The traditional black caps and gowns worn by students and faculty in the academic procession have been the historic regalia of scholars since medieval times. Because many scholars of that period were members of monastic orders, the academic regalia probably represents an adaptation of ecclesiastical dress.
A uniform code for academic regalia was drafted by an intercollegiate commission in 1893 and has since been adopted by the majority of colleges and universities in the United States. Each of the three academic degrees—bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s—has its own distinctive gown and hood. The gown representing the bachelor’s degree is distinguished by its long pointed sleeve. The master’s gown has a longer, narrow, closed sleeve, extending below the knee. The arm is passed through a slit at the elbow. In contrast, the doctor’s gown is faced with wide velvet bands, which may be black or a color indicating the general field of learning of the wearer—for example, dark blue for philosophy, green for medicine, and purple for law.
The most colorful and distinctive item of the academic regalia is the hood, which passes around the neck and extends down the back. The doctor’s hood is the largest, and the bachelor’s hood is the smallest. Often the use of a bachelor’s hood is omitted. The wearer’s field of learning is indicated by the color of the hood and the tassel. Among the colors of hoods are: