September 2014

What’s up with the regalia? Colors have a reason

The robes and hoods worn by faculty members and graduates have historical origins and significance. Historically, there academic robes were worn on a daily basis. During the Middle Ages, scholars at the wore fur or wool garments to stay warm in the cold, stone buildings. Most wore hooded cloaks that could be used to keep their heads warm. Eventually, the academic regalia was adapted from both clerical and secular garments of the time, and the trim, colors, and binding was used to indicate the degree held by the wearer. The style of academic regalia worn in the United States dates back to colonial times. While the style may vary at individual institutions, it has remained the general standard in America. Black is traditionally the color for academic gowns, but some institutions allow those who hold doctorate degrees to wear their universities colors. The sleeves and the velvet bars on each side of the robes vary, depending on the degree held by the wearer. For example, the doctoral robe has a full sleeve with a velvet facing on its front and neck whereas the bachelor’s robe has long, pointed sleeves. The head covering worn in the United States is the square “mortarboard” with a tassel. The tassel of graduates is usually black, those who hold doctoral degrees wear gold tassels. The most distinctive feature of American academic regalia is the hood, which design and color varies based on the degree and institution where the degree was earned. Hoods worn are lined with the colors of the institution and the awards the degree and the length is based on the degree of the wearer.

— By Gabriel Meredith