A  Scout Scarf or otherwise known as a Necker is made from triangular piece of cloth. The long edge is rolled towards the point, leaving a portion unrolled. The Scarf is then secured at the  two ends either woggle or tied using a Friendship knot. So, Why do Scouts wear Scarfs?

Bear Grylls Scout Scarf

Photograph by Sam Longhurt Photography

The origin of the Scouting Scarf/ neckerchief seems to be in Robert Baden-Powell’s participation in the Second Matabele War in 1896; where he worked with Frederick Russell Burnham, an American-born scout employed by the British Army.

BP copied Frederick’s practical style of dress, including “a grey-coloured handkerchief, loosely tied around the neck to prevent sunburn”. When Baden-Powell launched the Scout Movement with the book Scouting for Boys in 1908, he prescribed a neckerchief or scarf as part of the Scout uniform, which he stated was very like the uniform worn by my men when I commanded the South African Constabulary”. He continued; Every Troop has its own scarf colour, since the honour of your Troop is bound up in the scarf, you must be very careful to keep it tidy and clean.

Initially, Scout neckerchiefs were tied with a variety of knots, but the use of a “woggle” or slide, originated in the United States in the early 1920s and quickly spread around the Scouting world.

Each Scout group would have a neckerchief of different design and colours. In most countries each Scout Troop uses its own colour Scarf. The colours are usually the “Troop Colours” which may have a historical significance to the troop or to the local community.

Baden-Powell designed the Neckerchief to protect the neck from sunburn, but even more important than this intended function was B-P’s eye as an artist.  Around the world, a full-sized Neckerchief is the most striking aspect of the Scout Uniform!  The size of a Traditional Boy Scout Neckerchief is a square 32″ X 32,” and it is worn over the collar.

Photography by Sam Longhurst Photography

This came across the pond in America…

The Neckerchief as a reminder of the Scout Oath and Law (from uscouts.orgMy first Scoutmaster taught the importance of the Scout Oath and Law using the Neckerchief. He would hold the open neckerchief in his hands and remind the young scouts of what the last item of clothing they put on when they were getting dressed for the meeting was, his neckerchief.

The  Scoutmaster then said that it was no coincidence that the neckerchief had 3 sides, just like the three parts of the Scout oath. He would run a side through his fingers and say “On my honour, I’ll do my best. To do my duty to God” The first and longest side is to remind you of your long-standing duty to God. This whole side is hidden from view, just as your faith is deep inside you. But without that faith, there is no strength for the rest. 

Holding on to the neckerchief by the point he would run the next side through his fingers and say, “To help other people at all times….” This shorter side is to remind you of your duty to help others. Remember it is some of this duty that shows to others, just like part of this side of your neckerchief shows. So do your duty to others well so that people might see the good work you do in the name of Scouting.

The last side also shows. He would say “To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” This last side is your duty to yourself. This shows to others as well. They will know that by seeing your uniform, you are a young man who is physically fit. Has a strong moral foundation and who is not apt to fall into the temptations of drugs and alcohol. He would then say that this was a means by which we could remember the Scout Oath, every time we got dressed in uniform.

Of course we call it the scout promise now, and we have different versions for inclusivity for differnt cultures, but maybe you can share with your young person so that they may use it to help them remember the promise they made at investure. 

Well there you go, the reason why us Scouts all wear Scarfs.

Adapted from Big man in the woods