Comfort found in color choice for 2022 graduating seniors

Graduating senior Rachael Molnar decided to wear a green cap and gown.

Izzy Gaspar’raj | The Chronicle

One senior prefers green. Another prefers white. On graduation day, both will proudly wear the cap and gown color of their choice. 

Mason graduating classes have always been able to choose whichever color they would like for their cap and gown, but a large facet of this choice dealt with gender. Traditionally, the color white was associated with women at graduation, while dark green was the typical choice for men.

 The graduating class of 2022, however, is defying this standard, not using gender as a basis for their choice, but simply choosing based on their preferred color. This change was aided by an option in a graduation preparation form, stating “white” or “green,” rather than “boy” or “girl” when purchasing caps and gowns.

Senior Rachael Molnar wishes that Mason offered a “one color system” because she believes that the current two-color graduation gown system can make “students feel ostracized because of their gender identity.” Furthermore, Molnar said that cap and gown color should not force students to be seen as different through what cap and gown they choose. 

“I think it’s super important for students who are cisgender to choose the ‘opposite’ color,” Molnar said. “[This is] so that students who aren’t public with their gender identity can wear whatever color they want without feeling judged.”

Molnar said she wishes that Mason’s cap and gowns were all one color, to avoid students having to make a difficult decision on how they would like to portray themselves. According to Molnar, identifying students by what color they wear is “old-fashioned.” She also said that a one-color system would avoid students having to explain themselves or choose one binary over the other. 

Senior Chris Bussey believes that this social change, with more students feeling comfortable in choosing whichever color they feel, is a step in the right direction for the school’s student culture. Bussey said they felt more comfortable choosing the color they preferred. Bussey chose a green gown, not only because of their affinity for the color green but also due to how they choose to express their gender identity.

“I’ve never been the most feminine person, so having the option [of gown color] is really affirming to me personally,” Bussey said. “The green gown has been presented as more masculine, and it just felt more comfortable to me to have that masculine option.”

Just as Molnar does, Bussey believes that a one-color system would be more inclusive for students who do not conform to the gender binary. They said that only having one option for the color of caps and gowns would make the decision easier for many students.

“There are people who don’t identify as male or female and they have to make a decision of green or white,”  Bussey said. ‘If it was all one color, I feel like it’d be a lot easier for people who don’t identify as male or female.”

Quach said that he hopes everyone can choose the color of their graduation attire based on which color they prefer, and not based on the previous associations with gender. Like Molnar, Quach chose the ‘opposite’ color. He said he chose the white cap and gown because it was the color he preferred out of the two to wear. Quach said he was concerned about receiving judgment from his peers due to his choice. However, after discussing it with friends and family who believed he should have chosen green, he became “proud” of his decision. 

“I’m proud to be able to choose a color that I want,” Quach said. “If I chose green only because I’m a male, and that’s the main reason, I wouldn’t feel proud about that.”

Despite her desire for one color for everyone, Molnar still thinks that students choosing non-traditionally is an improvement. Molnar said she chose a green cap and gown in an attempt to show everyone that they can wear whichever color they wish without fear of judgment. For such a “universal” event, she said graduation should not be centered around what color gown you choose; it should be about graduating high school, which is “a huge milestone for anyone.”

“Graduation is a big day for everyone, and I think it should be a day of celebration,” Molnar said. “I think the last thing that kids should be worrying about is how they present their gender identity on this big day.”

Photo by Izzy Gaspar’raj