graduate with her cap decorated

How to Wear a Graduation Cap

Originally Published May 13, 2021Updated Jun 03, 2024

How to Wear a Graduation Cap: An-All Inclusive Article from Hair to Hat Placement

Cue Pomp and Circumstance and get your best outfit and shoes ready! It’s almost graduation time! Time to celebrate you and each big step of your school accomplishments leading up to this moment. After the graduation invitations are sent out, your graduate cap and gown are picked up, and all your credits are filled, there are still some last things to tie up (pun intended!) on this next step in your life.

This article is here to put your fears aside and hopefully answer all your questions about how your graduation cap should be worn (just not the academic ones, we'll save those for your final exams!)

1. Practice makes perfect!

As silly as it sounds, try on your grad cap (also called a mortarboard or graduation mortarboard) before the big day to see how it fits on your head and how you plan on styling your hair (if this applies to you!). This little step can make a big difference before your graduation ceremony, when there's bound to be lots to do. What outfit do you plan on wearing underneath the gown? Good questions to answer before the end of your academic career ...

Make sure your graduation cap is on the right way

The pointed tip of your cap faces the front and is worn placed on your forehead. Usually, there is some elastic on the other side, and this should be the “back” of your cap. As silly as this sounds, I remember there were a few graduates wearing their mortarboard caps backwards the day-of the ceremony ... not necessarily the best style we're going for!

Check your angles

No, I don’t mean to find the best selfie angles, but you keep doing you! Make sure your cap fits snug on your head and that it is not too tilted on an angle. If you move your head, will it fall off? You want that tassel hanging nice and proud while you're wearing your graduation hat.

Safe & Secure

Don’t be afraid to secure your graduation cap, especially if there is going to be wind on the day of your graduation ceremony! Use bobby pins or little clips with your same hair shade (aka if your hair is brown use brown clups) to make sure everything stays in place. Don't be afraid to ask for a fellow grad help nearby to help keep everything in place.

How to wear your hair with a grad cap?

Another good question from the academic class! There's a variety of hair styles to choose from, from a classic low ponytail to wearing your hair down in loose waves or curls to not interfere with the hat. Whatever you choose, make sure to avoid hairstyles on the top of your head, even thought it might be a great style, as they won't be seen and they might interfere with wearing your cap!

graduate with her mom

2. Tassel Time!

The tassel is the star of your academic regalia style (look who's using her English degree with that fancy word)! They can be different colors, or have your graduation year on them as a little decoration.

What side does the tassel go on before graduation?

Not going to lie, “graduation tassel side” was the hot topic of my high school graduation between the group of people with last names F-G that I found myself in. And it turns out, everyone had a different answer “Does the tassel go on the left or right?” “Do we move the tassel on the hat to the right?” … we were very divided between left and right to say the least! If you find yourself in a similar situation, have no fear, the answer is here!

What side does the tassel go on after the ceremony?

See above but the question depends on if you have already graduated or not!

For middle, high school and college bachelor degree graduations the tassel starts on the right and ends on the other side once you have graduated or once you have received your academic diploma.

How to put the tassel on your cap

Easy! The center of all caps should have a little button that your tassel wraps nicely around. Some of them have loops that you can hook over the button. Make sure it is nice and secure and won’t fall off your cap when you wear it!

What is the proper way to wear your graduation hood with your cap and gown?

The hood is another important part of the outfit. The hood should be behind you on your back not the font, with the tip on the top pointing towards your head. Sometimes the hood will be all black or have your school colors, these go on the inside! For a full hood style tutorial, feel free to take a peek here.

Other Graduation Style Tips & Tricks

Brush out your tassel to make sure it lies flat and is nice and pretty for your big day. Don't forget your academic stole if you have one as well to go over your gown. Feel free to take some pictures of the graduation hat and gown before your ceremony, you don’t want to forget any details when you go to put it on right before you cross the stage. Keep your regalia outfit on hangers or lying flat, as this will help it keep its shape as you dress to impress. Personally, I laid out my outfit I wanted to wear the night before, from the shirt or dress to shoes in case of any last-minute panic.

And last but not least, take in all the moments of your graduation ceremony! You worked hard for your academic degree, now it's your time to celebrate this step in your academic journey. Put down this article and get out there to live in the moment, we've given you all the help you need. It's time to get on those gowns and get out there to cross over the stage!

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Leah from Picta

Written by Leah from Picta

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Leah is a self-proclaimed iced coffee enthusiast, "word artist", and brunch connoisseur. 
By day, she makes a living by creating all this content you know and hopefully love for Picta on the blog, in your inbox, or on social media. 
By night, she enjoys cooking up something new in the kitchen, hopping on her road bike, and painting watercolors with a glass of rosé (or two or three)!

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