Uniform and Flag

Scouts BSA and Uniforms

Beth asked this question on the Scouter Mom page on Facebook:

I am wondering if other Scout Moms have had a similar experience…I took my older son to a Court of Honor this weekend; a wonderful and meaningful ceremony. My son proudly wore his Class A uniform which includes his Life Scout insignia, Jamboree achievement patches, ASPL patch, and Order of the Arrow pocket flap. He was also one of the few young men in the room with a NYLT Staff neckerchief. On the way home, we stopped for smoothies and as we were pulling into the parking lot, he asked, are we going through the drive through…I realized once again that, as proud as he is to wear the uniform at a Scout function, he still feels uncomfortable wearing it “in public.” I have seen this with many other boys as well. Has anyone else noticed this trend, and what can be done? These guys are the future of our country and doing great things everyday, and yet the “cool factor” is just not there. Any thoughts???

This is a complicated question. It is important though, because one of the methods for Scouts BSA is The Uniform. I’d love to hear other Scouter’s thoughts, so please feel free to comment below.

I think it is all about how they want to be perceived by their peers and what they think their peers will think when they see the uniform.  And it is the Scout uniform, not just any uniform. Boys don’t have any problem running around in their soccer jerseys.

But consider how Scouting and sports are depicted differently in the media. And let’s face it, media has a big impact on how youth view the world around them. Sports are cool. You can spend a whole afternoon watching sports on TV. Our sports celebrities are well paid and honored. On the other hand, I don’t know how many times I’ve watched a movie or something on TV where somebody does something and another character will say something like, “Why are you being such a Boy Scout?”, meaning why are they following the rules to the letter. At an age level where kids like to rebel a little and push the limits, being seen as a goody two shoes might not appeal.

So what can we do? Well, I think one of the most important things to do is to get the word out that Scouting is more than just helping little old ladies across the street. While the character aspect is important, what the young men come for is the adventure and independence. Get some information in the church bulletin or the school website about that upcoming rock climbing or rifle shooting outing.

In the end though, until the blockbuster movie comes out which portrays Scouting as cool, we might just have to be content that our Scouts will wear their uniforms to the meetings and be thankful they enjoy the program.

15 Responses to Scouts BSA and Uniforms

  1. Noah June 26, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

    There is a movie wear scouts are cool it’s called scout camp.

  2. kristine June 26, 2011 at 11:01 AM #

    We have a tradition – Dunkin’ Donuts after scouts – my boys go in uniform and all (Eagle and 2nd class)!!

  3. stacey June 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM #

    My son loves to wear his scout uniform. We live in a military influenced area and the military men sometime salute him. He also loves it when he is given a compliment while wearing his uniform. I think he would wear it more if he were able to!

    • Mary June 2, 2016 at 9:35 AM #

      See, that’s just the problem. Your son IS NOT a member of the military and he should NOT be saluted. All you people talk about the rifle shooting and camping, my son goes to a boundary waters camp where they go on trail for a month, and we are members of the NRA and go shooting every week, shotgun, handgun, and rifle. So be fore you say stuff about how good the scouts is and how much adventurous they are, look at the contrary.

  4. Todd June 26, 2011 at 10:45 PM #

    Having been in Scouting since the late 60’s, I have seen a lot of Scouts in uniform in public. The youth seem to be OK with the uniform as a group. But being the only one in a public place in uniform, just dos not make it for them. The uniform forms that team spirit as it should. I try, some times going out of the way, to wear my uniform. I have had many Scouts not in uniform come up to me as talk about their Scouting adventures. Yes, many folks look at me with my uniform and some come up and tell me they were in Scouting.

  5. Kim June 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM #

    Okay two thoughts.
    First, I once had an adult (who obviously did not know me well) Go on and on about seeing an adult leader in uniform coming home on a plane. He was alone, no scouts around and this guy kept saying how it was funny and sad that the guy did this. Even ended by remarking how maybe he was a pedophile trying to get attention from boys. That crossed my line. I let him no in no uncertain terms that he had offended me and that based on the time he was talking about, he had most likely seen an adult Volunteer returning from National Jamboree. I explained that this person had given up their time from work, and family, and all just to pay for the right to go and sleep in a tent and WORK so boys from all over could have en awsome experience. That these voulnteers lived in their uniforms while there and that scouts wear their uniforms while traveling to and from scout events. How sad the reaction from this man. He had immediately assumed the absolute worst without even asking the leader. No wonder our boys are concerned.
    Second, I got to hear this question answered by an Eagle Scout from my son’s troop. He said he used to put on his uniform , then zip a hoodie up over it before leaving home, and not unzip till he was safely Inside the scout house. He didn’t want any school friends not in scouts to know because he knew they would tease him. Then one day they were talking about what they had done for the summer (school was just starting back I guess) his friends had lived in their X boxes and gone to movies. He had gone to Philmont, Camp Alexander, and more. He had Kayaked, rock -climbed, zip-lined and swam, hiked mountains, mountain boarded and pretty much all the stuff his friends had wished they were doing while sitting on their bottoms with a game. He decided that if liked scouting, if he really wanted to be an Eagle, that this was something he should be proud of not hide. and from that day on he left the hoodie home. This (while it would make a good Cubmaster’s minute) is true. I went to his Eagle Court of Honor and was, and am, proud to know him.
    We need to let his example shine. I asked my sons about this and my oldest said “well… I wouldn’t Mind if others knew, but I am not going around Telling everyone.” My younger son? “Are you kidding I love scouts! Who cares what they think. They have never even come and tried it out. It’s like you talk about voting Mom, if you aren’t doing it you really have no place complaining about it. Both wear their shirts if needed in public, and both wear “Class B” shirts everywhere, even school.

  6. Melissa July 9, 2011 at 9:08 PM #

    I think the obvious parallel is our military men and women. How proud we are when they walk through the grocery store, or into the library, or just in everyday life when they are in uniform?

    Not everyone has earned the right to wear a uniform. We wear a uniform because we choose to do something special – to be something special, and that is a scout. It means something to be a scout, and when we put on our uniform, in public or for meetings, it is a part of reminding ourselves that we are a scout.

    The other parallel is priests. A priest wears his alb to perform his duties, but he often wears his collar in private life to remind himself of his higher calling.

    What a great teachable moment (or cubmaster’s moment). Hmm, already thinking about my Sept cub moment!

  7. Kevin August 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM #

    Howdy folks. I know this blog post is over a year old, but I stumbled across it while looking up military uniform regulations.

    I was in BSA, and earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 2003, so maybe I can provide some insight on this subject. I have, like any other Scout, had to occasionally accompany my mother or father while running errands at Wal-Mart, picking up food, etc. I was proud of my uniform, especially after earning numerous merit badges and being able to place more items on my uniform, loved to show up to Scout functions, both weekly and on monthly outings. It was, however, somewhat uncomfortable to wear the uniform in public. Just because a Scout is not seen very often in public, the uniform garners inquisitive looks left and right. Young people are not used to being the center of attention in open public areas, so as you could imagine, this can be an uncomfortable experience. I know parents are proud to show their boys off as doing good things in the Scouts, but this should be kept in mind.

    Almost ten years laters, and over nine years in the military, things have not completely changed for myself. When in uniform with a group of friends–especially in a military town–public situations are not uncomfortable. While in battle uniform on my own (the digital-patterned “ACU” for the Army), I still do not feel comfortable while alone in public, just because the uniform garners mostly-unwarranted attention. These days, military personnel are trained and constantly advised to maintain a low-profile identity, so perhaps that is a contributing factor, as well.

    On the occasional day where I am wearing my dress uniform, I must add, I LOVE making an appearance in public. I KNOW people are looking at me, but I accept it. This situation is much different from being seen in my everyday work uniform. I am dressed to impress, I have plenty of “fruit salad” pinned on my chest, and I am proud to represent the Army of the greatest nation in the world. This, of course, is a personal choice, and many other people still may not feel comfortable under the public’s attention.

    I do think that the wear of uniform in public can foster more confidence in Scouts, but don’t create too much of a stressful situation for the boys. Communication with your Scout can be important here.

    Hope I have been of help!

  8. TC October 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM #

    I think the uniform is the single number one reason that contributes to scouts dropping out of the program. I agree with the sentiment of all the positive comments here, which encourage the pride of being a scout. However, I think it is also a stubborn approach to think that ‘we are what we are, so that’s how we’ll stay’. The program has so many things to offer, including a path that could be the difference between a successful, upstanding citizen and one that involves a lesser outcome including low self esteem and lack of self respect. If the difference between staying involved or dropping out is the uniform, I think the program needs to question, in an open and honest way, whether the symbolism is really higher priority than increased participation and the lives which some worthwhile change would impact.

  9. Scouter Scot October 11, 2012 at 8:24 AM #

    For some boys it does add up to “the cool factor.” For others it is an adolescent motivation to not be singled out; hence the boys who WILL wear the uniform in public if in a group.

    Remember, as parents, we have only so much influence over social norms of our children with their peers. What I tell my boy and my scouts is to consider what “those” boys did this weekend; sit on the couch and play video games in the dark! What did you do? Canoe, hike to a summit, repel, learn wilderness survival, fire rifles, my goodness what else?! We shouldn’t be avoiding your friends when in uniform; we should be recruiting them!

  10. Jeania October 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM #

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this while looking for information for my Wolf scout. I have two boys in Scouts – one has entered the Troop and just earned his Tenderfoot and is almost to Second Class, and the other is in Wolfs. When my older son was younger, he didn’t mind wearing his uniform. My younger son doesn’t mind wearing it either – most of the time. However – my older son, now in middle school – fights me tooth and nail about having to wear his Class A in public! I can use some of the information and hints above in talks with him, to encourage him to have pride in his uniform. I was particularly interested in reading the response from Kevin on August 20th. I am going to show that to my son – he aspires to be in the military one day and every time he sees a soldier in public, he makes the effort to notice and if he doesn’t say the words “thank you”, he either nods to them (you know, the “dude nod”, LOL) or will do the ASL sign for thank you. Anyway – thanks for the tips, everyone, and I will be checking back on this post to see if there is anything else I can use!

  11. Cynthia November 23, 2012 at 9:44 PM #

    I am the mother of an Eagle scout and a soon-to-be Life scout. I am also a Tiger leader and my husband is Cubmaster. We have been in scouting since our Eagle, now 18, was a Tiger. When the boys were Cubs the uniforms were showing they were a part of a group and there was not a big deal among their friends. Sometimes their friends or their parents would ask about scouting because of the uniforms.

    At the boys got older it changed a bit. Becoming Junior High age and moving to the tan shirt they weren’t as “cute” anymore and the coolness factor came into play. With my boys, this did not last long. My oldest plans a career in the military and has no problem wearing his uniform outside a meeting. My youngest likes to show his patches and his “bling” as it shows his accomplishments, which he worked very hard for.

  12. Troy October 19, 2014 at 7:48 AM #

    I simply must add to this posting. As a historian and a veteran scout I very much agree with the idea that media is influencing youth. They have no true heroes, and sports are overly emphasized.

    So what?

    Here is where I blame part of this on the uniform itself!

    The uniform is not masculine enough and does not truly represent or exhibit a powerful image to the viewer!

    The uniform today needs serious redesigning in order to personify the power of scouting.

    Finally, it needs to be made in America again!

    Just my two cents worth.

    If you doubt me, view a Norman Rockwell painting of a Scout in uniform and compare to todays clown suit.

  13. Dave Fabela April 9, 2015 at 8:03 PM #

    I recently read the conversations regarding the uniform and how some scouts may be a bit embarrassed to wear it out in public during non scout functions, but as a scoutmaster , I explain to my scouts that wearing the uniform says a lot about the individual wearing it. One thing we as parents can help is by making sure that our scouts aren’t in the same uniform when they first entered a troop which is two sizes too small. If you wore a shirt that didn’t fit or was so worn out that you could see through it, you would be embarrassed as well. I teach “demonstrated leadership” and to always make a good impression when part of an organization that you are proud to be part of. I encourage my scouts to not take off their uniform when completing a meeting but to wear it proudly. Wether they positively lead or mis-lead, they are still going to lead so do it properly.

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