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Decorated Mortarboards refer to graduation caps with decorated with student-customized images and messages which often reference memes.
The modern graduation caps were developed in the 15th century inspired by birettas which were used by clergymen. According to folklore expert Sheila Bock, caps began being decorated in the 1960s with peace signs to protest the Vietnam War (shown below).
Some of the earliest conversations had on cap decorations online have been started Twitter. On April 26th, 2017, Twitter user @couch 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.
On May 11th, 2014, Instagram user beejayart 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 posted a grumpy cat cap (shown below, right).
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.
A professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Sheila Bock, has begun to research and document mortarboard decoration within the colleges folklore department. 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."
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. On May 6th, Instagram user undocumedia 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 MabeAlcivarposted a photo in dedication to their immigrant parents (shown below right).
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