There are several elements to a school graduation outfit in addition to the traditional matching robes and mortar-board hats. Some students are distinguished by a tassel, rope, or medal that represents a specific quality or achievement. More noticeable however, are those donned in banner-like fabrics, either a stoleor a slash, worn over their gowns.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there are differences between stoles and sashes, who wears which, and why. The sash is worn over one shoulder, draping across and down the wearer’s torso over to their hip on the other side.
A familiar accessory of the pageant world, they often display a string of text across the length of fabric, such as the student’s graduating class year or a meaningful motto, or even novelty or gag text. Unless they’re an official part of the school’s graduation uniform, sashes are typically only worn during the more festive post-commencement events.
In contrast, graduation stoles are considered official academic attire and are worn during commencement ceremonies. Stoles are draped over the neck with both banner ends falling symmetrically down either the front or back of the gown, depending on the style of the stole.
A graduation stole always represents something specific for the student, such as an academic achievement or pursuing a particular field of study. They are also worn to distinguish commencement speakers, valedictorians, and members of Greek society. Ghanaian Kente Stoles represent solidarity and the unique struggles of students of African descent.