The colors of graduation hoods, cap tassels and stoles, also called graduation sashes, are governed by traditions from the Middle Ages, reports the American Council on Education, or ACE. But ACE also says that the rules governing graduation wear are not, and probably should not be, subject to the law -- flexibility is allowed. To wear your stole properly, keep the two pointed ends even with each other after you drape it over your neck, and lay it on top of any academic regalia, such as cords or hoods.
Stoles, Hoods and Tassels
The color of academic hoods, which consist of fabric around the neck and a long sash falling on the back of the graduation gown, indicate the different disciplines for those with a doctorate or Ph.D. degree -- such as lilac for Dentistry and maize for Agriculture. The same colors appear on the graduation cap tassels. On the other hand, stoles, draped at the front of the graduation gown, reference the colors particular to a specific school or association. At some schools, such as Baylor University in Texas, graduates are allowed to wear multiple stoles.
Stoles for Academic Honors
Honor stoles come in different colors, and indicate that a high school or college graduate has achieved a specific academic award or maintained a certain grade point average. At the University of North Georgia, the stoles are white, and indicate that the graduate has at least a 3.5 grade point average. At Centennial High School in Atlanta, Georgia, the gold stole indicates that members of the Key Club completed 40 hours of community service.
Sorority and Fraternity Stoles
Whether they are affiliated with national organizations and refer to themselves as honor societies or are local organizations, fraternities and sororities typically have traditional colors and embroidered logos on the graduation stoles that their members wear. Members of Alpha Epsilon Delta, for example, wear a red and violet stole, while Beta Kappa Chi members wear royal blue and Chi Epsilon wear purple and white.
Some schools have special stoles that any graduate can wear. In 2015, the University of Houston-Victoria in Texas sold 40th anniversary stoles in red with a gold university logo. And Colgate University in New York allows graduating students to wear a "stole of gratitude," which is presented after graduation to parents or others who have made a difference in their lives, that they can decorate in any color and design that they want.
- American Council on Education: Academic Costume Code
- Academic Church and Choir Gown Mfg. Co., Inc: Official Degree Color Chart
- Baylor University: Cap and Gown
- University of North Georgia: Graduation Regalia
- Centennial Key Club: 2012-2013 Centennial High School Key Club Stole.
- Association of College Honor Societies: ACHS Honor Cord Registry
- University of Houston-Victoria: UHV 40th Anniversary Stoles
- Colgate University: Stole of Gratitude
- Graduation Source: How-To Wear Your Honor Stole -- Graduation Stole Instructions
- Photo Credit liveslow/iStock/Getty Images
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