Graduation Stole

What is the History of the Graduation Stole? | Evolution & Symbolic Significance

What is The History of the Graduation Stole

We’ve all been there in this phase of our life. It’s the end of an era, where friends and family surround you, and you’re brimming with great memories. If you’re curious, you’ve probably wondered why we all follow these specific graduation traditions at high school and college ceremonies. So we’ve taken the liberty to explain some of these traditions and understand what is the history of the Graduation stole. What’s the meaning behind gowns, honor cords, commencement addresses, graduation sashes, and tossing your cap in the air… why are we all following these specific graduation traditions? Let’s start it.

What is Graduation Stole?

A graduation stole is one piece of academic regalia that is worn with a cap and gown. It takes the form of a long scarf-like drape, often made of high-quality satin, that you hang around your neck. The stole falls down the front of the gown on both sides, usually ending around waist level. Graduation Sashes (which are synonymous with graduation stoles) have a long history. Further in this blog, we will see what is the history of the Graduation stole.

The main area of distinction in a stole is the color. A color can signify the University that was attended, a person’s major, or a campus organization.  A sash can also signify an honor, achievement, or award.

The History of Graduation Stoles and Sashes

Graduation stoles, part of academic regalia dating back nearly 1,000 years, originally mirrored the gowns worn by Catholic and Anglican priests. Scholars adopted them for warmth in underheated academic spaces. Over time, scholars introduced various stoles to differentiate themselves from priests. In the 1400s, both professors and students incorporated mortarboards/ caps into their attire, distinguishing them from robe-clad priests. This tradition, starting at English universities like Oxford and Cambridge, eventually became widespread. Caps and gowns became mandatory for graduation in the late 1700s, persisting even as everyday class attire changed.

In the late 1800s, universities collaborated to establish a standardized dress code for graduation attire, including robes and academic regalia. This initiative aimed to ensure equality by specifying that master’s degree hoods display both the school’s color and designated colors for different fields of study. The intention was to honor all graduates equally, irrespective of their financial backgrounds, emphasizing equality between wealthy students and those reliant on scholarships to afford college.

Academic regalia rules, including those for graduation stoles, evolved over the years and were formally clarified by a standing committee in 1959. Though robes typically remain black, universities have the flexibility to incorporate their school colors. Many institutions choose black robes and enhance the celebratory atmosphere by incorporating school colors into graduation stoles, adding vibrancy to the proceedings.

What is the Traditional Graduation Dress?

Traditional Graduation dress varies across cultures and academic institutions, each with its unique symbolism and historical significance. Let’s explore more about:

Academic Gown & Cap

Sure we all know we must wear a cap and gown to our graduation ceremony but why? Well, it all goes back to the Middle Ages. Graduates used to wear their cap and gown around town, even after graduation. They would wear a cap and gown so that everyone who saw them could identify them as educated scholars.

It’s the modern-day equivalent of wearing a shirt with the name of the college where you graduated. It was a symbol of their status and it showed everyone that they were highly educated. The colors of your cap and gown are typically black, but some schools will use other colors to differentiate themselves from other schools.

Thankfully these days we only wear a cap and gown at the ceremony and after that, we can go back to our casual wear. You can learn more about Graduation stole colors with their meaning in our other blog.

Honor Cords, Hoods & Stoles

We’ve already covered what the colors of the graduation stoles mean, which is quite interesting, so we won’t delve into that too much here. But generally, why do we wear honor cords and stoles at a graduation ceremony, and what’s the significance of both?

Caps and gowns signify that you have graduated and that you are an educated scholar. Cords and stoles signify your level of education and your specific area of expertise. That’s why certain color stoles are given to graduates in specific disciplines.

How Can I Customize My Graduation Stole?

While you can simply wear a blank stole, we offer anybody the ability to stand out from the rest through our various customization options. The customized/personalized stole allows you to represent your culture or heritage by mixing cultural fabrics, colors, cultural symbols, and more.

Here are some quick ideas to help you make your cultural stole uniquely you:

  • Add your class year, eg. “Class of…”
  • College’s name or logo
  • Family name or a message in your native language
  • Adding your club/organization’s name or logo
  • Add your fraternity or sorority name

You can explore MyGradStole for personalization. Make your graduation ceremony memorable with this latest and unique collection.

Let’s Drap Our Rich Heritage Of Grad Stole

The Graduation stole weaves a vibrant tapestry, embodying tradition, accomplishments, and cultural significance. Its timeless elegance symbolizes the journey of learning and the achievement of diverse histories and legacies in a single-draped garment. Besides knowing what is the history of the Graduation stole as we don these sashes, we celebrate not just personal triumphs but also the collective heritage that binds us together on the threshold of new beginnings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *