Hats come in all sorts of shapes and have interesting names that many of us simply take for granted. When you stop to think about it, however, why is the graduation cap square and where did the name “straw boater” come from? Read on to find out the answers to these and other questions.
Sailors in the Royal Navy originally wore this classic straw hat at the end of the 19th Century. Because sailors wore them, they were called “boaters.”
The reason these hats were called “Panama” is because construction workers who were building the Panama Canal commonly wore them. Panama hats are only made in Ecuador. The Incas originally made these hats from Tequila palm fronds.
The square-shaped hat worn at graduations is called by a few names, such as graduation hat, mortarboard, Oxford cap, and square academic cap. The name “mortarboard” was coined because the shape looked like the bricklayers tool by the same name. Ancient clergymen and scholars wore similarly shaped hats, so the style is associated with honor and accomplishment.
Tassel on Graduate’s Cap
It’s not just the graduate’s mortarboard that is traditional headwear during a graduation ceremony; the tassel on the cap has its own history, as well, such as:
- Tassels’ colors often signify school colors, honor roll, or level and type of academic degree.
- Undergraduates wear their tassel on the right side.
- Graduate school grads wear their tassel on the left side.
- As students graduate, they sometimes switch the tassel from one side to the other to signify graduation.
Mad as a Hatter
The expression “mad as a hatter” came about because the chemical fumes from the old-fashioned hat making process caused workers to tremble and appear insane. Chemicals used in the process induced:
- Loss of memory
- Brain damage
Luckily, this toxic process is a thing of the past, but the expression lives on.
Hats play a big part in historical wardrobes and ceremonies. While we may take their shapes and names for granted, there are plenty of stories behind them.