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Think you know why you're wearing a blue tassel? Think again

Kristen B. Morales

April 30, 2018

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Admit it: You think the light blue tassel on your graduation cap is a little odd, right?

But trust us, it's not our choice. Who knew there was a higher educational power selecting the appropriate tassel color for different disciplines? So while baby blue is the appropriate color for education, according to the American Council on Education (and multiple other sources), you could be sporting "maize" (agriculture), "drab" (business) or orange (engineering).

The colors hanging from graduates' hats are just one of the many traditions laid out for colleges and universities across the country, which date back to traditions started in the Middle Ages.

Gowns

If you're getting your bachelor's degree, your gown should have pointed sleeves; gowns for master's candidates have oblong sleeves. Unless it's a special case, the gown is always black. If you have or are getting a doctoral degree, your gown is a bit fancier—it's faced down the front with velvet, and also has three bars of velvet on the sleeves.

Caps

These are typically made out of the same material as your gown, except for doctoral degrees—those are made of velvet.

Tassels, trim and hoods

Gowns for bachelor's and master's degrees do not have trim. For doctoral degrees, the velvet trim may be the same color as the graduate's discipline—and if you want to get extra fancy, you can opt for a gold tassel instead of a color one. At the University of Georgia, as well as many universities, bachelor's degree recipients do not wear hoods. But there are specific rules in place for master's, specialist and doctoral degree hoods, including the type of trim (velvet or velveteen), the width of the fabric (3, 4 or 5 inches) and trimmed in the same color as the discipline.

How does a hood work?

Follow our easy tutorial to put it on correctly!

But like most rules, there are always exceptions. In this case, uniforms, international academic gowns and religious garb can all be worn instead of the traditional black cap and gown. And the person in charge of the ceremony? They can wear a special costume decided by the institution.