It might seem simple to pick out or purchase a graduation cap, but like any piece of clothing, these caps are available in different sizes.
It’s best to choose the size that suits you so that you’ll be comfortable and so the cap will stay firmly in place as you move around.
The mortarboard is the square piece at the top of the cap. This piece is stiff and has a tassel hanging from the center. It is not clear where the idea for this iconic graduation cap originally came from.
Most people believe it was probably modeled after a similar hat worn by the Roman Catholic clergy.
Most mortarboards are about 9.25 inches or 23.5 centimeters long and 9.25 inches wide. Some people choose to decorate the top of the mortarboard with stickers, figurines, or a piece of artwork.
There are even companies that specialize in creating stickers the same size as the mortarboard, with a circle cut out in the middle for the tassel, which can be customized with a design of your choice.
These stickers are designed to stick to fabric so they stay in place. Most of these stickers are just slightly smaller than a 9.25-inch square, so they’ll fit almost any hat, but it’s always a good idea to measure the mortarboard.
Mortarboard graduation caps are made in two styles. The first features a rigid skull cap, which must be the proper size in order to fit the wearer.
The second style is a soft, folding, or elastic skull cap, which can be adjusted to fit the wearer. Elastic skull caps are the most common graduation cap style used in the United States.
They’re convenient because, since the skull cap part stretches, they can all be made to a uniform size, and they’ll still fit almost every student.
Folding or soft skull caps are also a bit more convenient, as they can be folded and packed or put away easily. These caps and rigid skull caps, however, must be fitted to the wearer, so they’re available in a few sizes.
The size of a cap is given by measuring the circumference of the skull cap part only.
Most graduation caps in a small size have a circumference of about 19.69 inches or 50 centimeters. Medium caps are about 21.65 inches or 55 centimeters around. Large caps are about 23.6 inches or 60 centimeters in circumference, and extra-large caps have a circumference of about 25.59 inches or 65 centimeters.
Some graduation caps also have laces up the back that can help students adjust their fit.
Most mortarboard graduation hats are about 3.9 inches or 10 centimeters tall from the top of the mortarboard to the bottom of the skull cap, but this can vary slightly depending on the cap’s design.
Tassel Length and Color
The size and style of a graduation cap tassel depend on the style of the cap and the country in which the student is graduating.
In the United Kingdom and other European countries, most tassels are short and start right at the middle button of the cap.
In the United States, the tassel is longer and thinner and is held to the middle button by a looped cord. Most tassels in the United States are about 8 inches long and have a 6-inch cord.
They’re usually about half an inch in diameter. Some tassels also have a pendant that tells the name of the school, shows the school’s mascot, or gives the graduation year.
The color of a tassel is determined by what degree the person is graduating with. Most tassels are black, but some colored tassels indicate a particular field of study.
For example, a white tassel indicates that the student focused on a degree in the arts or humanities. An orange tassel tells observers the student focused on engineering, while a green tassel shows that the student studied something in the medical field.
The colors can also be quite specific. A sage green tassel, for example, indicates studies that focused on medicine or health but in particular indicates physical therapy, manual therapy, or physical education studies.
Olive green tassels indicate students who have studied for a career in pharmacy. Gold tassels are reserved for students or faculty who have or are receiving a doctoral degree.
Only students who are graduating with a doctorate can wear velvet caps.
After graduation, many people keep the tassel from their cap as a souvenir of the graduation.
For this reason, many rental companies rent out graduation caps and provide a separate tassel that can be taken home, or they offer caps without a tassel so that one can be attached and then taken off again.
Other Uses for a Graduation Cap
At some schools, particularly schools in the United Kingdom, the mortarboard graduation cap is part of the school’s formal uniform.
The cap is often worn by undergraduates throughout their studies, particularly during important events, interviews, or exams.
Students who have not yet graduated wear the tassel so that it hangs off the right side of the cap. Once they have graduated, students can move their tassels to the left side of the cap.
It was once fashionable for undergraduates to cut their tassels so they reached only as far as the mortarboard. These trimmed tassels would then be replaced with long tassels after the students had graduated.
However, this tradition has become less popular in more recent years.
Mortarboard caps are also sometimes used as mourning caps. Instead of a tassel, mourning mortarboard caps have two thick ribbons running diagonally from corner to corner along the top of the cap.
Where the tassel would normally be is a black ribbon rosette. These caps can be worn when mourning a friend or family member, but they’re more common in formal settings, particularly when mourning a monarch or an important political figure.