Posted on: January 31, 2013

Commencement is fast approaching and many JIU students will graduate this month.  Commencement represents a transition from one stage of life to another; it is a momentous occasion steeped in ancient rituals.  Always wondered what’s up with the funny outfits?  Here are a few insights into the cap, gown, and other graduation traditions.

Cap and Gown

The idea of the cap and gown can be traced back to medieval times when scholars, at the then handful of Universities, began donning the robes in order to set themselves apart from the townspeople.  The tradition of wearing caps and gowns during commencement ceremonies began at Oxford University around 1430. During the ceremony, graduates were required by law to wear a cap and gown and to deliver a speech in Latin.  Fortunately for most of us, the Latin address requirement is no longer in vogue, but we continue the cap and gown tradition. 

The Tassel

Once graduates receive their diploma, the tassel on the cap in moved from the right to the left side to signify the progression from one stage of life to the next.

The Tam

While a mortarboard is typical of what’s worn by most graduates, those at the doctoral level are given the option of wearing a tam, which resembles a mortarboard cap but is generally made of black velvet and is said to be a bit more comfortable for the wearer.

The Gown

Gowns have significance, in that, the hood colors and cut of the gown are representative of not only the course of study for the degreed person but also what level of degree they have achieved.

The Doctorate gown has velvet panels with three velvet bars running around bell-shaped sleeves.

The Hood

Gowns are typically equipped with a hood that helps to further distinguish the graduate and/or the university from others. The hood is the triangular piece of cloth that is worn over the back of the gown, the colors in the lining indicative of either the college or the graduate’s academic discipline. The Jones International University School of Education is represented by light blue in the hood and the School of Business by drab (tan).

Congratulations to the Class of 2012 graduates!