Every year on college campuses across the nation, it is the same pomp and circumstance. The eldest on campus don graduation gowns with honor students layering on award sashes. Mortarboards, otherwise known as “those silly caps,” cover each graduate’s overstuffed cranium. When the ceremony ends, the tassel on each cap will move from right to left before the whole hat gets tossed in the air.
At Occidental, we employ traditional black gowns and black caps, using our Tiger stripe orange as an accent. Our graduation ceremony is held outside in the glorious sunshine of Southern California, as the scent of the carefully maintained roses and gardenias on campus perfumes the air. More often than not, students will perch a pair of sunglasses on their noses, making Timbuk3’s 1986 one-hit wonder, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” ring true. Congratulations, Class of 2014: All of your hard work has earned you this moment.
However, as the ceremony comes closer, there is one last lesson to learn for this year: graduation style.
Guys, graduation is the day to look like gentlemen. Your parents have paid plenty of money to get you here, so show them some respect and dress up for the occasion. Even though the gown will be covering most of your body, this does not mean you can wear a stained shirt and jeans. Even though it is hot outside, and even warmer in the black tent that so lovingly called a gown, you cannot wear shorts and a bro-tank. Linen dress pants, khakis or chinos are all suitable choices. Have fun and wear colorful pants that pop from under the gown. On top, wear a crisp button-down with a tie or a bow tie — extra points if you let your parents tie it for you so they still feel useful. Show school pride by wearing an Occidental tie from the bookstore and call that purchase from the school your first alumni gift. If you are feeling really fancy, pop on some cufflinks.
On your feet, keep things covered. Flip-flops that have been beat up from walking around campus are not appropriate, so wear some nice dress shoes like Oxfords or loafers. If you are a fan of boat shoes, fear not: Sperrys are always welcome in the summer months. However, remember that your feet will probably sweat in the leather, so wear socks or put some powder in your shoes before slipping them on.
For the ladies, it is considered traditional to wear white for graduation. However, I don’t understand why this is the tradition and have never gotten an answer, so unless you feel like it, wear whatever you like. It looks heavy and uncomfortable to wear a long skirt under that long graduation gown, so I suggest a cocktail length dress — especially since this is California and you can show off your tanned legs from under that boring black fabric. Once you can zip down that gown to take pictures with your family, choose a pastel-hued or colorful dress that will brighten the photos.
More important than the dress is the shoes. For women, the best fashion statement you can make during graduation is to have a great pair of shoes on. Find a pair that is glittery and will sparkle in the sun if you are a glamorous type. Slip into a pair of neon heels if you are a feeling brave. Choose a spiky, studded or otherwise embellished pair if you are feeling bold. Remember that an outside ceremony means that you will likely have to walk on grass at some point, and those stiletto heels you love will sink into the ground. If you love heels (and let’s face it, who doesn’t), then pick a wedge heel so you can stand tall and confident.
Some pro tips: Bring oil blotting sheets or tissue to dab out sweat on your foreheads before pictures. Use waterproof eye makeup if you are prone to crying during big life moments. Bring bobby pins to keep your graduation cap in place.
Most importantly, If you have a new pair of shoes you are planning to wear, make sure you can walk comfortably and stably in them. Practice in your heels and make sure your loafers don’t slide on the floor, because nobody wants to trip or slip walking to grab their diploma. If you find they do slide, use a key, credit card or even your Occidental ID card to score the soles of your shoes so they have a bit more traction.
Now, smile pretty, put your celebratory cigar in a pocket and get ready to shake lots of hands. Best of luck out there, seniors.
Noel Hemphill is a junior ECLS major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WklyNHemphill.