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Graduation in Different Countries: What Outfits do Worldwide Students Wear

by Dominic Chandler
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Graduation ceremonies are a popular ritual all over the world for students as they transition out of education and into the working world. 

Not all countries follow the same graduation traditions as the UK though, with the rituals being varied according to different cultures. We’ve put together a guide below on some of our favourite graduation outfit choices from different countries from America, across Europe and into Asia.

1. USA Graduation Outfits

North American graduation outfits and traditions are fairly similar to ours, with graduation outfits in the USA following a very similar colour scheme to the UK when it comes to designating different faculties and levels of study. 

Some colours of graduation robes in the USA are the same such as white being used to represent arts and humanities while some colours symbolise different faculties such as brown being used commonly for the fine arts and sometimes architecture while yellow is often used for maths and science.

The USA and Canada have very similar styles to their graduation gowns and we offer an American range, with our gowns having closed zip fronts and coming in different colours that can help you to find the right colour for your own graduation. 

A group of five multiracial high school graduates standing together outside the school, wearing their caps and gowns, waving and shouting, looking at the camera.

2. Mexican Graduation Outfits

Mexico has its own set of graduation traditions and symbols so while they too often wear the classic gown and cap associated with the USA and the UK, they accessorise their graduation gown with items that symbolise their culture. 

One such item is the Mexican sarape graduation sash, worn like the stole and used to celebrate their heritage during their graduation ceremony. Sarape sashes are often vibrant and hand-crafted, making them must haves at graduation ceremonies along with the headdresses that some students wear. 

Graduating students from Mexico or of Mexican heritage may also wear traditional Mexican costumes to their graduation. Girls will wear a brightly coloured dress known as trajes de graduación while boys will wear suits, given a splash of colour by their sash. 

Smiling hispanic students posing the day of their graduation looking at the smart phone camera


3. Finnish Graduation Outfits

Over in Finland, graduation outfits are similar to those worn in the UK but there are some key differences that help the Finnish graduation crowd stand out from the rest of the world. 

When you graduate from a doctoral degree in Finland, they acquire their PhD certificate but are not officially considered doctors in their field until they have attended the conferment ceremony, in which their outfits must come complete with a doctoral top hat and a doctoral sword. 

The PhD graduates have to order the hat and the sword by themselves. The round doctor’s hat represents liberty and freedom of research while the sword represents the doctor’s right to fight for what they believe in. The only type of sword allowed at the ceremony is the independent republic’s officially certified civilian sword. 

The two accessories to the graduation outfit therefore are a collective symbol of the values of both Finland and their educational beliefs. 

4. Swedish Graduation Outfits

Swedish graduation ceremonies are fairly relaxed. They have a dress code of wearing formal clothes but the focus of the day is more on enjoying the ceremony and spending time with friends and family. 

Girls will wear white formal dresses while boys will wear suits but the most distinctive part of their graduation outfit tradition is the white hats they wear with the outfits. These white hats will have the graduating student’s name on them and they look very similar to the style of hat that sailors and ship captains wear. 

The hats are round with a black bill on them, creating a sense of unity at the graduation ceremony much the same way as unity is created in the UK with students all wearing graduation gowns. 

A teenage boy in a suit and a Swedish graduation hat. He is standing under cherry blossom trees.

5. Chinese Graduation Outfits

China is a lot more relaxed about wearing the typical graduation gown and cap found in the UK and other Western countries. 

Instead, graduating students from China will wear anything from traditional Chinese costumes or school uniforms to wedding dresses, adding colour and character to their graduation ceremony. Of course, you’ll still find graduation ceremonies that make use of the classic graduation outfit but the dress code is generally a lot more creative and individual.

Many Chinese students even opt for a fancy dress theme, showcasing the stark differences between the UK’s formal traditions and China’s freedom in choosing the way they celebrate. Whether they’re making their graduation more fun or celebrating their country’s heritage and culture, graduation outfits in China are sure to put a smile on people’s faces. 

Smiling asian girl student graduate and classmates standing with diplomas in hands

6. Thai Graduation Outfits

Graduation outfits in Thailand are more ceremonial and formal than in China and will typically directly involve the Thai royal family and representatives of the king who will attend to hand out the diplomas to the graduating students. 

Students are required to wear their school uniforms beneath their robes. The long sleeved graduation gown is usually made from a light white mesh bordered with a felt strip that is also fashioned into felt cuffs around the wrists and elbows.

There is no hood or cap like in UK graduation outfits and the university the graduate hails from will be represented by a pin. Graduating students are not permitted to wear any patterns or colours on their outfits. Shoes must be plain and not accessorised with metal components and girls must always wear long skirts instead of trousers. 

Thai / chinese asian family Graduate students smiling with their parents on their graduation day in thailand

Graduation rituals and ceremonies differ the world over, creating an interesting view of the traditions of different countries and cultures. Some believe strongly in tradition and ceremony while others are more relaxed with the focus being on celebration. 

Whatever the case, no graduation ritual in one country is just like another and students worldwide are given the chance to express both themselves and the rich culture of the country they hail from. 

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