Costly caps: should Shorewood use Jostens caps and gowns?

by Jade Doerksen, Associate Editor

Each year, several hundred blue-gowned seniors graduate from Shorewood, throwing their matching caps into the air, and starting a new life after high school. However, the graduation caps and gowns have been subject to controversy. 

Shorewood’s caps and gowns are marketed to seniors through Jostens, a memorabilia manufacturer. Future graduates are expected to wear only Jostens graduation caps and gowns for “uniformity,” according to Britt Harris, Activity Coordinator. Caps and gowns are typically $70 to $85, but the price increases as the year progresses because of shipping costs, as the large amount purchased at the beginning of the year can be shipped in bulk. This year, Jostens sold about 250 caps and gowns to the class of 2021.

The pricing, and marketing tactics of Jostens have upset seniors in the past, including recent alum Ari Webb. Webb said that he was initially skeptical of Jostens. 

“There was a senior meeting and they came in with a Jostens salesperson and… basically took 45 minutes out of our day to give us a sales pitch of why we should buy merch from Jostens,” Webb said. He took a look at the price and believed they were too expensive.  

For monetary concerns, Harris said there is assistance.  “We have always provided free caps and gowns for any students in need. Jostens donates several every year to make sure all our graduates are properly outfitted.” Webb argued that although waiving fees for those in need is good, “ultimately… people should buy from the cheapest option that’s making the highest quality product.” Webb does not believe that this option is Jostens. 

In Webb’s graduation last year, he said “five or ten people… we all bought our cap and gowns online… I walked up in the cap and gown I bought online and [Shorewood] didn’t do anything about it.” Webb believes that his approximately $20 cap and gown looked very similar to the Jostens cap and gown. “The two arguments that they usually use is that one, that we need to be uniform, and two, they say it won’t fit you if you just get one online… for me, both of those didn’t end up being true,” Webb said. 

Like Webb, buying one’s own cap and gown may be a viable alternative. 

“Shorewood can give people references as to where they buy their cap and gowns, but ultimately leave it up to them… it would save people a lot of money,” Webb said. 

Another alternative may be the school keeping a surplus of gowns, and seniors just purchasing caps each year for personalization. However, Harris said that’s not quite as straightforward as it seems. 

We’d have to take [the gowns] off all the graduates at graduation and then send them out to be cleaned every year,” Harris said, citing one of a few issues that would arise with re-using the gowns. 

Although the manner in which Shorewood outfits its seniors may not change, the school’s cap and gown manufacturer is subject to change. Harris explained, “We put it out to bid and allow other companies to present a graduation package.  A committee makes the decision about what company they want to work with for the next few years.”