By COMMODORE W E. LONGFELLOW
(AMERICAN RED CROSS
LIFE SAVING SERVICE, VETERAN SCOUT, MEMBER OF NATIONAL SEA SCOUT COMMITTEE AND NATIONAL
At Santa Barbara following the earthquake and in Illinois and Indiana
during the tornado disaster, the Scout's neckerchief was a passport to any Scout through
the police and hospital lines. The Scout Uniform in those stricken
areas was the badge of a boy on an errand of courageous service.
James E. West, 1927
ITHIN the past five years
the woodland tan of the Scout Uniform has been brightened by the addition of the colorful
Scout kerchief, which is now regarded as an indispensable article of equipment for every
member of the Boy Scouts of America. It is more than a part of the Scout Uniform; it is
actually one of the most useful items of a Scout's equipment.
More than sixty distinct uses have been developed for this characteristic and
distinctive touch of color which has completed the outfit of the Boy Scout in America and
made him one of the most picturesque figures in our national life.
After all, the Scout of today is the legitimate heir to this bright and distinctive
neckerchief which was worn by the scouts of old. The buckskin scout was obliged to dress
in sober hues that would blend with the leafy coloring of the woods, the dead leaves and
the earth itself. He could not afford several suits of clothes, and a new suit of buckskin
was a great event in his life--not because of the difficulty in killing deer for the
purpose, because that was comparatively easy, but for the trouble it was to make up a
suit. Tailor shops were not common in the wilderness of those days, neither were there
skilled craftsmen with the needle who could work the buckskin into a serviceable garment,
so one suit of clothes had to do a long time.
Whatever his love of bright color, the woods-running scout was a hunter of animals, or
birds, or men, who was in turn hunted by his enemies, and so was obliged to forego this
color while in the forest. The less conspicuous his garb, the better bag of game and the
safer his hair rested upon his head. But when he came to a settlement, seeking relaxation,
there was no need for restraint in the matter of color, and so, by means of a crimson
scarf to tie his long hair, or a purple or blue sash, he was able to satisfy this yearning
for bright things.
On those occasions when a woods runner was visiting a settlement wearing his bright
scarf, it was quite clear that he was resting from the trail and seeking relaxation; he
was wearing his best and was on parade, willing to be reviewed by the finest people in
town. On the trail, his scarf or kerchief took up but little room in his meager bag;
moreover, in case of a wound it had great possibilities. The Scout of today is heir to the
many worthwhile things of that earlier forest runner who could shift for himself under the
most difficult circumstances.
In later days, when it became necessary to settle the great plains and blaze the trails
for the railroad, the telegraph and the broad highroads of today, a sturdy breed of plains
scouts came into existence to guide and guard the workers and hunt and trap for them to
provide food. These plains scouts rode horseback, and as their ponies kicked up the sand
and dust, some of it filled with alkali, it made breathing difficult, so that in defense
they wore around their necks a broad kerchief. Whatever the color of their work-a-day
kerchiefs, and however drab they might be if Indian wars were under way, even the poorest
of them could carry a bright red, blue, green or yellow scarf for dress up occasions. So
from this scout too today we inherit the bright neckerchief.
In those days these neckerchiefs were worn with the broad point to the front and were
loosely knotted behind the head; thus it was possible, in case the dust became very bad,
to tighten it over the mouth and nose and use it as a filter against the dust and as a
protection against the blinding sand storms which sometimes bothered travelers on the wide
expanses of the great western basins.
To be sure, many of the lawless bandits that infested the plains in those perilous
times used the neckerchief as a facial disguise, and it proved effective because most men
looked alike as to their outer garments, with wide felt hats, flannel shirts and overalls
or "chaps" of the plains rider.
So the Scout of today uses his neckerchief soaked in water to filter the fire from
heat-laden air and to cool smoke when entering a burning building as he crawls along the
floor in the only strata of fresh air left. The Scout of today knows that it is not a gas
mask, but merely a smoke screen and filter.
The Man O'Warsmen of old originally wore the neckerchief as a mourning badge after the
death of Lord Nelson. This British Naval hero was revered on both sides of the water, and
by the time the American Navy was separated from the British Navy and in conflict with it,
it was natural enough to continue. to use this folded square of black silk as a part of
the sea-going uniform of the mariner fighting under orders of the Continental Congress.
Made as it is of tough silk of very light weight, this kerchief has been found to be of
great value as a first aid appliance to stop hemorrhage, sling a fractured arm or bind up
a broken head. And so its continued use in the modern Naval uniform has the sup port of
both tradition and custom, and of the medical authorities who see in it a first aid
appliance of the very highest efficiency and greatest utility.
In view of these facts, it is clearly no exaggeration to say that the neckerchief is
one of the most characteristic and distinctive parts of the uniform of a Scout. It
identifies the district to which he belongs; by the knot in the end it reminds him of his
Daily Good Turn; it reminds him that he is a Scout with traditions to sustain, and every
time he adjusts it on his neck he is challenged to devise more and better uses for it.
Up to about 1915 the neckerchief was not generally recognized as a necessary part of
the Scout equipment, and a number of Scout enthusiasts were asked for ideas on possible
uses of the neckerchief. I was already much in favor of it and could think of as many as
eighteen Scout uses for it at that time. This appeared to be about twelve more than
anybody else could think of, so I was selected to write an article on the neckerchief, and
by the time I completed it I developed some twenty-eight uses. These soon grew to thirty,
and now we have more than sixty uses to recommend to Scouts the world over. Whole Scout
demonstrations can be given with the help of the neckerchiefs worn by members of the
Troop, but after all, the best demonstration is the actual utility, and we will endeavor
to confine our description to the actual rather than the theoretical uses of the
Here is the proper way for a Scout to fold and wear his neckerchief.
Method of folding the Scout Neckerchief,
the number of cross-folds--if any--
by the size of the Scout, in order to assure
smooth set at back. The
when used, takes same cross folds.
First, fold the neckerchief once to get the triangle. According to the size
of the boy, turn the long edge over about three inches, smoothly once or, twice,
or even three times, to insure the neckerchief lying smoothly at the back and
hanging correctly in front.
The correct form in wearing
the Scout Neckerchief, with
Turk's head slip-on and
Good Turn knot at bottom.
Place around the neck over the collar of the shirt, insert the slide
up over the ends to the point where the knot would be if tied as a four-in-hand
necktie. Then tie the two loose ends in an overhand knot, as if it were one
piece of material. This lower knot is a constant reminder of the Daily Good
Turn. The illustration clearly shows the finished effect.
The advantages of the slide are that in hot weather and, on the hike the
neckerchief can be loosened around the throat, while in a cold wind or snowstorm
it can be drawn closer to serve as a muffler. When necessary to use the neckerchief,
in emergencies, the slide can be instantly drawn down, permitting the neckerchief
to be whipped off over the head.
When the slide is not used a knot must be tied, and it is seldom tied twice
alike. nor at the same position at the 'throat, a very untidy appearance
resulting. The slide is an immense convenience and adds distinctly to the
appearance of the neckerchief.
It will be noted that the Sea Scout method of wearing the neckerchief differs
from the method used in shore Scouting. The sea going Scout will prepare his
kerchief as do the sailors in the Navy, finishing with a flat knot on the tails.
This type of neckerchief does not look well unless covered by a wide collar;
consequently it is not used with the khaki uniform but only with the sailor
In connection with the preparation of your own Turk's head knot for a home
made slip on, the Sea Scout Manual gives a description of the way to make a
Turk's head, as follows:
Take two round turns around the rope on which you intend working the knot, or
around the index finger of your left hand. Pass the upper bight down through the
lower, and reeve the upper end down through it; then pass the bight up again,
and reeve the end over the lower bight and up between it and the upper one; dip
the upper down through the lower bight again, reeve the end down over what is
now the upper bight, and between it and the lower; and so proceed, working round
to your right until you meet the other end, when you pass through the same bight, and
follow the other
end round and round until you have completed a plait of two, three or more lays, along the
three strands of the Turk's head.
James E. West, Chief Scout Executive, says "We are anxious to have
the co-operation of every Scout and Scout Official in making effective the
regulations covering the Official Uniform, Insignia and Badges. To tolerate a
disregard for requirements, even in simple matters, breeds disrespect for
law and order.
"When I have found boys wearing the neckerchief, under instead of over the
shirt collar, it developed that invariably the Scouts, and indeed their own Scoutmaster,
did not understand the correct way of wearing the neckerchief. I am anxious that every Scout and Scout Official
study the diagram,
wear the neckerchief in the right way, and that he invite the attention of
other fellows to the right way, when he finds them wearing it wrong."
The color of the neckerchief indicates the Troop, District or Council,
according to the local regulations. Scout neckerchiefs should always be worn
with a contrasting slide which in appearance resembles the Turk's head knot
and serves as a reminder of the Scout's Daily Good Turn pledge.
Neckerchief and Slide.
The main reason
that this slide is used rather than a knot is that it permits the neckerchief's
instant removal if needed in an emergency. Slides, are furnished by Headquarters
in variety of colors, and when once adopted each Troop should stick to the color and have it, worn by all members. There, are many varieties of slides,
however, and characteristic slides are often used such as the Kukui nut in
Hawaii, and the Horn slide or sheep vertebra slide of the western plains.
Slip-ons made from wood or bone.
Practically all of the uses of the neckerchief are because of its triangular
form, so that a triangular bandage can be used for practice, thus saving the
official color kerchief so that it makes a good appearance on the uniform.
It should be borne in mind, however, that the Official Neckerchief is slightly
smaller in size than the regulation triangular bandage which is made by
splitting a yard of square piece of cloth, crosswise.
In order to be sure that the rehearsed uses of the neckerchief are applicable
to the regulation scarf, it might be well to make a duplicate of the regulation
scarf in white cotton cloth of the exact Scout dimensions, 32 x 32 inches, and use it
for all, practice purposes.