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What are graduation stoles? What do they symbolize? We have your answers here, revealing the history of stole use throughout the ages.


graduation stole history

Word Origins

The word “stole” is derived from the Latin Greek word “stola” meaning garment, array or equipment. An academic stole can be defined as a cloth scarf-like garment worn over the shoulders that typically represents some type of accomplishment, membership, or award.


graduation stole history

Stole Use Origin

The use of a stole originates from Catholic and Anglican priests in the 12th century. When a clergy member became a part of the Roman administration, they wore a “scarf of office” which all Imperial officials wore. The stole represented certain honors, specifically being a designator of rank within the regal hierarchy.


graduation stole history

Religious Use of Stoles

These religious figures wore long robes and stoles while performing various religious celebrations or rituals. Being that the church was such an influential part of this time period, academic institutions based most of their ceremonial regalia off this style. Similarly to other academic dress, the use of a stole for academic purposes began in England during the medieval times and the tradition continued into the American educational system as well.


graduation stole history

Academic Use of Stoles

Stoles commonly represent some form of prestigious recognition. Most of the time, you wear a stole to display your academic organization, honors, or special achievements. Students who are members of Greek fraternities or sororities may wear graduation stoles with the colors that represent that particular honor society. Academic institutions may choose the stole based on their school colors or field of study the student is graduating with. Sometimes schools reserve stoles strictly for honor students and/or the Valedictorian and Salutatorian.

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