How to encourage proper placement of patches on uniforms

It’s hard to make sure patches and other insignia are placed correctly, Scoutmaster J.S.D. wrote in our March-April issue. J.S.D.’s troop has tried uniform inspections, but parents are reluctant to resew wrongly placed badges. What can be done?

Illustration by Bill Basso

Getting some of my Scouts to even wear a Scout uniform shirt (and properly) has been almost impossible. But I noticed that all Scouts who went to the fall camporee or Klondike derby wanted their patch. Maybe there’s hope for uniforms after all.

Then I got an idea. I announced that I would bring a sewing machine to the next troop meeting and that everyone should wear a T-shirt under his uniform shirt and bring any loose badges. At the meeting, some Scouts were amused that their Scoutmaster knew how to use a sewing machine. (I was self-taught at age 18 and sewed all insignia on my military uniforms during a 16-year career.)

As I worked, I imagined I could see growing pride in the eyes of many of the Scouts. I was sure of it the following week when all of the boys showed up in their Scout uniform shirts and neckerchiefs. One had even persuaded his parents to buy a pair of official trousers. Obviously he got the highest score at the uniform inspection.

Some readers may feel I usurped the prerogative of parents, but it’s hard to argue with results.

Scoutmaster B.B.
Albuquerque, N.M.

Our pack went from a shirts-only unit to better than 90 percent perfect uniforming in three years by regularly recognizing those with correct uniforms at pack meetings. We hold about four uniform inspections a year and award a Cub Scout gold medal the first time a boy has a perfect uniform (everything present, in place, and worn neatly). For each successive perfect uniform, we give a bronze Scout lapel pin to be worn on the gold-medal ribbon.

We don’t announce inspections in advance, which helps keep the boys on their toes. Once a year we have inspections at den meetings. A uniform exchange and uniform “scholarships” ensure that all boys can have a complete uniform.

Cubmaster G.J.D.
Katonah, N.Y.

Our troop has a uniform inspection once a month. We have a preliminary inspection at the previous meeting. Inspections are done using the “if one uniform is wrong in the patrol, all the uniforms are wrong” method.

After the boys are inspected, the boy leaders inspect the adult leaders’ uniforms. Same rules apply.

For the most part our uniforms are correct. If a patrol loses one week, the boys make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Scoutmaster J.R.P.
Houston, Tex.

It’s important for Scouts to look neat and “uniform.” It is also important to have parents involved with their sons in as many ways as possible. So why not bring a few clean T-shirts to a unit meeting and let Scouts wear them temporarily while a parent volunteer spends 15 or 20 minutes moving, replacing, and sewing on patches.

“Patch Night” might be a fun way to reach the goals of improving uniforming and involving parents in the unit.

Assistant Scoutmaster E.A.
Fairfax, Va.

Uniform inspections should be a yearly event for troops and packs. The first is the hardest because you’ll be catching mistakes people have made for years and they’ll be reluctant to change because “it’s too much to fix” and “I’ve had it this way for so long and nobody’s complained.” A Boy Scout’s uniform should be inspected at a board of review. At his next review, any uniform errors must have been corrected or he may be denied his next rank.

In our pack, assistant Cubmasters do uniform inspections at den meetings early in the year. Inspections can be done at pack meetings, with the den being inspected taken to another room. We announce inspection dates in advance. By the way, leaders get inspected too–by the boys!

Boys who pass inspection are given a patch for their “brag vest.” The patch is safety-pinned on to avoid more sewing by parents who have cooperated. Each year we have more boys passing.

We’ve been almost too successful with this. One of our Webelos dens decided not to join a particular troop they visited because the Boy Scouts didn’t wear their uniforms properly!

Highlands Ranch, Colo.

I believe uniform inspections are helpful for dens as well as packs. When I approve a new badge, I write instructions for proper placement on a sticker applied to the back of the badge.

I tell my Cub Scouts and their parents to just pin the badge to the uniform so we can check placement before it’s sewn on.

Den Leader L.A.G.
Elgin, Ill.

Our Scout troop is in a low-income area, and many Scouts wear secondhand uniforms bought at thrift stores. The problem is that it is very hard to remove patches and insignia without leaving stitch holes and even tears in the fabric.

Many times in removing insignia I have torn holes in uniforms, and I am an expert seamstress. Usually I can repair the hole and cover it with the correct insignia.

I hope that leaders who insist on correct placement will think twice about it. Think about the boy’s self-esteem, both in being singled out for misplacement of a badge and for having to wear something with holes in it. I think the self-esteem of the boy is more important than the placement of a few patches or insignia.

New Albany, Ind.

I have found that when a boy’s insignia are out of place and the parents are slow to correct the placement, an offer to do the sewing yourself usually gets a good response. In almost every unit you can find someone who is handy with a needle and thread and is willing to do the chore.

It’s worth it to see that everyone is properly uniformed.

Assistant Cubmaster J.C.
Alvin, Tex. S

I used to bring a “seam ripper” to troop meetings. This device, which you can buy wherever sewing supplies are sold, can be slipped under a badge to sever the threads without any risk of ruining the shirt.

We had an inspection, usually informal, at every meeting. A patrol leader would use the seam ripper to remove a Scout’s incorrectly placed insignia (with the approval of the Scout), before the meeting.

At least once a year, the patrol leaders’ council gave instructions about uniforms and insignia. Then there would be a patrol contest on correct placement of badges, using a bare uniform shirt and a pile of insignia with double-faced tape on the backs. It was a standard relay-type race for patrol teams.

Assistant Scoutmaster W.G.S.
Seaford, Del.

A uniform inspection is a great tool to show Scouts and Scouters what their uniforms should look like. If a Scout’s patches are in the wrong place, the boy should be told to have them corrected before his next Scoutmaster conference.

Proper uniforming is one way to show Scout spirit.

Former Scoutmaster R.B.
Neosho, Mo.



  1. I wish someone would explain why wearing the FULL and PROPER uniform in Scouting is treated as some “crazy” idea when it is REQUIRED by EVERY kid who plays on a baseball team, or football team, or school band, etc. If you are part of the “shirts only” (or as we mockingly call them, the “blue jean brigade”) you need to get with the Program. Chances are that if you’re missing the uniform, there ARE other parts of the Program that you’re missing too. Don’t make excuses for wrong behavior. There is ONE uniform… wear it. This fundamental part of the Program shouldn’t even warrant a “discussion”.

    • ABSOLUTELY!!! All uniforms, once officially issued, are valid within BSA. No uniform is “retired”, just no longer available at the store. I love it when older Scouters where older uniforms – provides a link to the past that is visible for all to see.

  2. I am a 77year old Eagle Scout. I recently purchased a new scout shirt to wear to my grandson’s Eagle Award ceremony.
    I still have my Eagle Badge ( the pin on kind). Where on the shirt is the proper place to pin it on my shirt?
    Thank you,
    J. Larry Carter

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. #041: Wearing the Uniform – ScoutMasterDave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.