A Kente stole is a scarf-like garment worn over a student’s graduation gown. While wearing academic stoles is a tradition as old as the earliest universities, those that display the Kente cloth material are a more contemporary adoption, becoming more and more popular at colleges and high schools in the United States over the last 30 years. However, Kente cloth weaving goes back hundreds of years to modern day Ghana.
Hand woven using silk, rayon, polyester or cotton, Kente cloth incorporates a variety of shapes and patterns, often in some combination of balck, red, green, blue, and gold colors. On the academic stole, Kente patterns typically border a large margin of space on the garment reserved for text, such as the graduating class year, or the Greek letters of the student’s fraternity or sorority. However, some Kente stoles are themed from top to bottom in the vibrant patterns reminiscent of West Africa. The garment drapes over and behind the student’s neck, with each long end reaching down near their waistline.
Like other academic stoles, Kente stoles represent a specific theme for the students that wear them. Most graduates in Kente stole are of African descent, wearing them in union with the shared heritage of those who birthed the Kente cloth tradition. The stole can have other personal meanings for the wearer as well, offering significance for people of other ethnic backgrounds to wear the garment. Many universities and colleges host ceremonies to formally don the students in Kente stoles before the graduation commencement.