I graduated from college the other day, and I was struck by how mediocre many of the other male graduates looked.
Even many who had the common sense to where a shirt and tie blew it with dark-colored shirts or weak knots.
It's probably a bit late for this year, at least for college graduations, but next April or early May you could do a real service by writing a piece on what to wear with a cap and gown.
Here are a couple of my own, totally subjective ideas, which you are free to use as you see fit.
Wear A White Dress Shirt
Wear a white shirt. Patterns are ok, if they're subtle; pale colors, maybe. Only a narrow bit of the collar is going to show above the gown, so it has to contrast sharply with the black or else it just gets lost.
Make sure the shirt fits correctly in the neck, i.e., with a 3/4″ gap where the tie knot touches the neck.
Wear A Brightly Colored Tie
Wear a brightly-colored tie: red and blue are ideal; pink, yellow, and green can work; avoid black or anything dark as it too will get lost in the gown.
Necktie Knot Should Be Right
Get the knot right. The knot is often all that shows above the gown, so if it's sloppy, it will be noticeable (assuming one has followed
the point above). Make it as symmetrical as possible; the full Windsor works nicely here.
Wear A Jacket
Gowns are made of thin, flimsy material. Unless you're built like a Marine, a gown worn directly over a shirt does not flatter the shoulders. For me, wearing a jacket under the gown made for a much better silhouette, and I was lucky that it was in the lower 50s on my graduation day.
Wear Dark Trousers and Black Dress Shoes
Wear dark trousers and black dress shoes.
Remember, friends and family are going to be taking pictures of you that they will keep for a long time and/or share with many people.
You may meet relatives of classmates for the first time, and see other classmates or professors for the last time. You worked hard to get here, and now everyone wonders where you're going next. Make a good impression.
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