The Boy Scouts of America has always been a uniformed body. Its uniforms help to create a sense of belonging. They symbolize character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Wearing a uniform gives youth and adult members a sense of identification and commitment.
Various insignia are worn by Scouts and Scouters representing unit membership, activities, accomplishments, honors and training.
Boy Scout uniform insignia
The council shoulder patch (sometimes called a council strip) is an arc-shaped patch worn at the top of the sleeve that identifies the local council. 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. On the new (2008) style official shirt, the badge of office is centered on the pocket, but on the older official uniform shirts, the badge of office is centered and touching the bottom of the unit numeral, or centered 4 inches below the shoulder seam. When earned for the current position, the green lettering Trained leader strip is centered at the top of the pocket flap on the new style official shirt, but on the older official uniform shirts, the red lettering Trained leader strip is centered immediately below and touching the badge of office. 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 and under the shoulder strap 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 as they are a youth.
Official uniforms come with the US flag sewn to the top of the sleeve. Wearing the flag is optional—Scouts whose religion, tradition, or personal beliefs prevent them from displaying the flag are not required to do so. 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 Scout rank. Scouts in any membership division who 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. Male Venturers may also wear their current Boy Scout rank badge on the official Venturing uniform shirt to age 18, with those becoming Eagle Scouts being allowed to wear the badge until they reach the age of 21.
Scouts and Scouters may wear up to five pin-on medals that they have earned or have been awarded centered just above the pocket seam; medals are usually only worn on formal occasions. Most medals may also be represented by a square knot insignia.
Square knots are rectangular cloth patches that use a multi-colored knot design to designate certain awards. Some emblems use other designs, such as the trident for Sea Badge and the overhand knot for the District Award of Merit, but they are all referred to as square knots. Some awards are represented by both medals or badges and square knots, others only by square knots and others only by the medal or badge. Only a few square knots may be worn by youth, such as the religious emblem or life-saving awards.
Service stars may be worn above the pocket or top row of square knots. These are star shaped pins with an enameled number representing tenure in each Scouting division. Circular plastic backings represent each membership division; gold is used for Cub Scouting, green is used for Boy Scouting, brown used is for Varsity Scouting, 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 Exploring prior to 1998 may wear a service star with red backing.
All Scouts and Scouters may wear the round World Crest over the pocket. This emblem is found on the uniform of most other Scouting organizations and represents unity with other Scouts around the world. Beginning with January 1, 2010, the Boy Scout 100th Anniversary ring is worn on the outside of the world crest.
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 a BSA strip 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 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 wear the patch as a temporary insignia.
Merit badge sash
Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts may wear the merit badge sash, generally on formal occasions. Merit badges may be worn on the front of the sash and the Varsity Letter with earned pins and bars may be worn on the bottom front corner. Additional merit badges and temporary insignia may be worn on the back of the sash. The sash is worn over the right shoulder and should never be worn folded through the belt, should not be worn at the same time as the Order of the Arrow sash, and should never be worn buttoned under the shoulder loop strap.
A number of emblems are awarded that are not intended for wear on the uniform. The emblems for aquatics qualifications such as Boardsailing BSA, Kayaking BSA, Mile Swim BSA, Scuba BSA, and Snorkeling BSA are intended for wear on the left side of swimwear, while certification such as BSA Lifeguard and BSA Aquatics Instructor are worn on the right side. Other awards such as the 50-Miler Award, Historic Trails Award, Paul Bunyan Woodsman and the Totin' Chip and Firem'n Chit emblems are intended as equipment decoration such as a backpack or on a blanket.
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, and spoof epaulets include a red, white and blue one for Eagle Scouts and a tiger paw for Tiger Cubs.