It’s that time of year for endings and new beginnings, especially in academic settings. Preschoolers graduate and become kindergartners. Elementary students move up to junior high. High-school seniors head off to work or college, and university students say goodbye to academia and hello to the world. Have you wondered about a few of the strange traditions associated with graduation, such as these seven?
What’s up with the insane hats a graduate has to wear? If you’ve ever questioned those flat mortarboard caps, you’re not alone. This hat resembles a bricklayer’s tool called a mortarboard, which explains where it got its name. The scull cap the mortarboard’s attached to was modeled after ancient clergy’s.
2. Six-Sided Velvet Tam or Beefeater
Another odd hat worn by doctoral graduates is the six-sided velvet tam, also known as a beefeater. This hat may have gotten its name because eating beef in medieval times designated a distinguished individual. Some dignitaries back in the day were paid in beef.
3. Robe-Like Gowns
What’s so distinguished about wearing a dark robe over your dressy graduation clothes? Although graduation gowns may resemble bathrobes to some people, they’re rooted in history as honorary attire dating back to medieval times.
It might strike you as odd that tassels hang from the mortarboard. The hue and type of tassel have significance, as well. Certain colors represent specific degrees, achievements, and school colors.
5. Tassel Moving
Traditionally, a graduate wears his or her tassel on one side of the mortarboard before receiving his or her degree, and then switches it to the other side after the entire graduating class has been announced. This represents their right of passage.
6. Hat Tossing
After graduates have moved their tassel from side to side, they often toss their hats into the air as a group. This ritual began back in 1912 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Why throw confetti when you can toss your hat?
7. Sleeve Codes
In addition to wearing interesting hats and robes, graduates’ sleeves are adorned with a few coded details. Undergraduates wear plain robes. Masters have square bits on their robe sleeves. Doctoral students have cuffs with three velvet stripes on their sleeves, as well as down the front of their gown.
You’ve heard of secret handshakes and passwords to get into a club. If you want to enter the world of the graduate, you may have to engage in some ridiculous rituals and wear odd garments, but it’s all in the name of good fun and an initiation into the next chapter of life.