Advice and Tips for Leaders and Parents in the Scouting World
Last updated 2021-10-21 18:56:35 UTC
Can a scout or leader wear a necklace, or place a non-scouting pin on their uniform? Are there occasion when wearing jewelry is appropriate?
There is no BSA rule or policy against wearing jewelry on the uniform, such as a pin or broach, or wearing a necklace over the uniform. In fact, BSA policy is that uniforms are not even mandatory! (But, they are important and highly encouraged.).
Despite this, ostentatious display of jewelry seems to violate the spirit of the BSA uniform ideals.
Should a troop set a uniform standard to discourage this? Are there occasion when wearing jewelry is appropriate?
This BSA policy, as iterated in the BSA Guide to Awards and Insignia states:
"The uniform represents a democratic idea of equality, bringing people of different racial, economic, religious, national, ethnic, political, and geographic backgrounds together in the Scouting tradition."
Wearing a uniform, whether it is for scouting, or sports, or other functions, is intended to promote unity and communicated a shared commitment. Wearing individually distinguishing items not related to rank or achievement, sends a signal of “I am different”. Uniforms can also act as an ‘equalizer’. Merriam-Webster dictionary gives one definition of uniform as:
uni • form : … 2. consistent in conduct or opinion
Does wearing anything distracting on the uniform, not related to rank or achievement, take away from scouting unity? Does it send a signal that “I am not completely bought into the scouting tradition”?
Perhaps there are some reasons where jewelry is permitted, or encouraged. There is another BSA passage which gives a clue:
"Purposes of the uniform: personal quality, identification (as a member of BSA), build unit spirit, shows achievement, reminder of commitment to the ideals of BSA - belief in God, loyalty ,and helping others"
A small American flag on the collar might be a reminder of the commitment to loyalty and service.
A necklace with a religious symbol might be a reminder of the commitment to a belief in God.
Wearing jewelry which honors a scout’s commitment to these BSA ideals appears to be consistent with a BSA uniform purpose. Wearing jewelry solely for decorative reasons is not consistent.
A troop might provide more specific guidelines for what discouraged on the uniform. But a troop cannot require anything additional on the uniform. For example, a troop cannot say “all scouts in our troop must wear red hats.” BSA policy is very clear on this:
"No alteration of, or additions to, the official uniforms, as described in the official guidelines or the Rules and Regulations covering the wearing of the uniform and the proper combinations thereof on official occasions, may be authorized by any Scouting official or local council."
An example of troop guidelines for jewelry might include:
A troop may choose to set explicit guidelines for jewelry worn with uniforms, or it may choose to simply ignore it, given that it is not forbidden by BSA policy. Whatever the choice, the lesson for scouts is to understand why they wear the uniform and what it represents. Each scout should ask themselves: does the way I present myself when I wear this uniform reflect the scouting ideals?
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