Is It Mandatory To Wear Cap And Gown At Graduation

History of Graduation Caps and Gowns

Since the medieval ages, it has been tradition to wear a cap and gown during graduation ceremonies. In early days long scarlet gowns were reserved for academics only. Graduated school classes often wore black and delicate dress caps. They all had a specific meaning, including the colors and symbols. The wearing of caps and gowns by current students, professors, deans and authorities is rooted in tradition and follows the same denominational pattern. The possibility of wearing a cap and gown of proper design and color still has the same implications today.

Different caps and gowns hold different meanings. A scholar’s robe is usually black and is worn atop an Oxford square. This symbolizes a master’s degree. Graduates of a PhD program wear a black velvet tam with a black gown, which is identical to the master’s but has a wide band of velvet down the seams. The color of the cap or gown often symbolizes the subject they studied or the degree they have achieved. For instance, gowns of different colors can be used to identify the field of study for a doctorate or master’s degree. For example, a science graduate may wear a blue gown, whereas a graduate with a humanities degree may sport a gown of yellow.

Why Is It Compulsory?

Management, deans and school authorities often require students to wear prescribed caps and gowns at graduation ceremonies. This is mainly due to the traditional symbolism of certain hats and gowns. They are symbols of academic regard and recognize the high achievement of the entire group of graduates. Caps and gowns also give a tangible reminder of the solemn occasion of graduation. The center of any graduation ceremony is the graduation robes. It is why most schools require students to wear a cap and gown for the graduation ceremony.

The wearing of the cap and the gown are mandatory for the ceremonies and graduation photographs. This leads to a uniform look at the graduation ceremony and adds originality to the festivities. It adds a sense of solidarity to the occasion and allows for the correct recognition of a student’s academic achievements. Wearing the prescribed caps and gowns also signify the completion of their academic studies.

Modern Trends in Cap and Gown

Caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies have been evolving more recently, with students now adding accessories to personalize their outfit. Although most schools and colleges still mandate the traditional black gowns and hats, graduates often choose to put their own twist on the iconic look. Caps and gowns can be found in a wide variety of other colors, styles, and fabrics. Graduates may choose to wear a stole or a sash with their robes of different colors to symbolize a club they’re part of or field of study.

Accessories such as beads or pins may also be used to decorate the traditional outfit. Students further put their individual spin on their graduation look by wearing elements other than a traditional cap and gown. Many students will wear colorful dresses or pants under their graduation attire in order to express their individual style.

Advantages of Wearing a Cap and Gown

The act of wearing a cap and gown adds extra solemnity and importance to a graduation. It creates a sense of pride and honor in the graduates and serves as a reminder of the hard work and the dedication that it has taken to reach the stage of graduation. Wearing a cap and gown on the day of graduation is a symbol of recognizing the accomplishments and dedication of the student.

The traditional colors of the graduation caps, stoles and gowns are symbols of solidarity and reminder of the significance of the ceremony for individual graduates. A cap and gown also act as formal attire for the event and keep a level of uniformity among the graduates.

Disadvantages of Wearing a Cap and Gown

One of the arguments against wearing a cap and gown is that there are often restrictions to individual style. The limitation to individual taste and preference in style might be deemed unfair for students. Additionally, many schools have moved towards a business casual look for their graduation, which limits the need to have a corporate gown and cap.

Moreover, it has been argued by some that wearing a cap and gown sends a message that the graduation ceremony is all about pomp and pageantry, rather than its true purpose — the celebration of student’s hard-earned accomplishments. Therefore, this detracts from the importance of the ceremony and takes away some of the focus from the students.

Community Outreach and Education

In some schools, graduation cap and gowns have been used to spread the message of community outreach and education. Different regalia colors have become associated with different causes or projects. This sheds light on the importance of the causes and corresponds to the research performed by the graduates. Additionally, promoting community campaigns on graduation gowns helps create a sense of solidarity and representation of the school as a whole.

For example, some schools may choose to add the school’s logo, or a patch, onto their graduation gowns, which can be used to highlight a charitable cause they support. This can add a tangible element to the cause and encourages graduates to take part in such projects even after their graduation.

International Perspectives

The wearing of cap and gowns also differs widely across different countries. The United Kingdom, United States, Canada and some regions in Europe require caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies. In some European countries, such as France and Italy, just the graduation cap requires wearing, while Germany requires the full traditional scholastic robe. Other countries like India, Pakistan, China, Japan or South Korea don’t have a uniform tradition of wearing cap and gowns at graduation ceremony.

Graduation robes in these countries come in many lively colors and styles. There are lively colors and beautiful mix of colorful threads making these robes look even more special. Some regions have very different looking caps and gowns so you can differentiate between individual universities and even subjects.


It is widely accepted that wearing caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies is tradition and provides a level of uniformity for those in attendance. The colors of the gowns represent the level of study completed and add a sense of pride in the student’s accomplishments. Although there are debates against the wearing of cap and gown, there is a great deal of value to the symbolic significance and solemnity the traditional attire provides. Caps and gowns can also be used to spread the word about important causes that students are fighting for.

Debi Davis

Debi J. Davis is a passionate and experienced hat-lover with over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry. She has worked in the millinery business for many years, learning the craft of hat-making from her father who was also a milliner. She has written extensively about hats, including articles for magazines and blogs.

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