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History of Academic Regalia

The attire worn at academic ceremonies evolved from the dress worn by clergy in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1222. the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langston, decreed that a closed, flowing gown known as the "cappa clausa" be worn by all clerics within his jurisdiction. Because Oxford and Cambridge were within the provinces of Canterbury, the clerks at both institutions adopted this style of attire. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head until superseded for that purpose by the skull cap.

Throughout the years European universities have continued to show great diversity in their academic dress. On the other hand, American universities, when they decided to adopt academic dress in 1895, immediately established a code of regulations which today is followed by practically all American institutions. The establishment of this code has made it possible to distinguish the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees and, at the same time, recognize the university which has conferred the degree.

The associate in arts and bachelor's gowns have pointed sleeves and are worn closed. The master's gown has oblong sleeves, open at the wrist. The rear part of its oblong shape is a square cut and the front part has an arc cut away, and may be worn open or closed. The doctor's gown has bell-shaped sleeves, that can be worn open or closed. The majority of gowns are black, but a number of institutions have adopted other colors to identify special programs or groups within that institution.

The hoods vary in length: 48 inches for the doctoral degree, 42 inches for the master's and 36 for both bachelor's and associate's. All hoods are lined in silk in the academic color or colors of the institution conferring the degree. If the institution has more than one color, the colors are shown in divisions using chevrons. The binding or edge of the doctoral, master's and bachelor's hoods are typically made out of velvet in the color designating the subject in which the degree was granted. The associate's hood does not have a velvet border and the outside is black.

Black mortarboards are most commonly worn; four-sided and six-sided tams of various colors are also used.

Some of the colors in the bindings of hoods are:

  • Arts and Letters: White
  • Science: Golden Yellow
  • Business: Tan
  • Business Administration: Mustard Yellow
  • Nursing: Apricot
  • Medicine: Green
  • Law: Purple
  • Fine Arts: Brown
  • Dental Medicine: Lilac
  • Veterinary Medicine: Gray
  • Education: Light Blue
  • Public Health: Salmon Pink
  • Social Work: Citron
  • Philosophy (PhD): Dark Blue
  • Pharmacy: Olive Green