Jackets and Jac-Shirts
The following discussions are all about the traditional red "jac-shirt". Also
shown here are examples of the red jac-shirt. At the bottom of this page are links
to the other types of jackets the BSA has developed over the years.
The other pages will show how for BEST uniforming, various pieces of insignia are to be
placed on those other jackets.
Basically, for BEST uniforming, the location and types of insignia shown for the red
jac-shirt also apply to the blue, green and "Pedro" ("Scouting tartan") jac-shirts.
However, the jac-shirts are YOURS; you may place any insignia upon it in any manner
you choose to. While you might get stares, the "Patch Police" will have to pass you
by and find someone else to pester.
Chris Gagliano wrote and asked
first "What in the world are we talking about??"
red jac-shirt (notice the BSA oval on the left pocket)
Randy Woo (Randy Worchester) provided some
information about the history of this special garment:
According to several of the Philmont histories, the jac-shirt began with Dr.
E. K. Fretwell, the Chief Scout Executive in Philmont's early days. In 1944, he
brought up the idea of an outdoorsman shirt. He later sent a red shirt to
Minor Huffman, Philmont's first General Manager. Fretwell had Huffman trace
the bull in the tile at one of the entrances to Philmont for a patch for the
red shirt. The first few shirts were made by J.A. Brewster of Camden, Maine.
In August, 1946, Fretwell gave each of the regional executives a red shirt
with the bull on it.
The BSA partnered with Woolrich to develop
several jackets, starting in 1949. The first jackets were green wool jackets
designed primarily for the professional cadre to wear. It was called the "Scout
Executive's Jacket" for several years. In 1952, Woolrich designed a jacket for
Boy Scout professionals and volunteers to wear in green. Fearing complaints from
the people behind The Masters® golf tournament, and because the BSA was moving
toward a new "color scheme" to identify itself through, the BSA asked Woolrich to
develop a unique jacket for it's Scouts and Scouters attending Philmont Scout
Ranch and Explorer Base in the middle 50s. The red jac-shirt ("not quite a jacket,
more than a shirt!") was developed, fielded, and everyone loved it from day one.
The older versions -- and you can tell by feel -- are 100 percent wool. The new
ones (developed in the late 60s) are wool and polyester blended (I think a 70-30
split...it is NOT 100 percent wool!!) and still there were one version made in
the middle 70s which was 100 percent wool and Scotchgarded (tm), which gave it a
different feel too.
In 1972 (pay attention fellow collectors of Scouting items!! I'm looking for ONE
OF THESE IN A LARGE OR EXTRA LARGE SIZE PLEASE!!), the BSA created a blue version
of the jac-shirt originally for Exploring leaders. It was spun out at the 1973
National Explorer Presidents' Congress (NEPC) along with a eight-inch NEPC back
patch. The BSA was hoping that with the success of the red jac-shirt by the Order
of the Arrow members (and now by National Eagle Scout Association members, both
organizations "made" the red jac-shirt "theirs" for wear by their memberships),
the blue one would do the same for the Exploring's youth.
Backside of the jac-shirt. The Order of the Arrow (OA), the National Eagle
Scout Association (NESA) and the BSA's Jamboree Service have all "pinned" the
jac-shirt as their "official" outer garment wear. The large Jamboree/BSA contingent
emblem or the large NESA, OA or International Activities emblem (only ONE) is
placed centered as shown in this case.
It failed. Explorers were not interested in wearing anything which "looked like
Scouting" and this jacket was just dipped in blue dyes and the buttons were
changed from red to blue. They didn't even bother changing the tag to add the
Exploring "Big E".
In 1975 and 76, the BSA tried to sell the jac-shirt to Cub Scouters, because it
was the same color as the Cub Scout Blue uniforms. No dice. By this time, ALL
Scouters wanted to wear the same "red jackets" made famous by those participating
in Jamborees, in the OA or as NESA members.
So, in 1976, the BSA said "no more blue jac-shirts!" and people like Mike Walton
(who had the $40 back then to buy one but they ran out!) was out of luck (unless
he or she runs across one in their size on eBay)!
The jac-shirt is a durable thing....not very practical in the field -- I would
have liked the BSA to develop one with reflective cuffs or
a bottom edge so that Scouts and Scouters can be better seen in the dark in the
woods....but hey, I don't develop the stuff..I just pester my wife enough to have
her to break down and allow me to get it! *laughter*
It HAS proven it's value at Philmont and during national and world Jamborees,
which is why the BSA has kept it with the same design as originally designed
back in the 50s.
Josie Petermeier wrote and asked:
My question is: What is the reason/logic why no patches go on the red jacket
except the Philmont bull?
Tradition. That's the only reason.
You can put any patch anywhere on the jac-shirt. While the BSA has some rules
about what should be placed where, the jac-shirt is yours and you can place any
patch anywhere you want to.
Before 1972, the BSA didn't really care what you did with your jac-shirt.
They still don't really care, but they did provide some guidelines as to what should
go on the jac-shirt and where
That was the way it was before 1972, when Scouters wore the jac-shirt. Not
everyone had the red (or blue) jac-shirt. It was so expensive (the price hasn't
moved since 1984 and before that, it was only $50...a lot of money back then when
a complete Scout uniform went for $12), that it was considered a "high prestige
item". And the tradition started from there. You filled that bad boy up with
patches because it was yours and you paid the high price for it...you were going
to use it!
My Cubmaster says that when he was in boy scouts that they put all their
patches on there. Like the cubs do their brag vest, hence the red felt Vest. I
have seen red shirt Jacs on e-bay that had a lot of old patches on too.
Yep. That all changed in 1972. In that year, after complaints from Scouters and
others about "those people wearing just about anything on the shirt" (they
considered it a shirt, not a jacket back then), the BSA placed down some rules.
But when I was at wood badge and other gatherings of scouters, Webelos Leader
Outdoor training, No one was wearing any patches, except a couple guys had a big
OA patch on the back...
Yep. Tradition. Nothing more.
There are five kinds of patches that "officially" can go on the jac-shirt:
On the backside should be ONE large six to eight-inch patch. It could be
the OA patch (there are three official versions), or it could be one of several other kinds of
- National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) emblem
- National Camping School emblem
- National or local Council Leadership Development emblem
- National Explorer Presidents' Congress emblem
- Council Summer Camp back patch emblem
- Council backpatch (some local Councils have a logo)
- National Outdoor ("High") Adventure Base jacket emblem
- Scoutmaster/Advisor Award of Merit emblem
- National or World Jamboree official jacket emblem
- BSA Contingent to World Jamboree official jacket emblem
- BSA International Activities jacket emblem
- Jacket version of the World Crest emblem
- Jacket version of Philmont "Arrowhead" emblem
- Jacket version of Cub Scout or Boy Scout rank emblems
- Jacket version of Cub Scout or Boy Scout badge of office emblems
- Jacket version of Save Our American Resources (SOAR) emblem
- Order of the Arrow national emblem (either of three versions)
- Order of the Arrow Lodge (backpatch) emblem
- BSA 85th Anniversary large Chenille emblem
- BSA 100th Anniversary large Chenille emblem
- BSA Supply Division "Scout Stuff" emblem
- Order of the Arrow Centennial Conference emblem
Nothing else should be worn on the backside of the jac-shirt.
On the front right pocket can go ONE of any leadership development
patches (the old Leadership Corps patch, the Crest of Leadership (shown above left), Philmont or Schiff Training
Centers) or a pocket patch from a Council's leadership development course
or the BSA's National Junior Leadership Development program at Philmont Scout
On the left front pocket can go EITHER the BSA's universal emblem in an oval,
the old Exploring emblem, the current Venturing/BSA emblem, or the Cub Scout emblem.
Most Scouts and Scouters wear the "universal oval" patch.
Shown is Philmont Bull emblem (tail indicates whether or not went over
Old Baldy on the Philmont reservation)
Shown is the front of a jac-shirt showing the generic oval, indicating program
Over the left shoulder goes one of the felt patches representing attendance at
one of the BSA's National Outdoor ("High") Adventure bases. There's a canoe oar
(Northern Tier or the old Region Six Canoe Base), the Philmont bull, the Maine
loon, the Sea Base porpoise, and I don't remember what Land Between the Lakes
Gateway used. One of them is worn at a time.
And over the left pocket the National Explorer Presidents' Congress or
National Venturing Conference patch with or without the National Cabinet "rocker"
(segment) can be worn if the person hasn't been to a national high adventure base.
But the Supply Division will be the first to tell you that you've bought the
jac-shirt, you can place anything you want on it anywhere you want to place it.
Rik Bergethon wrote and asked:
Somewhere in this discussion, somebody referred to the red, wool
shirt-jac, made by the Woolrich Company, as "official." I always
thought it was "optional" wear, and therefore the uniform laws did not
apply. Thanks to Mike Walton, I do indeed have the correct patches in
the right spot.
*blushing* Thanks, Ric!
As I understand it from the old timers/uniform police in our
council, the red shirt-jac was "adopted" by the OA as part of their
uniform. Thus the big OA patch on the back. Am I wrong here?
The "old-timers" are right...but then, the National Eagle Scout Association
(NESA) and the BSA's Jamboree Service has "adopted" the red shirt-jac (or
"jac-shirt") as their "official jacket" and as part of the official uniforming
of those groups.
As such, the large version (not necessarily the "six-inch version") of the
Jamboree patch or the BSA contingent patch emblem or the large eight-inch National
Eagle Scout Association patch ("proper uniforming" only provides for ONE such
large emblem -- not two, three or "as many as I can sew onto the backside of my
jac-shirt") to be worn at a time.
Also...as I'm beginning to *appreciate*, the same rules apply to the lighter-weight
poplin or cotton red jackets.
Backside of my lighter-weight cotton red jacket
I am looking for a nylon blue jacket (large, please!) with the zipper over the left breast to wear as well. We called them the "Explorer Action jackets" back then.
In 2010, the BSA introduced an olive green jac-shirt which I am sure was not made by Woolrich™ -- this is a different design than the previous jac-shirts and little thicker. Some of the people associated with the military may recognize this version, as it looks very similar to a jac-shirt which was manufactured (under government contract by Woolrich™ ) for Soldiers in cold weather climates like Korea in the winter.
Also unlike the current jac-shirts, a large version of the BSA's copyrighted logo appears on the left pocket in black.
Several Scouters asked me "why olive and not red?" The BSA says that the olive jac-shirt better matches the "Centennial" (current) field uniform and pants better than the older red; and that eventually most outdoor items associated with the BSA will be using the olive color instead of the red.
(It did not last long, as most Scouts and Scouters prefer the red color; so the BSA contracted for a red version of this overseas-made jacshirt.)
Here's links to other pages which illustrate the other types of Scouting jackets:
In wool or wool-blends:
In cotton or cotton-blends:
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Credits: Scans courtesy of Mike Walton
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