Barbershop Etiquette - Medals

Hi there! Kim, here. One of the things we’ve talked a bit about on the podcast is etiquette in the world of Sweet Adelines. I’m a HUGE fan of Emily Post, and own a copy of her Guide to Etiquette. It’s just fascinating to me that there are (mostly) unwritten rules about how we act in our fascinating world of barbershop singing. So I’d like to take a few blog posts to write some of these social norms down as best I understand them.

You may have different experiences in other regions or other countries, and we’d love to hear how it compares! Feel free to let us know.


It’s a wonderful experience to earn a medal at a regional and/or international contest. I was fortunate enough to receive a regional 4th place quartet medal in 2015, and was introduced to a whole set of dos and don’ts. Hopefully passing on the knowledge I’ve gained will help at least one person.

Remember, these observations are just that; not rules you must comply with, or a standard of SAI. These are simply what I have personally discovered over the last few years.

Medal appearances

This helpful table of international award colors comes from Wikipedia. The regional awards in most cases mirror these.

Ribbon Color Screen Shot.png

Other medals may vary depending on the region, such as most improved, Young Women in Harmony awards, audience choice, etc.

Wearing current year medals

You earned that medal. Wear it as often as you can!
Places to wear your medals during the current year:

  • Your own chorus rehearsal

  • Visiting other choruses

  • Other regional events in your region

  • Regional events in other regions

The weekend of the following year’s regional contest:

Thursday night briefing – wear it!
Friday morning quartet walkthrough – if you are competing, do not wear your quartet medal.
Friday during contest – if you are competing, do not wear your quartet medal. Feel free to wear your chorus medal.
Saturday after contest – wear it as a pin or on a chain, as your medal is no longer for the current year’s contest. New medals have been awarded.

Wearing previous years’ medals

I have yet to see an example of past regional medalists wearing their medals as pins or on chains. It’s difficult to tell why exactly it isn’t done.

International medals are the same as regional medals with regards to ribbons and wearing them as pins or on chains after the current medaling year. However, because an international medal is so prestigious, it seems more common for past international medalists to wear medals from any year to any Sweet Adelines International affiliated event.

Styling of medals

Medalist quartets may wish to wear their medals in a matching fashion. By default, the medals are on a ribbon at the longest setting. If a quartet wishes to wear them in a way that looks more fashionable with the neckline of a particular outfit, they may rearrange the medal on the ribbon, or shorten the ribbon to ensure the medal sits higher and uniformly on each member. There does not appear to be any restriction on how long or short one may wear the medal.

Modification of medals

Medalists may wish to have the back of the medal engraved either with a year, score, or quartet/chorus name.

Medalists may wish to set the medal in a medal holder, onto a necklace or bracelet, or other jewelry. There are Sweet Adelines affiliated vendors who provide medal holders that fit the specific size of regional and international quartet and chorus medals.