> updated 19/04/12
What's THAT about? "Womens' Reserve"? The short answer is that it's a holdover from the days in
which women could not serve as Scouters in Boy Scout or Varsity Scout unit but were still valued as
Scouters which could assist the unit.
There's also this page which can provide more background on the insignia.
Shoulder loops - those small pieces of looped broad ribbon - were introduced as part
of the BSA's khaki-tan uniforms designed by Oscar de Renta in 1973. The shoulder loops identify
youth and adult members of the BSA to each other by program area or level of service.
Youth and adults (both professionals and volunteers) wear a set of shoulder loops.
The original intent of the shoulder loops were to prevent Scouters from having to purchase
two or three shirts, with differing insignia on each shirt identifying their role and
scope. One shirt would be worn, for instance, by a Scoutmaster of a Troop who also
serves as a District or Council-level volunteer. By changing only the shoulder loops,
the Boy Scout leader (red shoulder loops) becomes a District/Council-level Scouter
(silver shoulder loops).
Official BSA shoulder loops
NOTE: As pages throughout this Guide will be updated over the summer, 2012, the red
shoulder loops displayed here will be replaced with the current, CORRECT shoulder loop
color which is OLIVE GREEN. The red shoulder loops are no longer valid to wear.
Later, as many volunteers served as Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Venturing, and as either
District/Council or Regional/National volunteers (or in roles in all of the above), the
BSA realized that this perhaps was not a good idea for people to be switching loops
to "fit the occasion." The BSA's National Uniform and Insignia Committee decided that
the shoulder loops would "match the REGISTERED (paid) position of the individual".
This idea went nowhere fast. The BSA eventually discarded the dictum and instead,
suggests now that the shoulder loops "should match the official position you hold within
the Movement and preferably the position in which dues have been paid and in which you
In 2004, the BSA officially changed the color scheme for Boy Scouts. Since 1964, the official
"color" for Boy Scouts was "Scouting Red", to contrast with the khaki-green uniforms of that
time. When the BSA adopted the khaki-tan field uniforms, the color remained. The current
"field color" of the Boy Scout division of the BSA is now "Olive Green" (some of you military
types would probably call it "OD" or "olive drab"). Various BSA manuals and booklets will
reflect the new color scheme starting in 2013; and as old stocks of red shoulder loops go
away from Scout Shops(tm) and local Council trading posts, the red shoulder loop will become
history. Scouts and Scouters wearing red shoulder loops should change them to the current
olive (dark) green shoulder loops for best uniforming.
In 2006, the BSA created special Jamboree shoulder loops for wear by USA participants and
staff members during the World Centennial Jamboree in England. Those shoulder loops were
designed for TEMPORARY WEAR six months prior to, during, and six months after the World
Jamboree and then to be replaced with loops reflecting the individuals "current status
in the Movement" with the old ones stored as keepsakes.
Official BSA National Jamboree shoulder loops
In 2009, the BSA did the same with regard to special shoulder loops for wear by participants
and staff members to the Centennial National Scout Jamboree at Fort AP Hill, Virginia.
Like with the World Jamboree shoulder loops, they were designed to be worn temporarily with
other Jamboree temporary insignia -- six months prior, during and six months after the
Centennial Jamboree is over. Afterward they too were to be stored as keepsakes and replaced
with shoulder loops representing the individual's "current status in the Movement".
There are three rules concerning the wearing of the shoulder loops (and two unofficial
but "common-sense" rules):
- Shoulder loops identify you to your peers, youth members and those outside the
program The colors correspond to the colors associated with those programs: Cub
Scouts and Cub Scouters wear dark blue, which corresponds to the traditional Cub Scout
uniform; Boy Scouts and Boy Scouters wear olive which is the new "identity" or
"field" color used to highlight the Boy Scouting program; former Explorers and now
ADULT VENTURERS ONLY wear the green shoulder loops with the tan or khaki-tan uniform
shirts (youth Venturers wear the kelly green uniform shirt with green shoulder loops)
which corresponds with the green uniform of those programs; Varsity Scouts and Scouters
wear blaze (orange) shoulder loops, which corresponds to their program colors of brown
By wearing the appropriate colored shoulder loops, youth and adults involved in an
activity or event can instantly "see" the "participants" of the program. All registered
adult members SHOULD wear the same program colored shoulder loops as the youth they are working
with, and while they are working within their UNIT PROGRAM AREA. In other words, a Scoutmaster
who is also a District Roundtable Staff member should ALWAYS WEAR OLIVE SHOULDER
LOOPS while serving as Scoutmaster.
- Grey and Yellow (Silver and Gold) shoulder loops identify BOTH volunteer AND
professional servants of youth to everyone around them. OFFICIALLY, it is UP TO THE COUNCIL
SCOUT EXECUTIVE as to whether or not youth members (those under 21) wear the silver shoulder
loops while serving as a paid member or as a youth representative of their Council.
A "paid member" is one serving on a summer camp or special event staff in which the Council
compensates the youth member either by money or special gifts (patch, plaque, commendation
certificate, etc.) and of a short duration only.
A "youth representative" is a person appointed by the Council's Executive Board or by
the Council Scout Executive to perform some sort of special function for the Council again
of a short duration. This includes Order of the Arrow or Venturing Cabinet Chiefs, Council
youth representative, or a youth member making a speech as part of a local Council activity
in support of the local Council.
In BOTH cases, at the conclusion of their service, they MUST remove the silver shoulder
loops and replace them with the proper shoulder loop representing their current status in
The Boy Scouts of America's National Uniform and Insignia Committee established two categories
of youth members whom may wear the gold shoulder loops and provided the guidance to local
Councils for the wearing of the silver shoulder loops by youth members described above. Gold
shoulder loops may be worn by youth members (those under 21) while serving as a paid member
of the Boy Scouts of America or as a national youth representative.
A "paid member" is one serving on a World or National Jamboree staff, working as part of the staff at any of the BSA's National Outdoor ("High Adventure") Bases (Philmont, Summit, Northern
Tier, Sea Base), working as an employee of a Scout Shop(tm), or as part of a BSA National or Regional meeting in which the BSA compensates the individual by money or special gifts (patch, plaque, commendation certificate, etc.) and of a short duration.
A "National youth representative" has been defined as "the national Chief of the Order of
the Arrow, the national Venturing President, and other youth who represent the youth membership
of the Boy Scouts of America to the National Executive Board, the National Staff, or to their Region."
In BOTH cases, at the conclusion of their services (up to six months after the conclusion of
National and World Jamborees), the gold shoulder loops are removed and replaced by the proper
shoulder loop representing their current status in the program.
One question which gets bantered about on the Arrow-L program discussion group is "Do youth members
and adult members serving as Sectional Chiefs and Advisors wear gold or silver shoulder loops?"
(A Section is a purely Order of the Arrow term. It defines two or more local Councils whom are
within the same geographic area and is a subgroup of a Region. An Regional Area, for instance
may have two or more Sections within it. The idea of the Sectional concept is to provide an
relational grouping between two or more neighboring OA Lodges within the same Regional Area.
They are defined as "Section SR2B" for instance (the SR defines the region, in this example
the Southern Region; the 2 defines the Regional Area (Area Two) and the B defines the number of
the section (in this case, B being the second letter, defines the second Section within Area 2,
Southern Region). Some Regional Areas do not have sections, and are defined as Section SR4 (taking
in all of the Southern Region's Area Four).
The BSA's National Order of the Arrow Committee and the Uniform and Insignia Committee has left
the matter of Sectional Chief and Advisors wearing the gold shoulder loops to each of the BSA's
four Regions to decide. Two regions allow the wearing of the gold shoulder loops by Sectional
leaders; two regions do not. The justification for the two Regions not allowing the shoulder
loops to be worn is because the Section is not an "official" BSA defined division - the Regional
Area and the Region itself are -- and only relates to the Order of the Arrow, which is an optional
- Shoulder loops are worn IMMEDIATELY UPON BECOMING A REGISTERED MEMBER. In the first
days of the shoulder loops, Boy Scout Scoutmasters would withhold them from their newest Scouts
until some sort of ceremony introducing them to the Troop. The BSA has asked through local Councils
to discourage Scoutmasters from doing this. This is borderline hazing. Second, the joining requirements for new Scouts are clearly identified by the wearing of the BOY SCOUT Badge.
The two "common-sense" rules are:
- Units, Districts nor local Councils can NOT "create their own" loop
colors for ANY reason. There is no reason to do so...some Districts
thought it would be 'cool' to create special colored shoulder loops to
identify their staff members by. Instead of special shoulder loops,
special neckerchiefs or hats would be a better utilization. As far as units
are concerned, this is the reasoning behind special "unit staff insignia"
such as the badges of office and the Den Chief shoulder cords.
- Shoulder loops ARE A PART OF THE CURRENT UNIFORM All members of the BSA
must wear one set of shoulder loops with the current uniforms. Basically, if a shirt has a set
of shoulder "tabs" or epulets, a pair of shoulder loops should be worn with that shirt.
Scouts and Scouters wearing older uniform shirts which did not come pre-made with epulets
(for instance the older yellow blouse, the green Exploring field uniform and the older
Sea Exploring tunic as as well the older khaki-green leaders' shirts) do NOT need to create a
epulet and wear shoulder loops as part of those uniforms.
The shoulder loops make our plain uniforms stand out but there is a "rhyme and reason" for their usage--and the colors!
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