In the US, academic dress is rarely worn outside commencement
ceremonies. In many American schools, the color of the hood
represents the school or department that the wearer is graduating
from. A number of other items,
cords or sashes, may be also seen worn, representing various
The tassel worn on the mortarboard may indicate the
university's colors, or the colors of the specific college or
discipline from which the student is graduating. There is in some
universities a practice of moving the tassel from one side to the
other on graduating, but this is a modern innovation which would
be impractical out of doors due to the vagaries of the wind.
However, this mark of transition to graduate status has the
benefit of taking less time than more traditional indicators such
as the conferring of the hood (which is done at some Scottish
universities), or a complete change of dress partway through the
ceremony (as at Oxford).