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Uniforms from other countries?

Question I can’t find an answer to elsewhere: is it ok for a Scout to wear a uniform shirt or neckerchief from another country? Trading patches is always fun when meeting Scouts from around the world, but what about a shirt, for example (ranks and awards are obviously not worn unless earned!).


For participation in Scouts BSA units the standard answer is NO. The non-BSA Scouting organization controls who wears their organization’s uniform. Shirts are likely to have legally protected trademark on them.

The one exception I can think of is a group of Scouts visiting from another country who are put in a special unit sponsored by the council and the visiting Scouts are authorized wear their country’s uniform.

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If you go to a national or world Jambo - shirt trading is VERY common

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There are occasions when this would be appropriate. Say, for example, the scout is somehow representing the country from where the uniform came (say in a presentation or speech), or the troop is having an international neckerchief event.

Obviously, a scout who just transferred into your troop doesn’t need to ditch his/her uniform. In fact I encouraged an exchange student who joined our crew to have her parents send her her uniform.

But, as a scout acquires awards and begins to represent your unit, you should help him/her acquire your local uniform.

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Maybe not super clear the way I phrased it. I’m not asking about a Scout visiting from outside the US, wearing a shirt from his/her own country, or about using an alternate country’s uniform in place of the local approved one. Just whether it is OK to pick up a shirt or neckerchief when visiting another country as a memento and a token of appreciation for the global Scouting movement. We have an international trip planned and my son is very keen on trying to meet local Scouts while there, and on looking for a shirt from that country. I’ve seen other Scouters do the same and was trying to find out if there is any “approved” answer to whether it is OK. (He wants to bring his uniform shirt so any local Scouts he meets while overseas will know he is also a Scout!)

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Ultimately that will be up to the scouting organizations in the countries he visits. I’ll bet you find most countries’ scouting organizations quite accommodating.


It’s absolutely okay to “pick up” a uniform from another scout association! But, it’s poor form just to buy one. Here’s the real “scout-like” way this is done:

  • Find a scout group and ask to visit. (Sounds like you have that bit in the works.)
  • Wear a neckerchief. If you don’t, every other scout in the world will ask you what happened to yours? Saying that it’s optional will only serve to perplex many of them.
  • Bring your uniform – preferably one that you don’t mind parting with. (This means you’ll buy a new uniform and transfer the parts that are important to you and keep that one at home. Since scouts are outgrowing stuff all the time, this isn’t that far-fetched.)
  • Meet a scout in the country you are visiting. Become friends. Go out someplace memorable wearing your uniforms. Give your uniform away without expecting anything in return (except the friendship you’ve already made). If the scout is able, he/she may give you the uniform they are wearing.
  • Tell the story behind the patches! You can even talk about how the flag patch is reversed from most military patches because in recent years, infantry felt that the field should always face forward.
  • This might not be a one-to-one reciprocity. Our Oscar De La Renta uniforms are notoriously flashy … the patches are oversize relative to uniforms of other scout associations. Also, other scouts might have put a lot of time into their uniforms that we haven’t, so they might not be prepared to part with one.

Obviously, we can think of lots of variations on how this is done. If your council or your troop has produced a special neckerchief, bring a bunch of those to give as gifts. Same goes for patches. Be prepared to tell a story about whatever you bring. Or … make a bunch of neckerchief slides. Or … talk to local business about your trip and ask if they have mementos that you can give out while you travel. If your town is known for a local industry or sports team, the chamber of commerce might even have some swag.

Finally, be sure to let us know how the trip went! Happy International Scouting!


I agree with @Qwazse except I would express the desire to exchange a uniform in advance of the visit. And I would wear the US uniform at the visit.

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