I tried jeans. Just once. I thought, well, as a Commissioner visiting one of the troops I serve, maybe I should look like the Scoutmaster and his assistants, and most of the Scouts. Big mistake. The first comment when I walked into the troop meeting was, “Hey, Andy, you’re outa uniform!” This from a guy dressed exactly like me: Scout shirt and jeans. Go figure.
Honestly, I don’t get it. When I was a Cub Scout, the old blue “beany” hats with the gold piping were di rigueur and yet we all wore them with aplomb if not swagger. And, as a Boy Scout in khaki, I walked a good mile each way (dads didn’t drive their kids anywhere in those days; they read the evening paper after dinner and told us what time we were expected to be home “or else”) to my troop meetings with nary a thought that, to other guys I passed in that twenty-city-block walk, who were my age but who weren’t Scouts, I may have looked odd. It didn’t matter to me. I thought I looked okay, and that’s all that mattered. And when, during the troop meeting, our Senior Patrol Leader did his usual uniform inspection, I was pretty proud that I—along with a bunch of other guys—had gotten it right…right down to our socks. Later, as a camp staffer, it was the same: We were all in full uniform, always, so that the now-frequently-used term, “full uniform,” wasn’t even necessary. It was “the uniform.” That’s it.
All sorts of people—all ages—wear uniforms, even today. Rescue squads, peace officers, clergy, garage mechanics, UPS drivers, airline pilots and flight attendants, even restaurant servers and fast food counter-people all wear uniforms. Full uniforms. No jeans or khakis with just a uniform shirt. Except Scouts.
Somehow, I think, we’ve forgotten that, when we’re in uniform, our posture changes: We straighten up; we’re sharper; we’re more aware of ourselves; we’re more conscious of what we represent. We’ve forgotten that our behavior changes, too: We’re more respectful of others; we’re more polite to each other; we give and take orders better.
Not too long ago, I was interviewing a Scout who’d just completed his service project for Eagle. In our conversation, he expressed his disappointment that he’d been able to get only half the materials he’d needed at no or a reduced cost.
“Did you visit these hardware and paint stores in uniform?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he said, “I did. But I still got only half of what I asked for.”
“What did you wear,” I pursued.
“Well, my shirt, of course,” he told me, but then he mentioned that he’d worn his Scout shirt with jeans and Air Jordan high-tops.
“Do you think, maybe, that may have had an effect?” I asked.
He thought for a moment; then I saw a light click on behind his eyes. “I wonder,” he said. “I wonder if they gave me half what I asked for because I looked like half a Scout?”
Maybe that’s the point.
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 450 – 8/25/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]