The student cap and the donning of the caps on Walpurgis Eve
The student cap was worn in the 1840s to show that you belonged to the student union, but from 1862 it became a symbol of having completed your upper secondary school. The first time it was used in an official context was in Copenhagen 1845, where the Uppsala students decided to wear the cap as a way of identifying themselves. Views differ on who created the first student cap, but according to tradition it was student Gerhard von Yhlen from the Swedish region of Östra Götaland.
It was considered improper for women to wear a cap, but on Walpurgis Eve (30 April) 1892, seven members of Uppsala Women’s Student Society demonstrated against this notion by wearing the white cap in public. Since then the student cap is unisex attire.
Originally, the cap was decorated with several black ribbons around the crown, but these were later removed because they discoloured the cap if they became wet by rain. The Uppsala student cap of today is white with yellow and blue lining and a yellow and blue cockade. (The Lund student cap has red lining.)
The traditional donning of the caps in Uppsala takes place below Carolina Rediviva on Walpurgis Eve – 30 April. At precisely three o’clock in the afternoon the Vice-Chancellor raises his or her white cap, waving from the balcony to everyone who has gathered below, and the crowds wave and cheer back. The effect is likened to a sea of anemones.
In the early 1900s the tradition was to put on the student cap, for the first time since winter, in the morning of 30 April. But later it became customary to meet in town on Drottninggatan and ‘don’ the caps at three o’clock. As the years passed this gathering moved further and further up towards the University Library, Carolina Rediviva. Some time during the 1950s, then Vice-Chancellor Torgny Segerstedt got the idea to raise his cap as a starting signal, and the tradition was born.
Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson welcoming spring from the balcony of Carolina Rediviva on Walpurgis Eve 2014.