"Your schooling may be over, but remember that your education still continues."

~Anonymous

Origins and significance of academic regalia

Origins and significance of academic regalia “The origins of academic dress date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when universities were taking form.… Long gowns were worn and may have been necessary for warmth in unheated buildings. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head until superseded for that purpose by the skull cap.

In the days of Henry VIII of England, Oxford and Cambridge first began prescribing a definite academic dress and made it a matter of university control even to the extent of its minor details. The assignment of colors to signify certain faculties was to be a much later development, and one which was to be standardized only in the United States in the late 19th century. White taken from the white fur trimming of the Oxford and Cambridge B.A. hoods was assigned to arts and letters. Red, one of the traditional colors of the church, went to theology. Green, the color of medieval herbs, was adopted for medicine, and olive, because it was so close to green, was given to pharmacy. Golden yellow, standing for the wealth which scientific research has produced, was assigned to the sciences.

…. In 1893, an Intercollegiate Commission made up of representatives of leading institutions gathered to establish a suitable system of academic apparel. … In 1932 the American Council on Education authorized the appointment of a committee “to determine whether revision and completion of the academic code adopted by the conference of the colleges and universities in 1895 is desirable at this time, and, if so, to draft a revised code and present a plan for submitting the code to the consideration of the institutional members of the Council.” The committee reviewed the situation through correspondence and conference and approved a code for academic costumes that has been in effect since that year.

A Committee on Academic Costumes and Ceremonies, appointed by the American Council on Education in 1959, again reviewed the costume code and made several changes. In 1986, the committee updated the code and added a sentence clarifying the use of the color dark blue for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Gowns
The gown for the bachelor’s degree has pointed sleeves. It is designed to be worn closed. The gown for the master’s degree has an oblong sleeve, open at the wrist, like the others. The sleeve base hangs down in the traditional manner. The rear part of its oblong shape is square cut, and the front part has an arc cut away. The gown is so designed and supplied with fasteners that it may be worn open or closed. The gown for the doctor’s degree has bell-shaped sleeves. It is so designed and supplied with fasteners that it may be worn open or closed.

Hoods
The length of the hood worn for the bachelor’s degree must be three feet, for the master’s degree three and one-half feet, and for the doctor’s degree, four feet. The hood worn for the doctor’s degree only shall have panels at the sides. The hoods are to be lined with the official color or colors of the college or university conferring the degree.

Caps
Mortarboards are generally recommended. A long tassel is to be fastened to the middle point of the top of the cap only and to lie as it will thereon. The tassel should be black or the color appropriate to the subject, with the exception of the doctor’s cap that may have a tassel of gold.”

– American Council on Education

Academic colors

For all academic purposes, including trimmings of doctors’ gowns, edging of hoods, and tassels of caps, the colors associated with the different disciplines are as follows:

Arts, letters, humanities White
Commerce, accountancy, business Drab
Dentistry Lilac
Economics Copper
Education Light blue
Engineering Orange
Fine Arts, including architecture Brown
Forestry Russet
Journalism Crimson
Law Purple
Library science Lemon
Medicine Green
Music Pink
Nursing Apricot
Oratory (speech) Silver gray
Pharmacy Olive green
Philosophy Dark blue
Physical education Sage green
Public administration, including foreign service Peacock blue
Public health Salmon pink
Science Golden yellow
Social work Citron
Theology Scarlet
Veterinary science Gray