If you wear a tuxedo to Kentucky State University’s opening convocation, you just might get some attention. Physics professor Anders Gardestig, who is among the new faces on campus, didn’t expect his black tails would turn so many heads. For him, it’s simply part of Sweden’s tradition.
“At least at the big universities in Sweden, this is the regalia, high-festivity costume,” says Gardestig, who is a graduate of Uppsala University in Sweden.
For centuries, the students at the University would dress in Baroque and Carolinian attire. In the 19th century, they switched to tails for special occasions. Since then, the tradition of wearing such attire has been customary at academic ceremonies, he says.
“It was colorful and then someone decided that black is the way to go,” he says.
Professor Gardestig initially bought the tux for family birthdays and weddings. However, he wore the tux at his conferment ceremony to accept his PhD. The women wear evening gowns at the graduation.
“The other acceptable thing is to wear any kind of traditional costume from your country or region,” he says. “If you have your provincial costume, you can wear that as well, because that is festive and momentous.”
Gardestig has been teaching since 2008 and he has worn his tux at every school he has worked as a professor including Whitworth University and Bethany College.
“People seem to like it,” says Gardestig. “I stand out in the crowd, and people would make comments, but it has never been a story.”