The Cap and Gown

The Cap and Gown

This year our son, Matthew, reached an important milestone in his life that every parent hopes their child will achieve – graduation from high school.

We were so proud to watch him walk across the stage and receive his diploma in his cap and gown. And I began wondering where the tradition of wearing a cap and gown began.

Well, this tradition actually started in the 12th century in Europe, when some of the first universities were founded. Most of the professors at that time were actually priests or monks, and the students were studying to be priests or monks.

Long robes were worn, not only by the professors but also by the students to keep them warm in unheated buildings. In the 18th century, capes with hoods were worn by Celtic groups and Druid priests and were a symbol of higher intelligence and superiority.

The first universities to require official graduation attire were Oxford and Cambridge, because they felt it created unity among the students. Although the graduation cap has changed throughout history, many believe the current mortarboard cap, which as we all know is square, symbolizes a book, while others believe it symbolizes the quad within the Oxford campus.

Did you know that up until the 1950’s graduation caps and gowns were typically gray in color? Not until the late 1950’s and 1960’s did we begin to see caps and gowns in the school colors. The tradition of the cap and gown has been around for centuries, and I don’t think you’ll see that tradition go away anytime soon. I know we were extremely proud to see our son in his. 


Graduation season is upon us. Do you know the history behind the cap and gown?