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Graduation Attire History and Meaning

Have you ever stopped to take a long look at the typical graduation outfit and noticed how little it looks like the usual casual wear and even formal attire of not just today but for what appears to be centuries? The cap and gown tradition may seem like an attempt to give history a nod and make a statement about the significance of the event, and that’s because it does that. At Tassel Depot, we specialize in all forms of graduation attire accessories and have pondered the same questions many of you may have, so we decided to do some digging. Our team of graduation clothing experts takes a deep look into graduation attire history and cultural significance and presents it all in this overview of the reasoning behind not just where the tradition comes from, but also what statement these fashion choices are making.

What Is the Origin of Graduation Cap and Gowns?

Graduation attire history can be traced back to the 12th Century and to the times when church-run universities were all the rage. Students who were receiving their diplomas would be adorned in clothing that aimed to show off not just what they studied but also where. The iconic graduation cap and graduation robes explained what the graduating student studied, and what specific institution they attended, and even would show off what religious order was in charge of their university. Graduation gown history is linked to not just medieval Europe but also the religious orders that were running universities in days passed. But why did these institutions model their graduation robes in the way they did?

What Is the Significance of the Graduation Cap and Gown?

The significance of the traditional clothing we wear at graduations today is perhaps more vague than the straightforward explanations our team found while investigating graduation clothing. Today the consensus is that we still wear these same robes as a way to keep with tradition and to make the moment stand out for its significance by tying the unique way of dressing to the specific act of graduation. We love a great story surrounded by traditions, and graduating offers the chance to signify an important milestone in your life through the use of clothing that is not too different from the ones worn centuries before.

What is the History of Graduation Attire in The United States?

Embarking on a journey through the annals of academic history, as well as graduation attire history, reveals the rich tapestry of traditions woven into the fabric of graduation attire in the United States. Originating from medieval Europe, where scholars adorned robes and hoods to signify their academic prowess, these traditions evolved as they migrated to American shores. However, it wasn't until the late 19th century, with the establishment of standardized guidelines for academic regalia in 1895, that graduation attire began to take its modern form. Throughout the 20th century, it continued to evolve, incorporating new elements while preserving its timeless elegance. Today, the regalia worn by graduates proudly carries on the traditions of generations past, symbolizing academic accomplishment and excellence.

Where Did Graduation Traditions Come From?

Graduation attire history is deeply rooted in academia, trace their origins back to medieval Europe. During this time, the earliest universities emerged, and scholars began to don distinctive attire to signify their intellectual prowess and scholarly achievements. The garments, including robes, hoods, and caps, were practical and designed to provide warmth in the drafty halls of learning. Over time, these attire choices evolved into symbols of academic achievement and social status. The practice of wearing academic regalia spread across Europe and eventually found its way to the United States with the establishment of the first American universities. In the late 19th century, efforts to standardize graduation attire led to the development of guidelines that defined the design and colors of robes, hoods, and caps. These guidelines, established by an intercollegiate commission in 1895, laid the groundwork for the iconic graduation traditions observed today. As higher education institutions proliferated and graduation ceremonies became more formalized, these traditions endured and became deeply ingrained in the fabric of academic culture. Today, graduation attire continues to serve as a visual representation of academic accomplishment and remains an integral part of commencement ceremonies worldwide.

Where Did the Graduation Hood Come From?

The graduation hood, an iconic component of academic regalia, has its origins in medieval Europe. During this era, scholars at early universities would wear hoods as practical garments to keep warm in the chilly halls of learning. Over time, these hoods evolved into symbolic attire, representing the wearer's academic achievements and scholarly pursuits, a truly rich academic attire history is found in these hoods. The specific design of the hood, with its distinctive shape and colors, can be traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries when universities began to flourish across Europe. Different academic disciplines were associated with particular colors, and the size and shape of the hood denoted the wearer's level of academic achievement, such as bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees. As the tradition of academic regalia spread to the United States and other parts of the world, the graduation hood remained a prominent symbol of scholarly accomplishment, continuing to embody the rich legacy of academic excellence that defines higher education institutions today.

The Best Graduation Accessories Available

No graduation attire is complete without the graduation caps, graduation tassels, graduation stoles, and graduation cords that tie the entire outfit together! Tassel Depot offers the opportunity to adorn any graduation cap and robe with quality accessories that will make you stand out from the crowd. Contact us today to learn all about our products.

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