Clearing up common questions about what we wear

Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell was a stickler for correct uniforming. In Aids to Scoutmastership, he explained why: “Smartness in uniform and correctness in detail may seem a small matter, but has its value in the development of self-respect and means an immense deal to the reputation of the movement among outsiders who judge by what they see.”

These days, many packs, troops and crews have a more relaxed stance on uniforms. No Scout is turned away or publicly admonished because he or she isn’t wearing the right thing. But in an effort to keep the uniform, well, uniform, we present these common conundrums.

What’s the field uniform?

It’s what most people think of as the Scout uniform. It includes the uniform shirt; switchback pants, shorts, girls’ skort or girls’ roll-up pants; belt; socks; and, depending on your program, cap and neckerchief. (For Lions, the official uniform is a T-shirt and optional cap.)

What’s the activity uniform?

It’s appropriate for informal occasions. It’s the same as the field uniform, with a Scouting T-shirt or polo shirt replacing the uniform shirt and neckerchief. (Sometimes you’ll hear this unofficially called “Class B” and the field uniform called “Class A.”)

Can neckerchiefs be worn with the activity uniform?

Yes — and also with nonuniform clothing. That change was made to bring the BSA in line with other Scout associations around the world.

What are the pant options for girl Cub Scouts? 

Tigers, Wolves, Bears and Webelos who wear the blue Cub Scout uniform can choose from switchback pants, shorts, roll-up pants and skorts. Webelos who wear the khaki uniform can choose from pants and shorts. (Additional uniform options for girls in the khaki uniform are expected to be available in 2019.)

How can girls with ponytails wear Cub Scout caps?

All current Cub Scout rank caps, with the exception of Webelos, are adjustable to allow for a ponytail. The Supply Group is planning to release similar caps for Webelos soon.

Is the uniform required at boards of review?

No. According to the Guide to Advancement, it’s preferable for the Scout or Venturer to be in full uniform (or at least in as much of it as he or she owns) and that the uniform be as correct as possible. Otherwise, the candidate should be clean and neat in appearance, and dressed appropriately. A board of review cannot reject a candidate solely for reasons related to uniforming or attire. Similarly, Sea Scouts appearing before a bridge of honor are encouraged, but not required, to wear the Sea Scout dress uniform.

Where can I learn more about the placement of patches?

Check the Guide to Awards and Insignia at go.scoutingmagazine.org/insigniaguide. You can also put your uniform together at www.scoutshop.org/uniform_builder

48 Comments

  1. Hi, Mark – there’s been a concerted effort at the national level to sunset the official use of the terms “field uniform” and “activity uniform.” It’s been effective to the point that newcomers to the program probably won’t encounter those terms anywhere but in the vernacular.

    Did your article intend to communicate a reversal of that effort?

      • I took the Cubmaster training online in the last month and in that training it said we should be referring to the full uniform as a “Field Uniform, ” and not Class A (as I have been hearing it referred to the last 2 years since we started with scouting). I had never heard the term “Field Uniform” until I took the online training. It would be great if you could share where you’re getting your information. And it would be even better if National updated their training videos because if I were completely new I would have started calling it a “Field Uniform,” after completing their required training.

        Thanks!

      • The term “sun setting” usually means fading off into the distance. In this example, the terms are used so infrequently, that they have faded away, and only long time scouters would recognize the terms used today.

      • If you’re in the military, then Class A or Class B is appropriate. This is a youth organization, yes uniforming is one part of it. But some seem to focus on 1/8 of the program, neglecting the other 7/8.

    • I’m also interested where you’re getting this information. My impression is that the BSA has been trying USE the terms “Field Uniform” and “Activity Uniform” instead of the more popular terms “Class A” and “Class B”.

    • The are the terms used in the most recent printing of the Troop Leader Guidebook. If there is a movement at the national level regarding the terminology, it hasn’t gotten down to those of us at the lowest levels.

    • Interesting – I’ve observed the opposite. Although I cannot find anything official I see “Class A/B” in older literature – or in a subordinate role to “Field/Activity” Uniform references. See this google search and I see a number of more recent publications on Scouting.org that reference Field Uniform.
      https://www.google.com/search?q=%22field+uniform%22+site%3Ascouting.org&ie=&oe=
      In this search for Class A I find older literature or more references of “(class A)” as an ‘AKA’ of Field Uniform

      Either way for our unit families i’ve been telling them both!

      • Michael, you are correct. Class A and B Ave have never been “correct,” but were adopted from military language. However, in the last few years there has been a push from national to begin using the correct “sometimes known as” terminology of “field” and “activity” uniforms.

    • To clarify:

      The current BSA Handbook (13th edition, 2016 publication date) says “The BSA’s official Boy Scout uniform (sometimes called the field uniform)”. It also says “clothing appropriate for the activity of the day”…”is sometimes called an activity uniform.”

      That’s it. “Field uniforms” and “activity uniforms” are mentioned only once in the entire Handbook, and then only as a passing reference. Note, also, the Handbook never mentions “class” uniforms.

    • I’ve been in Scouting for 29 years. Any unit I was in always called it Class A or Class B uniform. If this what people understand why make big deal out of it.

  2. Not everybody can afford a full uniform. I don’t see anything wrong with a “class A” or “class B” shirt w/wo a neckerchief/hat with a pair of clean jeans or jean shorts (no holes, ribs, etc. of course).

  3. I’ve been in scouting at the Scout Master level for 12 years now. We’ve always called it a “Class A@ uniform. In addition, we’ve always called our troop t-shirts or summer camp shirts a “Class B”.

    Honestly, this is the first time I’ve heard it referenced as a “Field Uniform”.

  4. Can you clarify the yellow adult shirt? Can it only be worn in one’s role as a Cub Scout leader or can it be used as a Boy Scout/BSA Scouting leader or Council board member?

  5. Is a neckerchief required as part of the “field” uniform? Is there, other than the wool blend pants, now, or will there be, an alternative to the switchback uniform pants? The switchbacks do not hold a crease, the front pockets are useless, the material fades, the back pockets bunch up so bad they become useless and the switchback zippers are bulky and uncomfortable. I will not be purchasing another pair and will be wearing jeans with my uniform when I retire my current switchback pants. Please provide me with a “Scout” approved alternative. Thank you.

  6. With the coming change to “Scouts BSA” will the “Boy Scouts of America” embroidered over the right pocket be altered?

    • I wouldn’t think so, as all programs are under the umbrella of Boy Scouts of America. Webelos wear the tan shirts, too, so “Scouts BSA” would be inaccurate for them even on the current Boy Scouts shirt, let alone the shirts for all of the other groups.

    • The field uniform is the formal uniform. The uniforms were designed with the intention that they be worn for all activities. We encourage our Scouts to wear their field uniforms for any activities that have them in the public eye (field trips, beach clean ups, etc.) and typically reserve activity shirts for things like camp outs or crafty activities that could damage a uniform.

  7. I had previously sent an e-mail ref to the low quality of switchback pants. I will NEVER purchase another pair of these! I will wear the pair I have until they are no longer serviceable and then I will wear jeans with my uniform shirt. Let me know when I can expect a quality replacement and I will consider purchasing them. I will not purchase uniform pants that require dry cleaning. I will not purchase uniform pants with zip off legs. My previous e-mail made ref to several problem areas with switchbacks and are as follows; front pockets unusable, rear pockets not any better, material fades, material will not hold a crease and the heavy material, and zippers, are uncomfortable. Please let me know when I can purchase a quality pair of uniform pants with these problems addressed. Thank you

    • The Scout Shop sells item 50528 for $54.99 — Boy scout men’s polyester/wool uniform pant.

      In a mix of 55% polyester and 45% wool, fabric is made to last longer, wear more comfortably and offer an appealing fit. Flat-front, forest-green style includes front pockets and two back welt pockets. Pants come unhemmed to customize your length. Dry clean only. Imported. Part of the Official Boy Scout Uniform. Order by waist size.

      I see that you aren’t interested in pants which require dry cleaning. Despite the label, in my experience these are machine-washable.

    • We love the LLBean Trekking Zip off pants. Much better than the Switchbacks in every way you describe. Sturdy, not fading, and significantly cheaper.

    • Jeff-
      Love that you are looking for alternative pants. Better zip-off pants are more comfortable for the Scout and can increase enjoyment of hiking and most activities.

    • I to can’t stand the switchback pants. My son went through 3 pair where the material just came apart (not even at a seam). There are flaws in the material where they have a tendency to have a ripple affect. The pockets on the front of the legs are useless – put them back on the sides. For my money, Academy has Magellan Outdoors Men’s Back Country Zipoff Nylon Pants in green for about $25. They are a match to the Green of the Scout Pants. Sure they won’t hold a crease, but I find them more comfortable.

  8. Uniforms, a very covering subject. My first uniform was nickers bloused to the knees with roll down socks at the knees. The shirt was long sleeve with buttoned at the neck, Hat was of a broad brim very solid unit. This all started in 1939, when I first joined BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA. yes 77 year ago , and I have maintained registering all the time. I have worked in many positions on a voluntary basis from Cubs, Boy Scouts, Varsity, District and Council positions as ask to do. I have been on two National Jamborees. As you can see it required many combinations of uniforms. I have many recognitions and I wear them proudly. The Silver Beaver, District Award of Merit, I work with the Order Of the Arrow. I have heard boys say to others, my leader has more patches than yours. Well needles to say it takes many uniform combinations. I have always used the field uniform,it always serves the purpose. On the jamborees we used the t shirt or activities,we sent 20 troops and that is a lot of people. We had each troop in a different color hat, easy to see out of place. I have never used the Blazer or what I call the Class A. The uniform used in any activity depends on the need and decided by the leaders involved at that time. Well enough for my 2 cents worth. 91 years old and getting ready for the new registration requirements. Thank You

    • Thank you, Scouter, for your 77 years of service to the youth of our country. You’re an example to us all. Here’s wishing you many more years of service from your uniform collection. Wear it all proudly!

  9. I am the den leader for 5 wonderful young bear girls. They normally wear their uniform to school on den meeting days. This week they were teased about having “Boy Scouts of America” on their shirts. Yes, I spoke to the teacher and principal. Aside from that, what is being done to make girls feel more comfortable in the cub scout uniform shirt? They asked me if it could be changed to just “scouts of America” or put a patch over it. I’m worried that they are going to not want to wear their uniform if something doesn’t change. Any updates?

    • Boy Scouts for generations have been teased by other non-scouting kids and even sometimes adults. This is the group your girls fought to join. Sorry to say but they have to accept everything from this group, not just the good parts. In the end when those girls stick with the program, endure everything Boy Scouters have endured and climb the ranks they will forever have earned something those bullies will never accomplish. Good luck.

    • I’m not sure you’ll ever get an official OK to remove “Boy” from a uniform, but here’s some thoughts. As Mike Delp says, uniforms on their own generate teasing- no sense adding gender disparity with the outdated “Boy Scouts” embroidery. Scouts BSA is coming and uniforms need to be updated.

  10. I have a question and I’m hoping someone knows the answer. The shirt for female leaders is tailored in such a way that tucking it in and the shirt remaining tucked in, is next to impossible. The shirt has a clean nice finish to it, not the long tails for tucking, and it falls right at the hip bone. Is it ok for women leaders to leave their shirt untucked?

    • The national policy is that the uniform shirt is always worn tucked.

      Personally, I’ve never called an adult out for not wearing it tucked except when I’m their “boss” at training events where we’re presenting ourselves as smartly-uniformed examples to the participants.

    • C.Stewart I have the same problem. I bought a men’s shirt and it is significantly longer and always stays tucked in. Hopefully this will help.

  11. Wow. This is confusing because our Council does not use the term Field Uniform at all. We have Class A and Class B. I was going to share this post with our families but I can’t because of the confusion it will cause.

  12. I have used the terms field uniform and activity uniform for many years. Our troop asks that the scouts and adults wear any green khaki pants/shorts. K-mart carried the Basic Edition pants/shorts that worked very well. Correct color, durable and inexpensive.

  13. I think we are not trying to change but, more becoming informed. I know this subject of ‘Class Uniform’ is touchy. In older and now literature written in all books (Field Book, Handbook etc.) the reference to ‘Class’ of uniform was never printed. It has always been ‘Field (or just) Uniform.’ I was in the Military for a time and that is where this ‘Class’ designation comes. Lord Baden Powell did recognize these terms but wanted to keep the Military … Military and Boy Scouts … Boy Scouts! He could tell if let go, the Boys would be marching in rank instead of being … just boys.

    The uniform is important and as mentioned earlier, there are Units that have Scouts that can’t afford the full one. Whatever the Scouts asked to be in the By-laws of the Unit should be acceptable. That is their Uniform so long as it is worn properly as regarded by the BSA. Cubs can have all their awards plastered all over the Shirt etc.

    No need to get huffy if someone calls it a ‘Class of Uniform’ because in our hearts, we let the YOUTH lead and do what they feel is correct. If at all possible, regard what our founder wanted and see if we can keep Boy Scouts … Boy Scouts (or Scouting BSA!).

  14. First involved in scouting 1982, always called uniforms A and B. One issue I have is tucking in the short sleeve shirt. My long sleeve has long “tails” designed for tucking. My short sleeve is cut short with a square bottom and it always comes out of my shorts. Square cut shirts are designed to be worn out. Why can’t we have an A, B and C uniform, being long sleeve tucked, shirt untucked and lastly T-shirt or sweatshirt.

  15. It is comical how the BSA is moving away from Class A and B terminology. I have been told many reasons why. Some have told me the BSA is not a military organization and thus we should not use military terminology. Yet we have ‘formations’, ‘salute’, stand at ‘attention’, have ‘patrols’, and have a ‘rank’ structure… wow, the more I think about it…
    Anyway Class A and B are used in the military for one good reason… it is easy. A is fancy, B less so, no confusion, no fuss.
    ‘Field uniform’, ‘Activity uniform’…. just silly stuff created by someone who probably is what we in the military would call… a ‘bureaucrat’. Why have simple when we can have complicated? Ahhhh, I just love these people.

  16. Much ado about nothing. Need I remind all, to be a Scout a uniform is not required? Let’s focus on having fun while fostering good citizens!

    • The article is about uniforming, not fun. Fun is the outcome of a good program. The uniform, in my opinion, is a universal symbol that creates a visual bond among all Scouts, and as an added bonus often results in an added sense of pride, self respect, and better, if not exemplary, behavior.

  17. Leave it to National to get so hung up on names of the uniforms that it becomes confused. Scouts are becoming an old persons club who sit around debating what should be the official terms. Did anyone ask a young scout? Boy lead. Our scouts call it “Class A” and “Class B”. My son, SPL and Eagle Scout also calls it A, for regular meeting, camping and events, and APlus, for ceremonies when sash, neckerchief, temporary patches and hat should be worn. Thirteenth law; a Scout is bureaucratic.

  18. For the last couple of years I’ve been referring to them as the “Class A Field Uniforms” and the “Class B Activity uniforms” to help avoid the confusion of the recent emphasis on the name change/correction.

    As a Military Veteran who grew up with in Scouts from third grade to 11th, I find it interesting, that an organization, founded by an Army General’s manual for military utilization, would get so hung up on the phrase “Class A” as being too military…..yet we Salute the flag…and have Patrols and Troops….and Unit flags with Award Streamers….take oaths that include duty and fidelity to Country….interesting indeed.

  19. We use the terms Class A and Class B, as well. If the goal is to simplify, just call the uniform a uniform, and the t-shirt a Scout shirt. It is overly complicated to call a t-shirt an activity uniform- it’s just one article of clothing.

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