Decorated Mortarboards

Decorated Mortarboards

Updated May 08, 2019 at 01:10PM EDT by Sophie.

Added May 08, 2019 at 10:37AM EDT by Sophie.

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Decorated Mortarboards refer to graduation caps with decorated with student-customized images and messages which often reference memes.

Pre-Internet History

The modern graduation caps were developed in the 15th century inspired by birettas which were used by clergymen.[1] According to folklore expert Sheila Bock, caps began being decorated in the 1960s with peace signs to protest the Vietnam War (shown below).[3]

Online History

Some of the earliest conversations had on cap decorations online have been started Twitter. On April 26th, 2017, Twitter user @couch[6] tweeted, "my friend says I should put kthxbye on my graduation cap" (shown below). Internet users began showing off their cap decorations a little later as Instagram became popular.

0% Bill Couch @couch Replying to @thebus @thebus my friend says I should put kthxbye on my graduation cap. :12 PM -26 Apr 2007

On May 11th, 2014, Instagram user beejayart[7] posted a picture of their cap featuring doge which gained 60 likes in five years (shown below, left). Featuring memes on graduation caps began in 2014. On May 14th, Instagram user marilynonmars[8] posted a grumpy cat cap (shown below, right).

such graduiate so art very much college GRADUATING 13 4. ABOUT TIME.


Many colleges and high schools do not permit the use of decorated caps during graduation ceremonies as they are said to be a distraction. Some students have started petitions to allow caps to be decorated.[11]


A professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Sheila Bock, has begun to research and document mortarboard decoration within the colleges folklore department.[2] She is cited as saying that decorating caps is "a way of kind of disrupting the formality of the occasion and taking control of the ceremony back in small ways."[5]


As of May 2019, there are over 144,000 posts linked to the hashtag #graduationcap on Instagram and hundreds of boards dedicated to decorating mortarboards on Pinterest.[12]


In May of 2017 the hashtag #immigrad became linked to graduation cap decorations as a a sign of pride for first generation graduates of immigrant parents.[4] On May 6th, Instagram user undocumedia[9] posted a photo to Instagram of a cap linked to the hashtag (shown below, left). The photo gained over 16,900 likes in two years. On May 10th, another graduate, Twitter user MabeAlcivar[10]posted a photo in dedication to their immigrant parents (shown below right).

CROSSED CROSSTHE STAGE Maria B Alcivar MabeAlcivar Immigrant and proud! A tribute to my beautiful family@ my Master's graduation #IMMIGRAD #LatinxgradCaps #EducatedLatina #HereToStay & #Slay IS BEAUTIFUL 6:58 PM - 10 May 2017

Various Examples

Vada Griffith VadaGriffith I think my college graduation cap just shows how intense my obsession is with James Charles @jamescharles 10:25 AM -30 Apr 2019 Lexie McClure @lexie mcclure Hey Thanos, guess who has all the infinity stones now? #graduationcap NHAT DID COST 11:23 AM - 2 May 2019 Ivan Chavez Divancito0115 My graduation cap #nocap s5 1:45 PM - 5 May 2019 Dank Spongebob Memes! My college graduation cap (: KAVUL BAVIOE Too 1:36 PM 2 May 2019 Brian Munoz @brianmmunoz I'm a little obsessed with my graduation cap. #FOIA #PartyLikeAJournalist the truth should not [redacted] OF PERSONAL CREA SIU'19 PRIVATE THPORMA 6:44 PM-6 May 2019 from Carbondale, IL ash Gmyarmistrong Adding humor to my graduation cap to hide how scared I am for OT grad school next Im 8:34 PM -30 Apr 2019

Search Interest

External References

[1] Graduation Source – Cap and Gown History

[2] OSU – Grad Cap Traditions

[3] AZCentral – Mortarboard Decoration

[4] Define American – Why These Students

[5] The Conversation – What we Can learn from Cap Decorations

[6] Twitter- couch

[7] Instagram – beejayart

[8] Instagram – Marilynonmars

[9] Instagram – undocumedia

[10] Twitter – MabeAlcivar

[11] Press Connects – School Policies on Graduation Cap Decor

[12] Pinterest – GraduationSource

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