's too far. Sending a boy home when his is missing an element of the uniform? That is denying a boy access to scouting based solely on his access to a uniform. What if the family can't afford it? What if he lost a sock during the last camping trip? I know of one boy whose step father steadfastly refuses to spend any money on what he calls 'frivolous' items like a scout uniform. The boy dresses the best he can using a mish-mash of hand me down uniform parts from other families. He doesn't have anything close to a full uniform however. Tough luck for that young man, I guess he just gets to stay home now.

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Welcome to the forums. Also welcome to one of the most discussed topics in BSA, uniforms.


Now my troop growing up was fairly strict when it came down to uniforming. SPL did a weekly uniform inspection as part of the meeting. We expected full uniforms, and for trips we have sent folks home to get uniform items that they forgot, i.e. troop necker, slide, and totem.


While we had high standards, we also were reasonable, i.e. new scouts getting their uniforms, fokls who couldn't afford a new uniform off the back, etc. heck I never had a new uniform until I worked for supply in college and was issued one. I always used hand me downs and thrift store purchases.


That said, the scout should WANT to be in full uniform, save his money, and buy it himslef. there's a section in the BSHB on this. I know my TC son helped pay for his uniform. Grant you all the money he gave went went into the 'Philmont jar" for a future trip there or another HA activity, but it gave him a sense of ownership.

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I find these uniform threads interesting. Most of out scouts are also involved in other activities. Would they be allowed to:

1. March in the high school band in their jeans?

2. Play football with a sweatshirt instead of a jersey?

3. Run track without wearing track sweats or shorts?

4. Act in the school play without a costume?


For all these types of activities, we accept uniform wear and necessary and mandatory. But when we talk about scouts, the issues of cost, resemblance to military uniforms, and wearability all come to the front.


Our troop only requires a partial BSA uniform (shirt, neckerchief/bolo, belt) and nice pants, socks, and shoes (non-BSA OK) only at COHs and BORs. It has worked well for us, although you must be careful to apply the rule evenly with no exceptions. It is also clearly stated in our Troop guidebook what is expected. This tends to squash a lot of arguments, since the parents are usually embaressed they have never read the book since their son joined.

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Thanks for the welcome and the quick replies.


Just to clarify my post:


I'm not saying they're sent home to get the item they forgot and then return. I'm saying they're sent home. Goodbye. Try again next week.


I'm not debating the uniform. I'm debating sending a 12 year old home crying because his socks are not BSA issue.

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It's mandatory the boys have 2 full uniforms for the Jamboree, but not for the rest of his scouting experience? The Council can mandate a full uniform for Jambo, but a troop can't?


Kinda sounds like a double standard here.


My boys all wear full uniforms, we get them cheaply off of E-bay at prices less than Cabelas and/or Walmart for knock-offs. (I've had boys get the shirt and pants for about $10-$15. Web belts run about $5-$7 and socks are pretty cheap. They are full BSA uniforms. Now they may be a green shirt rather than tan, but it says BSA on the label, and they're good to go.


Some have patched knees and some have lines at the cuffs where they have been let out and were worn. But they are clean, and made to look their best despite their age. We have garrison caps, Boy Scout baseball caps and one that wears the campaign hat. The only thing that matches in the troop is the necker and numeral patches.


The killer is the patches! And yet not one patch goes on the belt, the hat, the socks, or pants. So that's a moot argument. Whether it's a full uniform or not, the price of the patches is the same.


Last weekend our troop was raking a park, they were all in full uniforms and the temperature was in the 90's. Plenty of water, got the job done and looked good doing it. Anyone walking by and glancing into the park would know immediately who was doing the work.


As far as inspections go, I have boys show up with no belt, wrong socks, etc. all the time. They don't get sent home but the SM does his fair share of "hazing".


"Did your mother take the day off?"


"If you're not wearing a belt, what's holding your pants up? If the button pops, your pants could be down around your ankles in a matter of seconds."


"Did your shirt catch fire? No? That's good, I see that it's out now."


"I wonder why they put buttons on the pockets if they aren't going to be used anyway."


"I've always like the look of a neckerchief after it's been jammed in the pocket since last meeting."


"If your mom isn't going to wash the shirt, maybe you can get your dad to do it, or maybe learn how to do it yourself."


"Don'tcha just hate it when you sew the patch on correctly and then sometime in the middle of the night it crawls over to the wrong sleeve!"




Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)

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