In July every year, I don the most ill-fitting and unflattering outfit in the world—the toga. But it somehow feels right. Perfect, in fact.
At the graduation ceremony of the university where I teach, lecturers are required to wear togas with a hood and cap. Although the black loose gown is the same for every faculty member, the hoods vary from teacher to teacher.
For years I never bothered to find out why I wore what I wore, because someone in-charge simply gave them to me on d-day.
This year I got curious so I quickly researched on why college graduates (and all those involved in their education) don the toga. My search revealed the following facts:
In 13th century Europe, this loose garment called houpland was considered fashionable and therefore worn by men and women.
As universities spread, the fashion of the times became associated with academia.
No longer a fashion statement, today’s robes come with 1) a hood (the drape around the neck), and 2) the academic hat which comes in two different styles—the tam and the mortarboard.
The tam with a gold tassel is often worn by doctoral graduates and the mortarboard (looks like a flat pizza box!), with a colored tassel that corresponds to one's degree, is worn by bachelor's and master's degree graduates.
There is a standard list of colors associated with degrees. The tassels in my mortarboard and my hood come in white because it is the color assigned to Arts, Letters, and Humanities.
Next year I will surely forget about the confusing assignment of colors so I had my photo taken with colleagues who come from different disciplines, and therefore, wear different colors.
Marching in a toga, alongside others in the same outfit, makes one feel the cadence of academia of which I am a part-time part.
And although I am mostly into creative writing, which is a totally different world, every July I am blessed to witness the new confidence of the graduates, the unbridled joy of their parents, and the profound pride of their teachers who played an integral part in their academic foundation.
Grace beats strongly in every heart beneath the world's most unfashionable get-up.