The use of stoles originates from Catholic and Anglican priests in the 12th century. When a clergy member became a part of the Roman administration, they wore a “scarf of office” (which all Imperial officials wore). The stole represents specific honors. Mainly, it designated rank within the regal hierarchy.
Religious figures wore long robes and stoles while performing various celebrations or rituals. Because of the church’s notoriety in this period, academic institutions based most of their ceremonial regalia on this style. Similarly to other academic dress, the use of a stole for academic purposes began in England during medieval times, and the tradition continued into the American educational system as well.
Stoles commonly represent a form of prestigious recognition. Typically you wear stoles to display your academic organization, honors or individual achievements. Students who are members of fraternities or sororities may wear graduation stoles with the colors representing that group. Educational institutions may choose the stole based on school colors or the student’s field of study. Sometimes schools reserve stoles strictly for honor students or the Valedictorian and Salutatorian.