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> updated 21/3/14 to add illustration on merit badge placement
> updated 14/3/13

Merit badge sash

There are several Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who have earned ALL of the BSA's merit badges available; there is currently no additional recognition for such efforts. The idea is NOT to earn all of the merit badges but to capture the experiences of working alongside men and women (merit badge counsellors) in learning about a skill, hobby or vocation. There are several grass-roots efforts toward creating a recognition for those Scouts; there ALREADY IS: it is called the Eagle Scout Palm.


Boy/Varsity Scout Uniform Sashes Merit Badge

Merit Badge Sash

One of the oldest parts of the Boy Scout uniform, the merit badge sash is the place to display merit badges AND more recently activity or special event patches and insignia.

The merit badge sash is worn FORMALLY ONLY by the Boy Scout and Varsity Scout. Male Venturers and Sea Scouts have an option to wear the sash; female Venturers and Sea Scouts may NOT wear the sash since technically, they cannot earn merit badges (more on that down further on this page).

On this page are answers to the commonly asked questions dealing with merit badge sashes, who wears them, when, and why/why not.

"Can I wear any merit badges on my Scout shirt?"

Up to SIX merit badges may be worn on the right long- or short-sleeved Scout shirt by Scouts who chooses to do so. If worn on the long-sleeved shirt, the merit badges are worn six inches above the cuff in rows of two. If worn on the short-sleeved shirt, the merit badges are worn immediately above the edge of the shirt cuff in three rows (because of the size of the sleeve). When a Scout earns the seventh merit badge, ALL merit badges are removed from the shirt and are placed onto the merit badge sash.

"If I only have one or two merit badges, must I or can I wear them on a merit badge sash? An adult in my unit says that I have to wear a merit badge sash even if I earned one merit badge."

You can choose to wear those one or two merit badges as stated above, on your uniform shirt; or you may choose to wear those merit badges on a merit badge sash. It is YOUR CALL as to which manner you wish to display your first few merit badges. Remember however, that once you have earned the 7th merit badge, ALL of the merit badges are to be moved and worn only on a merit badge sash.

What IS a Merit Badge Sash?

A merit badge sash is a piece of olive drab cloth (matches the color of the standard uniform pants). Former Explorers and current Venturers wear a piece of kelly green cloth (which used to match the uniform pants and now just matches the shirt). The merit badge sash is designed for PERMANENT display of the merit badges earned by a Scout.

The sash is worn suspended from the RIGHT shoulder and downward at a slant as illustrated below:

Wearing the Merit Badge Sash with 
the uniform shirt

Wearing the merit badge sash

The merit badge sash is worn during formal activities and events, and not during Troop meetings or campouts. A "Formal activity" is an awards ceremony, a Blue and Gold banquet, a Troop Court of Honor or Team Awards ceremony, a recognition dinner staged by a unit, District, Council or Region, and special activities which lends itself to wearing the merit badge sash. Serving as an escort for a special guest during a dinner is a good example; serving as an usher is not. Serving as a accolade may be. The key is that the sash physically gets in the way of doing anything except looking good...therefore, it should only be worn during those times in which your role is purely "one in which you're looking good" and not doing a lot of physical exertion. Flag details and color guards are NOT "special occasions" since the sash tends to fall or slip off at the most inappropriate times. This is also why the merit badge sash is NOT worn during summer camps, regular Troop or Team meetings or any other time other than FORMAL SPECIAL OCCASIONS.

Only one sash may be worn at any time.

What Goes and Doesn't Go on a Sash?

Merit Badges goes on the sash. There are more than 100 merit badges issued by the Boy Scouts of America at any given time, and no more than 130 of them. Very few Scouts earn more than 50 merit badges and those who do earn more than fifty normally do not earn all 100 or so of them before they turn 18 years of age. There are plenty of exceptions, and I personally know of several Eagle Scouts whom have earned all of the merit badges available to them at the time of their registration as Scouts.

Merit badges are one-inch diameter badges illustrating a skill, hobby, vocation or occupation. More information on merit badges, including areas in which they are to be earned in as well as full color scans or illustrations of them can be found at meritbadge.com

Merit badges may be worn in any order that the Scout chooses, and not necessarily in alphabetical nor "required-non required" order. Most Scouts choose to wear merit badges in the order in which they have earned them.

Merit badges ONLY are worn on the FRONT of the sash. On the back of the sash, additional merit badges may be sewn as well as temporary insignia may be sewn. "Temporary insignia" is defined by the BSA as special insignia for participating in unit, District, Council or national events or programs. Previous rank, service stars and pins are NOT to be worn on the sash. The 50-Miler, large camp patches, Historic Trails Award, aquatic emblems (like Mile Swim or Boardsailing emblems) and other "equipment decoration insignia" do NOT go onto a merit badge sash -- there are separate places for those items.

John Ross wrote and reminded me of an important item:
The Varsity Letter and Gold Bar Pins may also be worn on the front of the Merit Badge Sash (not the back).
And he is absolutely correct!! Thank you very much! Varsity Scouts who earn their Varsity Letter may wear at their option the Varsity letter on the bottom edge of the merit badge sash; or as shown on a jacket as shown on the Varsity program page.

Merit badges on the sash

And now...a Word About the Gals and Merit Badges

The merit badge program is primarily a Boy Scout program feature. Boy and Varsity Scouts as well as male Venturers and Sea Scouts use the merit badge program in order to advance using the standard Boy Scout advancement program. Additionally, special awards such as the William T. Hornaday and Scout Lifeguard require some merit badge work if not complete merit badges to be earned.

The BSA allow female members of Venturing and Sea Scouting units to complete requirements toward merit badges and to certify their completion as part of their completion or earning of the Hornaday, Lifeguard BSA or other special awards. However, female youth members of Venturing or Sea Scouting units may NOT wear merit badge sashes nor wear merit badges on the official uniforms.

Several former Exploring Advisors/Skippers like myself have awarded merit badges to female members of their units. We documented the merit badge completion and instead of turning the (blue) merit badge application card into the local Council office for recordposting as we would do for male youth, we retained the cards and photocopied them as attachments to Exploring Achievement Award and other award applications.

Now that Venturing has taken the place of Exploring, many Skippers and Advisors of Venturing units with female members willing to earn the merit badges needed to earn the Bronze or Silver Hornaday Medal or other awards are doing the same things that myself and other Advisors and Skippers have done before. This IS NOT RECOMMENDED BY THE BSA; the BSA's stance is still that female youth members CAN NOT EARN BOY SCOUT ADVANCEMENT (to include merit badges).

For this reason, females may not wear merit badge sashes of any kind with the official BSA uniforms (including the kelly green Venturing uniform nor the white or blue Sea Scout uniforms.)

How far down from the "top" should the merit badges be sewn?

Take a look at the below graphic; there should be a half inch space from the top edge of the merit badge sash to the top of the first row of merit badges, whether you are sewing them on the front or back of the sash.

Merit badge placement on the sash

How Many Merit Badges Are Worn in a Row?

On the wide sash, three merit badges should be worn in a row as shown here;

Merit badges arranged
on a wide (default) sash

on the narrow sash, two merit badges should be worn in a row as shown.

Narrow merit 
badge sash


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Credits: Scans courtesy of Mike Walton

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