I have triumphantly returned from Exeter with my most excellent trophy of a genuine PhD hat.
It is a very charming hat modeled on a sort of Henry VIII style, with a squashy velvet top and a round brim with a piece of wide ribbon tied around it. Topping it all off is a bit of blue cord wrapped around the brim that ends in two tassels in a fetching shade of blue to represent my university.
The robing room was all atwitter with graduates getting their various pieces of equipment when I arrived. The bigger your degree, the more stuff you get to wear: this degree, I had a long gown trimmed in blue silk with epically long sleeves, a grey hood with a red lining, and my fabulous hat.
I pulled the robes and hat out of the plastic bag. Trepidation mingled with joy as I lowered the hat on my head. With anxious eyes I looked at the robing representative there to pin us all in place. “A perfect fit!” she said.
“It feels too small,” I said dubiously.
“No, it’s supposed to sit flat on the head, no tilting, no funny puffing out–just as flat as possible, and with enough space over your ears,” she said. I smiled, tugging it down a smidge.
In the queue on the way into the hall where graduation was being held, a couple of undergraduates enviously asked, “Why do you get such cool robes?” “Because I’m getting the PhD, ladies!” They “ooh”ed. I told them someday they might get a hat like mine. They said, “Oh, no way.”
I proceeded to wear the hat all day, and for a good part of the days following. It is now hanging in pride of place in my bedroom, decorously reminding me of my graduation–and how hard it was to get to that graduation! How grateful I am, and proud, to be the bearer of such a marvellous piece of headgear.