Graduation caps and gowns symbolize the perseverance and hard work the student applied during their college career, and their origin dates back centuries.
The tradition of wearing a gown, which is technically called an academic dress, started in the 12th century, when European universities began to validate degrees. Gowns and hoods were worn by students to signify their religious status, marking their difference from the laypeople of the town in which they studied. The gowns had an extra function because universities didn’t provide sufficient heating systems, so students needed extra clothing to keep warm.
In 1321, the University of Coimbra mandated that all doctors, licentiates and bachelors wear gowns. England universities made academic dress a matter of university control, even to the extent of their minor details.
Historically, scholars would continue to wear their gown for years following achievement of their degree for two reasons: to symbolize they were scholars and to represent religious status.
Today, some colleges, such as Oxford and Cambridge, require their professors to wear their gowns as they teach in order to show their education status.
Graduation caps became popular in the 14th century and were usually red, meant to signify life and power. Tassels only became a tradition in the United States 50 years ago. The assignment of colors to signify certain areas of study was adopted from Oxford and Cambridge, who assigned fur trimming in their hoods to signify areas of study. White signified arts and letters, red signified theology, green signified medicine and yellow signified the sciences.
Weber graduates will adorn two different colors of robes. Associate graduates wear purple robes, and their cap is purple with a purple and white tassel. Unlike bachelor degree graduates, who have a different color tassel depending on the school they are graduating from, associate graduates’ tassels are all the same color.
Bachelor graduates wear black robes, black caps and a colored tassel that represents the college they’re graduating from. Qualifying graduates may have honor cords, which are yellow.
Master’s graduates have gowns with long, draping sleeves.
According to WSU’s Gradfest webpage, the tassel color for each college is as follows:
Applied Science & Technology: Black
Bachelor of Electronics Engineering: Orange
Arts & Humanities: White
Master of English: White
Master of Professional Communication: Crimson
Business & Economics: Brown
Master of Business Administration: Brown
Master of Accounting: Brown
Master of Taxation: Brown
Education: Light blue
Master of Education: Light blue
Master of Athletic Training: Light blue
Health Professions: Apricot
Master of Nursing: Apricot
Master of Radiology: Apricot
Health Administration Services: Salmon
Science: Golden Yellow
Social & Behavior Sciences: Cream
Master of Criminal Justice: Citron