Graduation Day Gown

It has been as age old tradition for students to wear gowns and caps, known as the academicals or the academic regalia, on the day of graduation. This apparel symbolised the amount of hard work and perseverance a student had put in to attain the status of a graduate, the close of an old chapter in life and the beginning of a new one.

The Genesis of the Gown and Cap


The tradition of academicals dates back to the beginning of the 12th century, when the very first universities were established in Europe. Lack of infrastructure compelled the Universities to conduct studies in the nearby churches. Most of the medieval scholars had made certain vows to the church and clerical robes were their main form of dress to begin with. It was in 1321 that the gowns were established dress of Doctors, Bachelors, and Licentiates.

Did You Know:

There was another practical side to the adoption of gowns. Buildings in those days were not heated, and thus the scholars found a way to keep themselves warm by draping themselves with the gown.



The graduation caps have evolved from the biretta which was a headgear worn by the Roman Catholic clerics.

An Interesting Fact:

The tradition of the graduating class throwing the caps in the air has a recent genesis. In 1912, the U.S. Naval Academy, Maryland, decided to give the officers’ hats at the graduation ceremony itself. Thus the graduates threw the mortarboard in the air so that they could don the officer’s hat. This incident has caught up all around the world and become a tradition.

The combination of mortar board and gown is consistent with official academic dress, and in the present day, worn by students at their graduation ceremony. The different colours of the gown depict the stream that the student is graduating in.


Donning the Gown and Cap the Proper Way

The cap should not be tilted to a side and the mortarboard should be absolutely levelled with the eyebrow, so that it is just an inch above. The gown when worn should reach up to the shin. The tassels should be on the same side as per the tradition of the university, so that there is uniformity.

Donning the Gown and Cap the Proper Way

Things to keep in mind while donning the graduation cap and gown:

  1. Men and women should be dressed in formal dresses. The dress should be preferably black in combination with a light colour.
  2. Women should wear flat shoes which is again dark in colour. Heels are not allowed.
  3. Men should wear dark shoes with socks.
  4. Casual sneakers or sandals are prohibited.
  5. At the time of the National Anthem, only the men are supposed to remove their caps. The women leave it on.
  6. Wearing academic robes at convocations is a manifestation of the hard work and perseverance of the student, and invokes in the graduate a sense of pride and achievement.

Last Updated: 24th March,2017