The student cap and the donning of the caps

Crowd on Carolina Hill raising their caps high

The donning of the caps on the Last Day of April

An important part of the celebration of the Last Day of April in Uppsala is the traditional donning of the caps by Carolina Rediviva. At precisely three o’clock in the afternoon the Vice-Chancellor raises a white cap, the signal for everyone to don their student cap and run down Carolina Hill. Jubilation breaks out among the gathered crowds.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the students simply put on their white cap for the first time after the winter when they went out in the morning on 30 April. However, the custom arose of gathering on Drottninggatan and putting the cap on at 15:00. As the years passed, the assembly point gradually moved higher and higher up towards the University Library. At some point in the 1950s, then Vice-Chancellor Torgny Segerstedt hit on the idea of raising his cap to signal the beginning of spring, and the new tradition was born.

Upside down student cap

The cap was originally decorated with several black ribbons round the crown but these were eliminated as they bled and discoloured the cap in the rain. The identity of the person who created the first student cap is disputed, but the person behind the cap in its present form was Gerhard von Yhlen. The present-day Uppsala cap is white with a blue and yellow lining and cockade. (In Lund the cap has a red lining.)

History of the student cap

At a Nordic students’ meeting in Copenhagen in 1845, the students from Uppsala wanted a mark of identification and decided to wear a student cap. The cap then became a symbol showing that the wearer was a university student.

After the student meeting, students in Uppsala wore the cap on a daily basis from 30 April until 1 October. Some time later, however, in 1862, the cap took on a different meaning. Once the student exam had switched from being an entry exam given by the universities to being a leaving exam at the end of upper secondary school, the student cap no longer signified that the wearer was studying at university. Instead it became a sign that the wearer had taken their school leaving exam.

Although women won the right to university admission in the 19th century, it was not considered acceptable from them to wear the peaked cap. On 30 April 1892, seven members of Uppsala Women’s Student Association demonstrated against this notion by wearing the white student cap in public. Since then, the student cap has been a unisex article.

These days Swedish upper secondary school students wear the student cap for a day to show they have completed their school studies. However, in Uppsala people of all ages also get out their student cap on 30 April.