Graduation hats rules

Updated April 17, 2017

Graduates usually wear a graduation gown and cap during their commencement ceremony. The graduation cap has its own set of etiquette rules to be followed regarding how it is worn, when it should be removed and the placement of the tassel. While a graduation cap may be mandatory for the those graduating, that doesn't mean that they will be the only ones wearing a hat. Guests attending a graduation ceremony may opt to don a hat for the special occasion, in which case they will need to follow some etiquette rules as well.


Wear the tassel of your graduation cap on the right side of the cap. At the end of the commencement, a faculty member will instruct you to move your tassel from the right side of your cap to the left, signifying your graduation (see Reference 1).

Wearing Graduation Cap

A graduation cap should be worn so that it is parallel to the ground. Women may use hair clips to keep the graduation cap in place if their hair causes it to shift. Graduation caps usually have elastic around half of the part that goes around the head; wear the graduation cap with the elastic part in the back (see Reference 1).

Men and Women

Men should remove their graduation caps during the national anthem and the school song. Women can leave their caps on through the whole commencement ceremony (see Reference 1).

Guests Wearing Hats

Male and female guests should remove their hats for the national anthem and school song. Women wearing wide-brim hats should remove them once seated so they don't block the view of others. Also, if the ceremony is being held indoors, male guests should remove their hat upon entering the building, and leave it off until exiting the building (see Reference 2).


Along with following the aforementioned graduation hat etiquette rules, you should also follow any instructions about the caps that the faculty members give you. Don't throw your cap after commencement, decorate your cap or anything else that faculty request that you not do. Not only will going against faculty wishes possibly keep you from participating in commencement, it will also be disrespectful to your fellow graduates.

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About the Author

Based in Ypsilanti, Mich., Ainsley Patterson has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her articles appear on various websites. She especially enjoys utilizing her more than 10 years of craft and sewing experience to write tutorials. Patterson is working on her bachelor's degree in liberal arts at the University of Michigan.