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In various European countries, student caps of different types are, or have been, worn either as a marker of a common identity, as is the case in the Nordic countries, or to identify the wearer as a member of a smaller body within the larger group of students, as is the case with the caps worn by members of German Studentenverbindungen.
The Swedish student cap (studentmössa), used since the mid-19th century, normally has a white crown, a black (or dark blue) band, and a black peak. At the front of the band is a cockade of blue and yellow, the colours of the Swedish flag.
In the Nordic countries, student caps were first adopted as a common mark of recognition by the students from Uppsala University on the occasion of a Scandinavian student meeting in Copenhagen in 1845. In subsequent years similar caps were adopted by the students at the other Swedish university, (Lund), and by the students in Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Caps of the same type are known to have been used by German students in the early 19th century, and it is possible that the original impulse came from Germany.
Swedish student caps traditionally come in two main variants, named after the two universities in existence at the time of their original adoption. The Uppsala cap has a black band, blue and yellow lining, and a somewhat soft crown. The Lund cap has a dark blue band, red lining, and a stiffer crown. The earliest student cap known to have been preserved, a mid-19th century Uppsala cap in the collections of the Nordic Museum but currently exhibited at the Uppland Provincial Museum (in Uppsala), is considerably softer and looser in style than the modern or even late 19th century caps.
The Uppsala cap is traditionally only worn only in summer, from Walpurgis Night until the end of September. In Lund, the white cap is also donned at Walpurgis and taken off in the fall, but students can exchange it for a winter variant with a dark blue crown during the rest of the year.
A major variation on the student cap is the one worn by engineering students, the teknologmössa, which has the same basic shape as the regular student cap but has a triangular flap hanging down on the right side ending in a tassel. The caps worn by engineering students usually come in colours signalling the university of origin (e.g. white=Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, wine red=Luleå University of Technology). The tasseled cap originated at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, where it was first introduced in 1879, and is influenced by the Norwegian student cap, the duskelue, which from 1856 had a tassel; during the period of the Swedish-Norwegian union (until 1905) a large number of Norwegian students studied at Chalmers. It later spread to the Royal Institute of Technology and the other Swedish engineering schools.
Originally associated with completion of the studentexamen, the entrance examination to the universities, which was at the time of the original adoption of student caps always taken at the universities, the cap followed the studentexamen to the secondary schools when these took over the final examination of their students in 1864. After this point it was donned upon graduation by everyone who completed the studentexamen, whether they continued to university or not.
As the studentexamen in reality remained reserved for boys (and later girls) from the bourgeoisie, a very large proportion of whom did enroll at university, the conversion of the cap to a form of secondary school graduation cap did not in fact result in the cap losing its association with university students. To some extent this happened later, through the combination of two factors: firstly, the radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s, which influenced many students to stop using their caps (regarded as a sign of belonging to the bourgeoisie) or even burn them publicly. Secondly, the simultaneous (1968) reform of the secondary school system, through the abolition of the studentexamen and the introduction of a large number of secondary school programmes, many of which were vocational in character and not intended to prepare for higher studies but all frequently co-existing in the same schools.
The large number of new programmes introduced after 1970 also led to a proliferation of new types of student caps, such as the one with a red band (instead of the black or dark blue band of the traditional caps) used by students completing the two-year vocational programmes. With the caps now being used upon graduation by almost all secondary school students, many of the caps have become to be more strongly associated with the secondary school and the coming of age rather than with the common identity as a Swedish student, as had originally been intended. Recent developments in the graduation hats has differentiated these hats further, such as with the introduction as personalized embroideries, linings and colouring to signify the student’s programme, place of education and origin. Currently in Sweden there are a lot of companies that provide personalized student caps, clothing, graduation caps etc. Many of these companies have tie ups with the universities to provide the respective caps regularly.
The Finnish student cap (ylioppilaslakki) tradition follows the Swedish model, like many other Finnish academic traditions. The Finnish student cap has an appearance similar to the Swedish version, but instead of coloured fabric cockade, it has a metallic, gold-colored cockade depicting the lyre of Apollo, the insignia of the University of Helsinki. The cap was introduced in its present form in the 1870s. Until the 1950s, the university students usually wore the cap during the whole summer holiday of the university, from Walpurgis Night until the end of September. Nowadays, the cap is used mostly during 1 May and in academic ceremonies and occasions. The cap is worn by all Finnish high school (lukio) graduates.
Until 1917, the matriculation examination was the entrance exam of the University of Helsinki, which meant that all high-school graduates were, at least formally, students of the University of Helsinki. As a memory of that period, all new student cap have the cocakade of the Student union of the University of Helsinki. In many Finnish universities, the student union recommends that the students change the cockade into a university-specific one.
In the late 19th century, the language strife between Swedish- and Finnish-speakers divided the Finnish academia. The size of the cockade was used to signal the student's opinion to the language question: the Swedish-speaking students wore a cockade with a diameter of 22 mm, moderate Finnish-speakers a 16 mm cockade and radical Finnish-speakers a 14 mm cockade. Even today, the Swedish-speakers use the 22 mm cockade, while the graduates of Finnish-speaking high schools use a 16 mm cockade.
The lining, i.e. the inside, of the cap symbolizes the regional identity of the graduate. Especially in earlier days, the students usually choose the lining to have the colours of their own student nations. Nowadays, the most typical lining is the white and blue, symbolizing common patriotism. However, the Swedish-speaking students usually wear red and yellow, or blue, yellow and white, while in Satakunta and North Karelia, the regional colours are still popular. The Swedish-speaking students in Ostrobothnia use black, yellow and red.
As in Sweden, the students of Engineering usually wear a special student cap (Finnish: teekkarilakki) with a long tassel. However, unlike in Sweden, the crown of the Finnish Engineering student cap is always white and the cap has a gold-coloured, university-specific cockade, except in University of Oulu, where the cockade is program specific. The tassel is always black and worn without any additions. The lining of the engineering caps is dark red, symbolizing the social change brought about by the ever-advancing technology, except in Lappeenranta University of Technology, where Karelian colours, red and black, are used, in University of Oulu, where the student cap has a blue lining, and in the cap of Teknologföreningen, the Swedish-speaking student nation at the Aalto University, with a red-yellow-red lining. The Engineering student caps are worn by present engineering students and graduate engineers on 1 May and in academic ceremonies.
In Denmark, the student caps (studenterhue) are the last remains of the old school uniform of the University of Copenhagen. They came in two colours: black for the winter uniform [in the 19th century with black jacket and long black trousers] and white for the summer uniform. The caps are worn by students who have completed an upper secondary level education. The student cap is made of linen with a black brim and is supplied with a band and a cockade with a Dannebrog cross or other badge. The design varies after which exam it represents.
When this school uniform vanished in the late 19th century, the two caps came to denote two different kinds of studentereksamen: the classical-linguistic exam with the black student’s cap and the white for the modern language + mathematical exams. Both with a Bordeaux-coloured band.
When the student cap came out, it was only connected to studentereksamen (STX) which at that time was the only upper secondary level education there was, and was connected to a very high status, because very few people graduated. From the 1970s three other upper secondary level educations were made. Higher Preparatory Examination (HF), Higher Commercial Examination Programme (HHX), and Higher Technical Examination Programme (HTX). From about 1990 there has also been student caps for other educations, including 10th grade and SOSU. More variants of the caps are still being developed with special coloured cords and badges, because more educations want their own cap.
There is a long list of traditions with the Danish student cap. They have, of course, been changed and will vary from place to place. Here are a few:
- It is bad luck to try on a student's cap before completion of the last exam.
- It’s tradition to write the grade given in the last exam in the middle of lining of the student's cap.
- Classmates and friends write in the lining.
- The student with the biggest and/or the smallest head has to give beer to the whole class.
- The student cap can be marked with notches, cuts and so on, in connection with the "rules" of the student cap.
- There are taunt songs connected with the rivalry between the different educations, for example between Gymnasium and HF: “There is only one cap and it’s red – and if it’s blue it’s way too easy to get” or HTX to STX "Hvis den er rød, er den ikke mere værd end brød" (translation: "If it's red, it's not worth more than bread".
STX-student (regular student)
|3 years||Bordeaux||Dannebrog cross|
|Higher Preaparatory Examination (HF)
|2 years||Light blue||Dannebrog cross|
|Higher Commercial Examination Programme (HHX/HH)
|3 years||Blue||Mercury stick|
|Higher Technical Examination Programme (HTX)
HTX-student (technical student)
|3 years||Dark blue||“HTX”|
|International baccalaureate (IB)
IB-student (international student)
|2 years||Bordeaux with international flags||Dannebrog cross|
|STX + 1-year HHX||3 years + 1 year||Bordeaux (top) and blue (bottom)||Mercury stick|
|HF + 1-year HHX||2 years + 1 year||Light blue (top) and blue (bottom)||Mercury stick|
|HTX plus 1-year HHX||3 years + 1 year||Dark blue (top) and blue (bottom)||Mercury stick|
|10th grade (FS10)||1 year||Green||Dannebrog cross|
|Higher Commercial Examination Programme
|2 out of 4 years||Dark purple||Mercury stick|
|3½ years||Green||Dannebrog cross|
|PGU||1 year and 7½ months||Orange||Dannebrog cross|
|SOSU-helper||1 year and 2 months||Light purple||Dannebrog cross|
|SOSU-assistant||2 years and 10 months||Bordeaux (top) and blue (bottom)||Dannebrog cross|
|Hairdresser||4 years||Pink||Dannebrog cross|
|HTX plus 1-year HHX||4 years||Yellow||Dannebrog cross|
The cross is not a Christian badge. It is modelled after the cross of the Order of Dannebrog and thereby symbolizes the tie between the student and the state. However, the caps can have other badges, for example:
- Star of David for Jews
- Crescent moon for Muslims
- Maple leaf for atheists and other religious persuasions
- A red sun on a white background, for Greenlanders
- A treble clef
- A piece of a puzzle (fair trade student cap)
The Norwegian student cap (Studenterlue or Duskelue), is mostly made of black velvet with the old Apollo symbol on the forehead (the symbol of the old University of Oslo). The tassel is made from silk. Norwegian students got their caps on graduation, after throwing away the red russelue, made after a similar principle. After 1968, the use of this cap has been less and less frequent, but may be seen on Norwegian Constitution Day, mostly worn by old academics.
This cap came into use after 1850.
At each high-school and or junior college ceremonial graduation the graduating students are allowed to wear their student caps for the first time. Know simply as stúdentshúfa, the Icelandic student caps have mostly the same shape and colour as the other traditional Nordic student caps of Sweden and Denmark, they however tend to have a slightly tighter fit and appear somewhat stiffer and more defined in shape.
It has a white crown, a black band and a black peak. At the front of the band is a silver star.
One of the caps dissitinctive traits is the possibility of removing the top white crown, which in return reveals a black version of the cap's crown. This is due to the Icelandic tradition dictating that after an entire year as a graduate and after finishing a year of university education the student should remove the white cover-piece, signifying his or hers academic status as a university stúdent. This practice has its roots in the traditions concerning the black caps of the Danish students. During the year the cap is white, the student is known as nýstúdent or new-student.
The first Icelandic students to wear these caps were graduates of "Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík" or "Reykjavík College". In modern times different versions have been introduced. These caps often have different coloured crowns which differ from the traditional white coloured crown. This is done in order to allow students which graduate at secondary level from schools specialising in academic trade- industry- and/or craftmen-programs, "iðnskóli". The colours of these crowns are often red or green.
The calotte originates from the skullcap worn by the Zouave papal regiment around 1860. The calotte is cylindrical, made from velvet and astrakhan (pelt of newborn lamb. The color of the top is bordeau red for the universities of Brussels, Leuven, Louvain-la-Neuve and Namur, white for the University of Ghent and emerald for the University of Liège.
In the front of the calotte are stripes representing the Belgian flag (black, yellow and red) and stripes representing the colors of the city or the university where the calotte has been received. At the back of the calotte, the faculty of the student is represented by a color and a symbol, with if needed an additional symbol to determine the speciality. Golden stars around the calotte represent the number of years that the student has studied successfully (if a year has to be retaken, a silver star will represent it). In addition to that, a number of official and personal pins will be added to the calotte, all representing something about its owner examples include:
- Official position in a student organisation (above the considered year’s star)
- Hobbies and occupations (cardplayer, partyer...)
- Character (patriotic, lazy...)
The calotte is awarded after a rite of passage called Corona (from Latin crown, for the shape of the assembly) by numerous student unions called Ordres, Cercles and Régionales to hundreds of students each year. Requirements to get the calotte vary, but always include a minimum time spent on the given campus, a knowledge of the calotte, Latin formulae and student songs.
Like the calotte, the penne is only awarded after a student-organized initiation ceremony. The number of gold stars represent the number of years of study, with silver stars representing years that were failed and re-done. For years of study before the initiation (if any), the stars are not placed centrally, but instead off to the side of the head. In Brussels, the student's official nickname is spelled out in brass pins along the rim of the hat. The colour of the band around the edge represents the faculty in which they study, with a different colour for each faculty. The hat is additionally extensively decorated as the student sees fit.
- ABC-Gruppen AB. Studentmössans utveckling (recent developments of the graduation cap). Retrieved 01-20-2013. (Swedish)
- Fredrikson Oy. Ylioppilaslakin historiaa (graduation hat history). Retrieved 8-20-2008. (Finnish)
- Danish wikipage about Danish student caps
-  Picture of all the different student caps