What's the history and origin of graduates wearing caps and gowns?

It has been an age-old tradition of graduates to wear graduation caps and gowns. In a way, the cap and gown symbolizes how special the day is in that only those who have toiled and persevered are given the right to wear them.

As graduates walk down the aisle to their respective seats, the cap and gown adds to the feeling of pride that finally one chapter of their life has been successfully completed and that they can now advance to the next stage-thus, the term commencement, which means beginning rather than the end are what many people attribute the graduation ceremony to.

However, do you know how the wearing of the symbolic cap and gown started? The gown, which is technically called an academic dress, was first worn for tertiary education and later on, secondary education. The tradition of wearing an academic dress to graduation started rather as a necessity rather than as official wear to the rite of passage.

The custom started during the 12th century when early universities were still beginning to be formed in Europe. These universities were tasked to validate degrees as well as list the names of scholars who were officially enrolled, and they were to record the progress of students to the next degree.

At that time, no sufficient heating system was provided in such universities, and as such, students were forced to improvise to keep warm.

The scholars, who were usually aspiring clerics or already clerics, started the practice of wearing a long robe with a hood for heat. Later that century, gowns were made the official dress of academics to prevent excessive apparel.

On the other hand, the square academic cap also called a mortarboard-because of its resemblance in shape to the device utilized by masons to hold mortar-was reputed to have originated from a biretta worn by scholarly clergies, which was used to signify their superiority and intelligence. These hats became popular in the 14th and 15th centuries and were only worn by artists, humanists, students, and all those learned. They usually came in the color red signifying blood and life, hence, power more than life and death.

Regardless if you live in America or in another country, graduation caps and gowns, along with tassels, hoods, stoles and diploma covers are common apparel whenever men and women graduate from school. From a child graduating from preschool or kindergarten, all the way up to doctoral graduates, you'll find various colors, styles, and materials for your educational affiliation.

By Amberh Ardrich, trend analyst for worldwide academic apparel reveals a company that delivers everything for the graduate, including gifts and accessories.

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