The Scout Uniform

Much attention has been paid recently to the role of the uniform in the Scout program. Scouts Canada's National Commissioner claims that the uniform is a barrier to young people joining Scouting and contributes to a public image that ``Scouting is irrelevant and old-fashioned'' (Elsworth 2001a). Elsworth encourages Scouters to reduce and perhaps eliminate the use of the uniform in their programs. Two new programs that Scouts Canada recently started to offer, ScoutsAbout and Extreme Adventure, do not use uniforms at all (Scouts Canada 2000c:18-19). I have noticed that, in some troops, Scouts are reluctant to wear their uniforms.

In the questionnaire, Scouters were asked ``What do you think of the use of the uniform in Scouting?'' and given five lines on which to write an answer. Despite such an open-ended question, answers fell into very few categories. Twenty-four respondents (out of the 30) indicated that they supported the use of the uniform. Most of these gave the reason that the uniform has a role in conferring identity or pride in Scouting (internal purpose), or that the uniform allows the Scouts to be recognised by others (external purpose). Eleven indicated that changes should be made to the uniform. (Seven had indicated both support and a desire for changes. One had no comment and one wrote a comment that fell into its own category.) While no one suggested changes, their criticisms fell into two related categories. First, about half felt that the uniform should be more stylish so that they would appeal to the Scouts. Second, Scouters stated that they feel that the uniform is not functional, in particular, not functional for outdoor activities (the word ``functional'' was itself used in almost every case).

In sum, having a uniform is strongly supported by the Scouters because of the functions it serves in the program. Some advocated changes, but none advocated getting rid of the uniform. The third of the Scouters that advocated changes advocated changes that would make the uniform more ``practical'' or a better fit with dominant culture.

Liam Morland