Square knot insignia used by the Boy Scouts of America
Square knot insignia
Square knot insignia
"Square knot emblems" of the BSA
Many Scouts and Scouters wonder what those colorful square patches worn above
the left pocket by Cubs, Scouts, Ventures and Scouters are for. Those that
choose to wear them are more than happy to share the fact that those emblems are
worn in less-than dressy occasions to symbolize special awards which they
earned, were presented with, or awarded for service to youth or to a particular
segment of youth while BSA members or leaders.
Why was some kind of
"square knot" used to represent these awards? This answer was posted to the
US Scouting Service Project's website
area on awards.
Example of square knot emblem -- this is the knot emblem representing the W.T. Hornaday Award medals
Not all "square knots" are "knot emblems" This is the Hornaday Badge and is worn like a "knot emblem:"
Each square knot emblem has a "right side up"; a separate
page explains this fact...
Why doesn't the BSA put out "knots" for things like the OA Founders' Award, BSA Lifeguard, Historic Trails, and other special awards? Why just those? And who's putting out those other knots that I later found out that I'm not supposed to wear?" This page explains this fact as well....
Each emblem is shown as it should be worn on the official field uniforms of the BSA -- old, new, current. Some
are listed with the old khaki background; others are listed with the current khaki-tan background; and some are
listed with both. The BSA IS ONLY CURRENTLY PRODUCING ONE VERSION OF EACH KNOT EMBLEM.
I was tasked with providing information on what the knot emblem -- the emblem
which will be shown here on the left side of the page -- looks like in color, a little history of how the BSA chose the
color(s) for the knot emblem. as well as who is entitled to wear the square knot emblem. There will also be a summary of how the actual award is earned, received or presented, how to wear it (to insure that you have the knot emblem "right side up", the scans of each knot is shown HOW IT SHOULD BE WORN ON THE UNIFORM) and finally what kind
of award it is:
Over the years, many Scouts and Scouters associate the cloth "knot emblems"
shown here with the actual award, as in "I'm going to earn my Scouters'
Training knot". The BSA as well as folks like myself have spent a lot of time
explaining and in many cases, informing Scouters, that "the actual award
consists of a medal, medallion, plaque, certificate and/or patch...the SQUARE
KNOT INSIGNIA REPRESENTS the award or emblem when worn informally on the uniform
-- it is NOT the award!!"
Some local Councils have also informed their volunteers INCORRECTLY that
"the BSA is no longer issuing out medals and plaques and the only thing they are
giving out is the square knot and the certificate". This is UNTRUE, says the
BSA's Council Support Division's Director. If your Council has stated
something like this, the BSA's Council Support Division would like to know; they
have estimated that there is ONE Scouters' Training Award medal in storage for
EVERY REGISTERED VOLUNTEER SCOUTER and there are similar stockpiles of those
other award medals and plaques. All the Council has to do is pay for it. Some
Councils may have you to pay for your own award, which may be "tacky" but it is
one way of the Council cutting costs. The address for the BSA's Council Support
Council Support Division, SUM 108
National Office, Boy Scouts of
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, Texas 75061-2079
I have incorporated where I can, actual scans or photos of the ACTUAL
AWARD which the square knot represents.
There are many people to thank for the scans and photos: The folks of the US Scouting Service Project, staffs at the Supply, Volunteer
Training and Relationships Divisions at the BSA National Office; Jeremy, Bob
Cylkowski, Paul Davies, Robert Rescott, Laura Sullivan, Terrell Clay, David, and
There are other Scouters whom have provided me with scans of square knot insignia as well
as other items. If I have not credited you properly, please contact me and let
me know so that I may do so. While I would love to say that this is completely
my project, it isn't; I just collected all of the bits and pieces from everyone
else and posted it all here for you and other Scouters to view and use.
How Are These Awards Worn?
The square knots illustrated above (and others which are presented by local
Councils or by other national Scouting organizations) are worn only on
the field uniform of the Cub, Scout, Venturer/Sea Scout or Scouter
earning/receiving the award.
As a general rule, square knot emblems are NOT worn when the medal, medallion or
device is worn...the knots are designed for informal, everyday wear by the Scout or
Scouter. The BSA has approved however, the wearing of both knots and the medals/
medallions if you only own one uniform, although this would be considered not the preferred
The BSA has established an upper limit on the number of square knot insignia which should be
worn on the offiical uniform -- it is "15 to 18" per a Supply Division bulletin which was distributed to the
field in April, 2004. However, to be on the "safe side", it is recommended that you wear fifteen (that's
five rows of three square knot emblems) with the official khaki-tan or green field uniforms; and 12 with
the current "Centennial" tan field uniform shirt.
This has NOT stopped many Scouters that have received more than this number in wearing the ones
that they choose to.
At one time, there WAS a sequence or "precedence listing" for the wearing of the various knot emblem
representing national and regional awards. As of 1974, there is NO wearing sequence for the square knots; each Scout or Scouter decides to wear or not wear the knot(s), can wear a few or
all of the ones he or she has received or earned, and in the order and manner on
the uniform that they choose to do so.
In order to provide some form of uniformity, the BSA's Uniform and Insignia Committee came up many years
back with a wearing arrangement for the knot emblems on the field uniform. It is based upon the wearing of
military ribbons on military uniforms -- three on a row, with additional ribbons centeerd on top of the full rows
of three. It is illustrated below:
illustration of how to wear square knot insignia
Knot emblems are worn centered on the left side of the uniform, above the left
pocket and in rows of three with the bottom edge of the knot emblem(s) touching
the top edge of the pocket flap. Subsequent rows of knots are placed above the
initial set, in rows of three and again, at the discretion of the wearer.
Another Scouter wrote me and suggested an alternative way of wearing the square
alternative way of displaying square knot insignia
(submitted by Neil Lupton)
In his case, the knot emblems are worn flush left as you see the left pocket
of the uniform, above the left pocket and in rows of three with the bottom edge
of the knot emblem(s) touching the top edge of the pocket flap. Subsequent rows
of knots are placed above the initial set, in rows of three and again, at the
discretion of the wearer as shown. He stated he does it this way so that he does
not have to rearrange the emblems as he receives or earns a subsequent award.
Either method may be used, although the first one was published as part of
the BSA's Insignia Control Guide in 1973.
In the past, professional (career) Scouters did NOT wear volunteer training
awards or other awards for anything other than achievement and training.
However, a message from then-Chief Scout Executive Ben Love to the
professional cadre in the early 90s reversed that "unwritten policy" and
encouraged professional members of Scouting to wear all of the square knots that
they are entitled to wear.
A longstanding restriction in allowing exceptional professionals to receive the Silver Beaver and District/Division
Award of Merit Awards as well as several other service awards was also lifted. See the
Service Awards knot page for more details.
Venturers wearing a "Distinctive Dress Identity" (DDI) should wear square knot
emblems only on the (kelly) green field uniform in the same manner.It will
look very funny to wear emblems with a tan background on the (kelly) green
uniform, but the BSA is no longer creating special versions of the most common
knot awards with green, blue or white backgrounds for the Venturer
uniforms. In response to this, some firms/organizations have cropped up to
provide unofficial versions of those knot emblems featuring white, dark blue, or
green backgrounds. While those emblems are NOT approved officially,
with permission from a local Council's Scout Executive they may be worn by those
Scouters and Venturers who qualify for wearing the existing tan backgrounded
Store carry some square knots on either white or black/dark blue
backgrounds, for wear on Sea Scout uniforms. Again, please note that those knots
are NOT official BSA square knots. Note that the knots may also be worn on
any other DDI that the Crew or Ship agree upon and as long as it is worn
correctly and neatly.
Mike Walton welcome your comments
and additions to this listing. Please send additions in *.JPG or *.GIF
format to him, and he will update the site with your information and credit you
or your local Council for the submission.
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