How To Wear Your Mortarboard

May 9, 2014

Graduation day is fast approaching and that means you’ve likely already ordered your grad gear: gown, graduation stole and of course, your mortarboard and tassel. That got us thinking about the history of the mortarboard. Why the funny name? And how exactly do you wear it anyway?

Fun Facts About the Mortarboard

What’s in a Name? A mortarboard is often another moniker for a graduation cap because the hat looks much like the flat plaster’s tool used by bricklayers to hold mortar.

What else is it called? While Americans will typically call their graduation headpieces graduation caps or a mortarboards, our friends Down Under have also been known to call it: a square, corner-cap or a trencher.

Why do we wear them? Like most things, the tradition of wearing a mortarboard comes from our ancestors. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries learned people (artists and scholars) wore similar hats called birettas. A few centuries later, the caps were only worn by those who had master’s degrees, but later it became popular attire for both grads and undergrads.

Who Are The Mortarboard’s Cousins? In addition to the mortarboard, it is also becoming more common to see caps with 4, 6 and even 8 cornered hats called tams. Softer varieties of the tam are also worn in some schools and if you are graduating in Britain, you may even wear a Tudor Bonnet at your graduation.

How To Properly Wear Your Mortarboard? The inside of the cap will tell you which part is worn in front. The top of the hat should be worn level on the head. Undergrad students should wear the tassel on their right side of their face until instructed during the graduation ceremony to move it to the left side. Masters and doctoral students, as well as faculty should, should wear their tassels on the left side of their faces.

How Do You Make Your Mortarboard Stand Out? One of the best ways to make your mortarboard stand out on graduation day is to decorate it. Click here to see some of our favorite mortarboard designs.

Pick Your Favorite Mortarboard and Win! Now that you are an expert on the mortarboard, choose your favorite one here and be entered for a chance to win a free graduation sash and a $50 Amazon gift card!