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Academic dress

A doctor of philosophy of the University of Oxford, in full academic dress.
Academic dress of King's College London in different colours, designed and presented by globally-renowned Vivienne Westwood.

Academic dress is a traditional form of clothing for academic settings, primarily tertiary (and sometimes secondary) education, worn mainly by those who have been admitted to a university degree (or similar), or hold a status that entitles them to assume them (e.g., undergraduate students at certain old universities).[1] It is also known as academicals and, in the United States, as academic regalia.

Contemporarily, it is commonly seen only at graduation ceremonies, but formerly academic dress was, and to a lesser degree in many ancient universities still is, worn daily. Today the ensembles are distinctive in some way to each institution, and generally consists of a gown (also known as a robe) with a separate hood, and usually a cap (generally either a square academic cap, a tam, or a bonnet). Academic dress is also worn by members of certain learned societies and institutions as official dress.[2][3]


  • Overview 1
  • Materials 2
  • Academic dress by country 3
    • Canada 3.1
    • France 3.2
    • Germany 3.3
    • Italy 3.4
    • Malaysia 3.5
    • New Zealand 3.6
    • Philippines 3.7
    • Poland 3.8
    • Portugal 3.9
    • Singapore 3.10
    • Spain 3.11
    • Sri Lanka 3.12
    • Sweden and Finland 3.13
    • Thailand 3.14
    • Tunisia 3.15
    • United Kingdom and Ireland 3.16
    • United States 3.17
  • Pontifical Universities 4
  • See also 5
  • Bibliography 6
    • Further reading 6.1
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The academic dress found in most universities in the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States is derived from that of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which was a development of academic and clerical dress common throughout the medieval universities of Europe.[4]

Formal or sober clothing is typically worn beneath the gown so, for example, men would often wear a dark suit with a white shirt and a tie, or clerical clothing, military or civil uniform, or national dress, and women would wear equivalent attire. Some older universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, have a prescribed set of dress (known as subfusc) to be worn under the gown. Though some universities are relaxed about what people wear under their gowns, it is nevertheless considered bad form to be in casual wear or the like during graduation ceremonies, and a number of universities may bar finishing students from joining the procession or the ceremony itself if not appropriately dressed[5] (though this sometimes refers only to requiring the proper wear of academic dress and not what is worn beneath it, if unseen). In the Commonwealth, gowns are worn open, while in the United States it has become common for gowns to close at the front, as did the original roba.


In general, the materials used for academic dress are heavily influenced by the climate where the academic institution is located, or the climate where the graduate will usually be wearing the costume (as a faculty member at another institution, for example). In either case, the American Council of Education (ACE) allows for the comfort of the wearer, and concedes that lighter materials be used in tropical climates, and heavier materials elsewhere.[6] In addition, it acknowledges cotton poplin, broadcloth, rayon, or silk as appropriate.[7]

The materials used for academic dress vary and range from the extremely economical to the very expensive. In the United States, most Bachelor and master's degree candidates are often only presented the "souvenir" version of regalia by their institutions or authorized vendor, which are generally intended for very few wearings and are comparatively very inexpensive. For some doctoral graduates commencement will be the only time they wear academic regalia, and so they rent their gowns instead of buying them. These rented (or hired)[8] gowns are often made of inexpensive polyester or other man-made synthetic fibre. In Britain, rented gowns are almost always polyester while Russell cord, silk or artificial silk gowns are only available when bought. Undergraduate gowns are usually made from cotton or cotton and polyester mix and are relatively inexpensive to encourage students to own them.

People who choose to buy their dress may opt for finer fabrics, such as poplin, grosgrain, Percale, cotton, wool, cassimere, broadcloth, Russell cord or corded/ribbed material. For silk, there are a range of types including artificial silk/rayon, Ottoman (i.e. ribbed or corded silk), taffeta, satin, alpaca, true silk, shot silk or a mixture. Pure Ottoman silk is rarely used except for official gowns as it is very expensive.[9] Some gowns may be trimmed with gimp lace, cords, buttons or other forms of decoration.

In the past, fur has been used to line certain hoods (especially those of the UK) which range from rabbit to ermine. In the past, sheepskin was widely used. Most now use imitation fur instead, mainly because of cost and animal rights concerns. Some robemakers will use fur if the customer requests and pays for it, as some feel that the quality and feel of artificial fur has yet to match that of real fur.[10]

Doctor's robes usually use wool flannel, panama (worsted), superfine cloth, damask or brocade and are brightly coloured (or black, but faced with a bright colour) to distinguish them from lower degrees. They tend to be the most expensive because they must be dyed in a specific colour and/or be trimmed in coloured silks. Many doctoral gowns have a special undress version so adding to the cost of a full set.

A full set may cost about $360 (£180) for cheap materials to as much as $5800 (£2900) for high quality materials.[11] Usually, ex-hire gowns are available for purchase at cheaper prices though the quality may be lower.[12]

Academic dress by country


Ceremonial robe of McGill University's Principal and chief executive.
McGill University's scarlet, Ph.D. regalia dates back to the early 19th century.

In Canada, academic regalia is worn by university officials, faculty, students and honored guests during commencement exercises, installations of their presiding officers and special convocations, such as the inauguration of newly endowed professorial chairs and inductions to some of the honor and professional societies with university chapters. Academic regalia typically consists of a headgear (mortarboard, Tudor bonnet or John Knox cap), robe and hood. Until the 1930s, Canadian universities customarily prescribed academic robes for its professors and students at classes and lectures. At the University of Trinity College at the University of Toronto academic gowns are still required for all students and faculty at weekday dinners, most college meetings, debates and certain special college events.[13]

Most Canadian universities follow or adopted either the British University academic dress at Oxford or Cambridge universities,[14][15] or the Intercollegiate Code of Academic Costume ratified by most American universities in the late 1890s.[16] Other universities contain elements of the British and American patterns for some or all of their academic costumes. A classic example is the academic dress of McGill University, whose British origins are evident in the regalia of its degree holders. The distinctive ceremonial regalia of McGill University officials, on the other hand, is closer to the American pattern for the master's robe with above the elbow, square slit-cut sleeves. The scarlet, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) regalia of McGill can now be worn closed-front, unlike the open-front only gown of the University of Cambridge higher doctorate full dress, from which it evolved. Gold strand tassels used in American doctoral regalia are wrapped around McGill's otherwise Tudor-style bonnet or tam.


Doctors of various faculties, Paris

In France, academic dress, also called the toge (from the word toga, an ancient Roman garment), is similar to French judges' court dress, except for its colour, which depends on the academic field in which the wearer graduated. It is nowadays little worn, except by doctors during the opening of the university year or the ceremony for a doctorate honoris causa. For doctors, it consists of:

  • a long gown (a bit similar to a cassock) with a long row of buttons (traditionally, 33, but nowadays usually fewer) in front and a train at the back (which in the current costume is not visible but attached with a button in the inner side of the gown). The gown is in two colours: black and the standard colour of the academic field in which the wearer graduated (see below), with simarras (two vertical bands in the front of the gown).
  • an épitoge (epitoga): a piece of cloth with white fur stripes (three for doctors) attached by a button on the left shoulder, with a rectangular, long, thin tail in the front and a triangular, shorter, broad tail in the back (both tails carry the fur stripes); its colour is that of the relevant academic field. The epitoga has evolved from the academic hood, which explains why the French academic dress does not include a hood.
  • a long, wide belt or sash, either black or of the colour of the relevant academic field, ended by fringes (which may be golden or of the same colour as the belt), and attached with a broad ornamental knot.
  • a white rabat (jabot), over which a white tie may be worn for ceremonial occasions. It is made of lace for the Dean of the Faculty, the President of the University, and a few other officials; of plain cotton for others.
  • only for men, a mortarboard of the colour of the relevant academic field with a golden stripe, which is usually not worn but carried (since anyway the academic dress in France is rarely worn outdoors, and men are supposed not to wear hats indoors), and often even omitted.
  • in principle white bow tie and white gloves.

Professors who served 20 years are sometimes presented with a sword (identical model to that of French Police commissars).

The colours of the various academic fields are daffodil (yellow) for literature and arts, amaranth (purplish red) for science, redcurrant (reddish pink) for medicine, scarlet red for law, and violet (purple) for theology. University rectors, chancellors or presidents wear also specific costumes, which are violet regardless of the academic field in which they graduated.

Field of graduation Colour name Colour aspect
Divinity (and all high officials regardless of the field) Violet (Purple, specifically the Royal Purple shade)
Law (colour also worn by high magistrates) Écarlate (Scarlet)
Medicine (and health-related fields) Groseille (Redcurrant, a reddish shade of pink)
Science (exact and experimental) Amaranthe (Amaranth)
Arts, literature, philosophy, humanities Jonquille (Daffodil, a shade of yellow)

The dress exists in two versions: the petit costume ("small costume") and the grand costume ("great costume"). Both are identical in form, and differ only in the presence or absence of the mortarboard and the repartition of colours on the gown and sash (the other elements of the dress, especially the epitoga, being identical for both):

  • for the petit costume, the gown is all black, except the simarras which are of the colour of the academic field; the buttons are black; the sash and its fringes moiré black; the mortarboard is usually not worn;
  • for the grand costume, the gown is black between the simarras, which are moiré black, and of the colour of the academic field on the sides and on the sleeves, except their turn-ups, which are black; the buttons are of the colour of the academic field; the sash is of the colour of the academic field, its fringes may be either the same colour or gold.

In formal occasions, the grand costume is equivalent to white tie, whereas the petit costume is equivalent to black tie.


Academic robes of the Free University of Berlin

The German academic dress is called "Talar" (with the accent on the second "a": talár; from Latin talare which means to the ankles), and can be described as the normal black long gown with wide sleeves common to all scholars in Europe and America. It can be traced back to the every day clothes of the scholars in the Middle Ages. The same word Talar is also used for the robes of Protestant (Lutheran) pastors and rabbis (not for judges or lawyers, their gowns are called "Robe"), although these gowns often differ more or less in cut, length, drappings, and sometimes even in colour (the gowns of the German Supreme Court are, e.g., completely dark red).

In Germany only the rectors, deans, professors, and lecturers wore the gowns—not students or graduates. Each German university had its own system of colours and drapings, which differs from that of British and American universities (for example, theology is normally not bright red but dark purple, similar to the French system). After the so-called "student's revolution" following the years of 1967, all German universities dropped their academic dress because they were identified with right-winged conservatism and reactionism by the mostly socialist influenced students at that time: The famous slogan "Unter den Talaren – Muff von 1000 Jahren" (beneath the gowns the fug of 1000 years) refers not only to the old traditions of the Middle Ages, but also to the Nazi regime and their self-declared "empire of 1000 years".[17]

It was not until recently that some universities started to use their traditional academic dress again. For example, the University of Bonn re-adopted academic dress in 2005 for the first time since 1969.[18] Today many young and newly founded universities also use academic dress, not to revive old traditions but to follow Anglo-American examples.


The Magnificus Rector of the Pavia University Plinio Fraccaro, wearing gown and academic cap, welcomes the President of Republic Luigi Einaudi, 13 April 1955

In Italy there are several differences among the typical academic dress (gowns, academic caps, etc.) of the different universities, due to the great number of ancient universities in the country (for example the University of Bologna,[19][20] University of Pavia,[21][22] University of Padua,[23][24][25] University of Pisa,[26] University of Siena,[27] University of Florence,[28] University of Rome,[29] etc.). Usually gowns are worn only by professors during ceremonies and, in some faculties, during graduations. After the student protests of 1968 many professors in many universities had stopped wearing academical gowns also in the formal occasions but since the nineties people have started to use them again, mostly in humanities faculties.[30][31] Furthermore, also students have started to wear gowns and cap in graduation ceremonies (usually for Ph.D.) in some universities.[23][31][32][33] Gowns are traditionally all hemmed with the colours of faculty, which have some variations following the tradition of each atheneum.[34] However the most widely used table of coulours is the following[35]

Faculty Colour Sample
Humanities White
Architecture and Engineering Black
Economics Yellow
Law Blue
Pharmacy Maroon
Political science Lilac
Education Pink
Medicine Red
Veterinary medicine Violet
Natural science Green
Psychology Grey
Sociology Orange


In Malaysia, most public university academic gowns incorporate Songket motifs.

New Zealand

University graduates in New Zealand wear an academic gown identical to those of the University of Cambridge[36] and either a hood or scarf, depending on whether the graduate is receiving a degree or diploma. If the graduate is receiving a degree, a hood[36] will be worn throughout the ceremony. If a diploma is received, the graduate will wear a diploma scarf.[37]

The hood, like the gown, is identical to that of the hood for the Cambridge Master of Arts. A Bachelor's degree hood is lined with coloured satin and bordered with white fur (the exception to this are Canterbury and Waikato University which do not line their hoods with fur). The bachelor's degree with Honours hood is lined with coloured satin and bordered with white satin. The master's degree hood has no edging. A Doctoral Degree recipient wears the same as a graduate receiving a Masters, except the gown is completely silk, either black or scarlet, with the option to wear a cloth gown. A Doctoral hood is completely silk and the headdress is a black Tudor bonnet, in place of the flat-topped mortarboard worn with Bachelor's and Master's gowns .

Below is a list of the general hood colours of graduates:

Faculty Colour Sample
Architecture Lemon
Arts Pink
BBIM Apricot
Business Administration, MBA Burgundy
Commerce Orange
Dentistry Violet
Economics Copper
Education Emerald,[36] Coral[38]
Engineering Dark Violet
Fine Arts, Gold
Human Biology Crimson
Law Light Blue
Medicine Lilac
Music White
Nursing Navy
Optometry Blue Green
Performing Arts Pink
Pharmacy Grey Green
Philosophy Dark Blue
Physical Education Sage Green
Planning Green
Property Silver
Science Dark Blue
Theology, Divinity Forest Green, Violet Grey


Most colleges and universities in the Philippines follows the traditional mortarboard, hood and gown during graduation.

In some schools of the country, the colour of the gown corresponds to the school colour (Blue for Colegio de San Juan de Letran and Ateneo de Manila University, Green for Far Eastern University, and Red for San Beda College).

Some schools like the University of Santo Tomas, due to its Spanish heritage, follows the Spanish academic attire such as the academic biretta and mozetta. The birreta and mozetta are worn by those from the Graduate School and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. Graduates of the Bachelors' programs wear the traditional mortarboard, hood and gown. The professors of the University wear their academic regalia during the Missa de Apertura or the Opening Mass of the Academic Year aside from Solemn Investitures (graduation ceremonies) and other academic activities. The academic colours are unique to this university as these depend on the official color of the faculty or college a student or an academe belongs into.

  1. Faculty of Sacred Theology - White
  2. Faculty of Philosophy - Blue
  3. Faculty of Canon Law - Green
  4. Faculty of Civil Law - Red
  5. Faculty of Medicine and Surgery - Yellow
  6. Faculty of Pharmacy - Purple
  7. Faculty of Arts and Letters - Navy Blue
  8. Faculty of Engineering - Gray
  9. College of Education - Orange
  10. College of Science - Azure
  11. College of Architecture - Maroon
  12. College of Commerce and Business Administration - Gold
  13. Graduate School - Blue, Gold and White
  14. Conservatory of Music - Pink
  15. College of Nursing - Green and Yellow
  16. College of Rehabilitation Sciences - yellow and Light Blue
  17. College of Fine Arts and Design - Maroon and Green
  18. Institute of Physical Education and Athletics - Black, Gold and White
  19. Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy - Beige and Red
  20. College of Tourism and Hospitality Management - Blue and Green
  21. Institute of Information and Computing Sciences - Red, Gray and Cream

A unique graduation garb by the University of the Philippines is the use of the Sablay. The Sablay was inspired from the Malong of Muslim Mindanao thus, giving it a Filipiniana look. It features the indigenous baybayin characters for "U" and "P".[39] During the commencement ceremony, graduates wear the Sablay at the right shoulder, it is then moved to the left shoulder after the President of the University confers their degree, "similar to the moving of the tassel of the academic cap." The Sablay is worn over traditional Filipino attire – Barong Tagalog for men and Filipiniana dress for women.

Elementary and high school students also wear a certain kind of academic dress upon their graduation, usually a white gown and mortarboard for public schools. For private schools, the gown and mortarboard's color in in the discretion of the administration. There are several schools which make use of a hood-like design on top of their gowns which bears the school colors.


The wearing of traditional academic dress is an important feature of Polish educational ceremonies.


In most Portuguese universities and other types of higher education institutions, usage of academic dress for undergraduates, or traje académico is still widespread and has even gained popularity in recent decades. The traje is composed of black trousers (or skirt, for female students), white shirt, black tie, a black overcoat, known as batina (in the case of male students, the classical traje also includes a black vest) and a black robe.[40] Some Portuguese higher education institutions have their typical academic outfit which differs greatly from that born in the ancient University of Coimbra. This is the case, for example, of those worn by the students of the University of the Algarve and Minho University. Usage is generally restricted to the first weeks of the semester, during the introductory and reception activities which make part of the Praxe tradition. In some older institutions, where traditions are better implemented, one can see students trajados during the entire year, though.


Academic dress for Phd in Singapore with description
Academic dress for Masters in Singapore with description


This article is partially translated fromémica

Honoris causa doctorates wearing the Spanish doctor's academic dress for Sciences at the University of Valladolid, Spain.
Spanish rector (University president) in full academic dress, wearing the hexagonal birrete (biretta) that is the academic cap in Spanish universities.

The typical Spanish academic dress has Latin origin. It has been regulated since 1850, when Queen Isabella II established several rules about academic dress, according to the centuries-old Spanish custom. The typical Spanish academic dress for doctors is composed by:

  • A black long gown (toga) with a long row of buttons, made of satin and wool. It is worn over a black suit.
  • A mozzetta (muceta), whose colour depends on the academic field.
  • Long embroidered cuffs (puñetas). They are usually made of white cotton, although those of the Rector (University president) are red or pink. The buttons are made of gold for the Rector and made of silver for the Deans.
  • A hexagonal biretta (birrete), whose colour depends on the academic field.
  • White gloves.
  • A ring is usually worn by doctors.
  • A staff or scepter (bastón) made of American reed is carried by the University rector.
  • Medallions are often worn by postgraduates, doctors, professors, deans and the University rector.

However, this academic dress is only used for the opening of the academic year and for PhD graduations or for doctorates honoris causa. It is worn only by doctors, deans and the University Rector. For other graduates, the academic dress is often composed by a mortarboard and a mozzetta (muceta) or a sash over the shoulder (beca) with the shield of the University and/or Faculty. The colour of the mozzetta or the sash depends on the academic field.

The colours used in Spain for the various academic fields are:

Academic field Colour name Sample
Psychology Lilac
Pharmacy Purple
Odontology Fuchsia
Law Red
Architecture, Engineering Brown
Economics, Business, Political Sciences, Sociology Orange
Medicine Gold
Art, Theology White
Veterinary Medicine Green
Sport Sciences Light green
Translation, Interpreting Teal
Philosophy, Literature Sky blue
Learning Sciences Light Blue
Natural Sciences, Exact Sciences Dark ("Turk") blue
Nursing Grey
Journalism Lead grey
Rector Black

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the academic dress consists of gown, a garland or hood. Universities that were affiliated to the former University of Ceylon issue black gowns for graduates and post graduates; red gowns for masters and Phd graduates; crimson gowns for chancellors with a different colour gowns for senior academic faculty. These universities issue garland to all academics and only issue mortar boards to chancellor, vice chancellor and registrars. Modern universities issue mortar boards to graduates along with a hood in place of garland.

Sweden and Finland

A traditional Finnish technology student's hat from the Helsinki University of Technology. (photograph taken on top of a mirror)
Finnish doctoral hat for a doctor of science from the University of Oulu.

Finland and Sweden have similar traditions when it comes to academic clothing. For important academic ceremonies white tie is usually worn, however, often with traditional headwear and gowns.

In Finland and Sweden technology students wear a special kind of cap called a teekkarilakki (Finnish) or teknologmössa (Swedish). It is similar to the traditional studentmössa cap worn by all high-school graduates in both countries, but features a tuft and a distinctive cockade to show which university the wearer is attending. Technology students generally wear their caps more frequently, and thus the tuft often symbolizes university-engineers. Although universities have different rules regarding the use of the cap, it is generally not awarded to the student until he or she has completed the first year of their studies. The technology student's hat may also be seen on informal occasions, being worn with the student overall at many universities.

In both countries many universities have doctoral hats for persons who have completed a PhD or similar degree. These usually resemble [41]


Academic dress used by universities in Thailand follow two traditions. Some universities use a traditional robe known as suea khrui, while others follow Western styles.


University graduates in Tunisia wear an academic gown identical to those of the University of Ez-Zitouna. Doctoral graduates in Islamic Sciences wear a jebba.

Tunisian Jebba.

United Kingdom and Ireland

An alternative coloured gown, The Open University, MEd.
The Bishop Andrewes cap as used for University of Cambridge DDs.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge's deputy wearing the cope (cappa clausa) led by an Esquire Bedell.

There is a distinction between different types of academical dress. Most recently, gowns, hoods and caps are categorised into their shape and patterns by the Groves classification system, which is based on Nicholas Groves's document, Hood and Gown Patterns.[42] This lists the various styles or patterns of academic dress and assigns them a code or a Groves Classification Number. For example, the Cambridge BA style gown is designated [b2] and a hood in the Cambridge full-shape is designated [f1], etc. Because the universities are free to design their own academicals using a wide range of available gown, hood and cap patterns, colours and materials at their and the robemaker's disposal, the academicals of two given universities rarely clash with each other.

The Burgon Society was founded in 2000 to promote the study of academic dress.[43] Its publications and activities examine the history and current use of academic dress and in 2011 it published the third edition of Shaw's reference book on British and Irish academical dress.[44] The Society hosts a conference each spring at which recent research is presented.[45]

The modern gown is derived from the roba worn under the cappa clausa, a garment resembling a long black cape. In early medieval times, all students at the universities were in at least minor orders, and were required to wear the cappa or other clerical dress, and restricted to clothes of black or other dark colour. The gowns most commonly worn, that of the clerical type gowns of Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Arts (MA), are substantially the same throughout the English-speaking world. Both are traditionally made of black cloth, (although occasionally the gown is dyed in one of the university's colours) and have the material at the back of the gown gathered into a yoke. The BA gown has bell-shaped sleeves, while the MA gown has long sleeves closed at the end, with the arm passing through a slit above the elbow.[46]

There are two distinctive shapes used in the UK for doctor's gown; the Oxford doctor's shape and the Cambridge doctor's shape. The former has bell-shaped sleeves, the latter has long open sleeves. Another rarer form is the Cambridge MusD dress gown which is a pattern between the two. The other form of doctor's gown is the undress gown. This is a black gown worn for less formal occasions such as lectures. This type of gown is rarely seen or worn nowadays as many wear the dress gown instead; however, the undress gown still plays a part in the older universities where academic dress is usually worn.

Undergraduates at many older universities also wear gowns;[47] the most common essentially a smaller knee-length version of the BA gown, or the Oxford Commoners gown which is sleeveless lay type gown and has two streamers at the back at Oxford.[48] At Cambridge, most colleges have their own distinctive design of gown.[49] Undergraduates at St Andrews, with the exception of theology students, commonly wear scarlet woollen gowns with velvet collars.[50] Undergraduate gowns are seldom worn (even in institutions that prescribe them) nowadays except in the older universities.

Another form of dress, now rarely seen, is the habit, which is worn over a black gown. Only Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Newcastle use habits and mainly reserve their use for very formal ceremonial occasions and to a specific group of academics or officials.

The hood was originally a functional garment, worn to shield the head from the elements. In the English tradition, it has developed to an often bright and decorative garment worn only on special occasions. Hoods comprise two basic patterns: full shape or simple shape. The traditional full-shape hood consists of a cape, cowl, and liripipe, as is used at Cambridge. At Oxford, the bachelors' and masters' hoods use simple hoods that have lost their cape and retain only the cowl and liripipe.[51] The colour and lining of hoods in academic dress represents the rank and/or faculty of the wearer.[52] In many Commonwealth universities bachelors wear hoods edged or lined with white rabbit fur, while masters wear hoods lined with coloured silk (originally ermine or other expensive fur). Doctors' hoods are normally made of scarlet cloth and lined with coloured silk.[53] Faculty colours were introduced by the University of London and many universities followed suit.[54]

The academic cap or square, commonly known as the mortarboard, has come to be symbolic of academia. In some universities it can be worn by graduates and undergraduates alike. It is a flat square hat with a tassel suspended from a button in the top centre of the board. The mortarboard may also be referred to as a trencher cap (or simply trencher). The tassel comprises a cluster of silk threads which are fixed together and fastened by a button at one end, and fixed at the centre of the headpiece. The loose strands are allowed to fall freely over the board edge, typically falling over the left front side of the cap. Often the strands are plaited together to form a cord with the end threads left untied. In many universities, holders of doctorates wear a soft-crowned, round-brimmed headpiece known as a Tudor bonnet or tam, rather than a trencher. Other types of hats used, especially in some universities in the UK, are the John Knox cap (mostly at Scottish universities), the Bishop Andrewes cap (a reinvention of the ancient form of the mortarboard, worn by Cambridge DDs) and the pileus (at Sussex). In some universities, such as Oxford, women may wear an Oxford ladies' cap.[55]

Officers of the universities generally wear distinctive and more elaborate dress. The Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor may wear a black damask lay type gown (sometimes with a long train) trimmed with gold or silver lace and frogs. They wear a velvet mortarboard, similarly trimmed with gold braid and tassel. Other than this gown, they may have other distinct forms of dress, such as the scarlet cappa clausa or cope worn in certain circumstances by the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge or his/her deputy and by higher doctors presenting candidates for degrees, which was once worn by Doctors of Divinity.[56] In the past, Chancellors may also wear full court dress with breeches and court shoes like that of the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.

At degree ceremonies, graduands often dress in the academic dress of the degree they are about to be admitted to prior to the actual graduation ceremony. This is not the case at several of the older universities in the UK, most notably, Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews which have their own distinct traditions.

United States

The Harvard doctoral gown and hood, which do not entirely follow the American Council on Education system.
Professors and newly conferred doctors of philosophy posing at a Worcester Polytechnic Institute graduation.
American academic dress is typically closed at the front and properly worn with the prescribed cap, as well as the hood. On the baccalaureate dress shown other items such as scarves, stoles or cords may be seen.

Academic regalia in the United States has been influenced by the academic dress traditions of Europe. There is an Inter-Collegiate code which sets out a detailed uniform scheme of academic regalia followed by most, though some institutions do not adhere to it entirely, and fewer still ignore it.

The practice of wearing academic regalia in the United States dates to the Colonial Colleges period, and was heavily influenced by European practices and styles.[57] Students of most colonial colleges were required to wear the "college habit" at most times – a practice that lasted until the eve of the American Civil War in many institutions of higher learning.[58] In some rare instances the practice has persisted, such as at Sewanee, where members of one student society continue to wear the gown to class.[59] After the Civil War, academic regalia was generally only worn at ceremonies or when representing the institution.[58] There was not, however, any standardization among the meanings behind the various costumes. In 1893, an Intercollegiate Commission made up of representatives from leading institutions was created, to establish an acceptable system of academic dress. The Commission met at Columbia College (now Columbia University) in 1895 and adopted a code of academic regalia, which prescribed the cut and style and materials of the gowns, as well as determined the colours which were to represent the different fields of learning.[60] In 1932 the American Council on Education (ACE) 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 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 academic dress code and made several changes.[57]

Although academic dress is now rarely worn outside commencement ceremonies or other academic rituals such as encaenia in the U.S. graduation ceremonies have gained popularity and have expanded from high school graduations to middle school, elementary school and kindergarten graduation ceremonies.[61]

Bachelors' and masters' gowns in the United States are similar to their counterparts in the United Kingdom, though bachelor's gowns are now designed to be worn closed, and all are at least mid-calf length to ankle-length.[62] The masters' gown sleeve is oblong and, though the base of the sleeve hangs down in the typical manner, it is square cut at the rear part of the oblong shape. The front part has an arc cut away, and there is a slit for the wrist opening, but the rest of the arc is closed. The shape is evocative of the square-cut liripipe incorporated into many academic hoods (see, below). The master's gown is designed to be worn open or closed.[62]

Doctoral robes are typically black, although some schools use robes in the school's colours.[62] The Code calls for the outside shell of the hood (see, below) to remain black in that case, however. In general, doctoral gowns are similar to the gowns worn by bachelor's graduates, with the addition of three velvet bands on the sleeves and velvet facing running down the front of the gown. The Code calls for the gown trim to be either black or the colour designated for the field of study in which the doctorate was earned (see Inter-Collegiate colors). However, it should be noted that in the case of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), although it is awarded for study in any number of fields, the dark blue velvet of philosophy is always used regardless of the particular field studied. For example, if not choosing black trim, a PhD in theology would wear velvet gown trim in dark blue, while a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) would wear scarlet trim, if not choosing black. The robes have full sleeves, instead of the bell sleeves of the bachelor's gown. Some gowns expose a necktie or cravat when closed, while others take an almost cape-like form. It is designed to be worn open or closed in the front.[62]

The Code calls for the shell material of the hood to match the robe, and for the colour to be black regardless of the colour of the robe being worn.[63] The interior lining – generally silk – displays the colours of the institution from which the wearer received the degree, in a pattern prescribed by it (usually, if more than one colour is used, chevrons or equal divisions).[64] The opening of the hood is trimmed in velvet or velveteen.[65] In most American colleges and universities, the colour of the velvet hood trimming is distinctive of the academic field – or as closely related as possible – to which the degree earned pertains (see Inter-Collegiate colors).[66] Many institutions, particularly larger ones, have dispensed with the bachelor's hood at commencement ceremonies altogether, though a graduate is still entitled to wear one once the degree is conferred.[67]

Headwear is an important component of cap-and-gown, and the academic costume is not complete without it. The headwear will vary with the level of academic achievement and, to some extent, on the individual academic institution's specifications. For caps, the mortarboard is recommended in the Code, and the material required to match the gown.[68] The exception—velvet—is reserved for the doctor's degree only, seen in the form of a multiple-sided (4, 6, or 8) tam, but the four-sided mortarboard-shaped tam in velvet is what the Code seems to recommend here.[68] The only colour called for is black, in all cases.[68] The tassel worn on the mortarboard or a tam seems to provide, by tradition, the greatest opportunity for latitude in American academic dress. It has been black, or represented the university's colours, or the colours of the specific college, or the discipline. The tassel has also been used to indicate membership in national honour societies or other awards. There is at some colleges and universities a practice of moving the tassel from one side to the other on graduating, but this is a modern innovation that would be impractical out of doors due to the vagaries of the wind. For doctoral and masters students, the tassel commonly begins and remains on the left.[69]

The colours allocated to the various fields of learning have been largely standardized in the United States by the Intercollegiate Bureau of Academic Costume, and accepted by the American Council on Education in its Academic Costume Code.[64] Some of the more common colours seen are that liberal arts is represented by white, science by golden yellow, medicine by green, law by purple, and philosophy (including all PhD degrees) by dark blue. A distinction is made in the code, which calls for a graduate to display the colour of the subject of the degree obtained, not the degree itself.[65] For example, if a graduate is awarded a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree specifically in business the trimming should be drab, representing commerce/accountancy/business, rather than white, representing the broader arts/letters/humanities; the same method is true of master's degrees and doctorates. However, in 1986, the American Council on Education updated the Code and added the following sentence clarifying the use of the colour dark blue for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, which is awarded in any number of fields: "In the case of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, the dark blue colour is used to represent the mastery of the discipline of learning and scholarship in any field that is attested to by the awarding of the degree, and it is not intended to represent the field of philosophy."[65]

A number of other items such as cords, stoles, aiguillettes, etc. representing various academic achievements or other honours are also worn at the discretion of some degree-granting institutions. Technically, however, the ACE code does not allow their use on or over academic regalia.

Pontifical Universities

Academic dress for Pontifical universities tends to vary by the host country. Traditionally, for doctors of a pontifical university or faculty "the principal mark of a Doctor's dignity is the four horned biretta."[70] In commencement ceremonies and other academic settings, doctors from pontifical faculties and universities have a canonical right to wear the doctoral biretta as stated in the Codex Iuris Canonici, 1917, can. 1378, and explained in commentary 262 of the Commentarium Codicis Iuris Canonici as follows:

262. Doctoratus ac Scentiae effectus canonici sic recensentur can. 1378...doctoribus seu gradum academicum in una ex quatuor supradictis facultatibus <> supremum obtinentibus, rite creatis, seu promotis regulariter post examen, iuxta « statuta a Sede Apostolica probata » (can. 1376, § 2) saltem quoad usum validum « facultatis ab eadem Aplca. Sede concessae » (can. 1377, § 1), deferendi, extra sacras functiones, (quarum nomine ad hunc eflectum non venit ex usu sacra praedicatio), nisi aliunde amplietur eis hoc ius quoad a) annulum etiam cum gemma « ipsis a iure huius canonis concessum » (can. 136, § 2), b) et biretum doctorale, (idest: cum quatuor apicibus) utpote insigne huius gradus ac diverso colore ornatum pro Facultate.:[71]

The Sartoria Gammerelli as of August 2013 offers, in line with the updated stipulations of the Pontifical Gregorian University, birettas lined with the following assorted piping and tufts depending on which faculty one is graduated from: Green for Canon Law, Red for Sacred Theology, Blue for Philosophy, and Orange for Social Sciences. Three-horned birettas are to be used by Licentiates, four-horned for Doctors.

Academic dress for the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum graduates consists of a black toga or academic gown with trim to follow the color of the faculty, and an academic ring. For the Doctorate degree a four corned biretta is to be worn, and for the Licentiate degree a three corned biretta is to be worn. See:Academic regalia of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. The 'traditional' biretta at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum, is white, to correspond to the white Dominican habit.[72] Also, the academic senate of the Angelicum in its May 2011 meeting indicated that the black biretta may be used with trim and pom in the color of the particular faculty.[73]

A three-peaked black biretta with appropriately colored piping may be similarly used by those receiving the licentiate degree (S.T.L., Ph.L.).

See also

Academic dress details for the following universities are available via these links:


United Kingdom and Ireland




  • Christianson, Bruce (2006), "Academic Dress in the University of Hertfordshire". Hertfordshire, England: University of Hertfordshire. ISBN 190531339X
  • Fowler, J. T. (1904), Durham University: earlier foundations and present colleges. London: F. E. Robinson & Co.
  • Goff, Philip (1999), University of London Academic Dress. London: University of London Press. ISBN 0-7187-1608-6
  • Shaw, George W. (1966, 1995), Academical Dress of British and Irish Universities. Chichlester: Philmore & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-85033-974-X
  • Groves, Nicholas (2011), Shaw's Academical Dress of Great Britain and Ireland, 3rd ed. London: Burgon Society.
  • Groves, Nicholas (2002, 2003, 2008, 2010), Key to the Identification of Academic Hoods of the British Isles. London: Burgon Society.
  • Groves, Nicholas; Kersey, John (2002), Academical Dress of Music Colleges and Societies of Musicians in the United Kingdom. Norfolk: Burgon Society. ISBN 0-9544110-0-5
  • Hargreaves-Mawdsley, W.N. (1963), A History of Academical Dress in Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Venables, J. (2009), Academic Dress of the University of Oxford, 9th ed. Oxford: Shepherd & Woodward. ISBN 0-9521630-0-4
  • Cox, Noel, Academical Dress in New Zealand: A Study (V.D.M. Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. K.G., Saarbrücken, 2010; ISBN 978-3-639-29927-4)


  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2004), The Burgon Society Annual 2003.
  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2005), The Burgon Society Annual 2004. ISBN 0-9544110-6-4
  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2006), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 5. ISBN 0-9544110-7-2
  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2008), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 6. ISBN 0-9544110-8-0
  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2008), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 7. ISBN 978-0-9544110-5-3
  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2009), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 8. ISBN 978-0-9561272-1-1
  • Kerr, Alex (ed.) et al. (2012), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 10. ISBN 978-0-9561272-6-6
  • Powell, Michael (ed.) et al. (2002), The Burgon Society Annual 2001.
  • Powell, Michael (ed.) et al. (2003), The Burgon Society Annual 2002.
  • Wolgast, Stephen L., Kerr, Alex (eds) et al. (2011), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 9 – Special North American issue. ISBN 978-0-9561272-4-2
  • Wolgast, Stephen L. (ed.) et al. (2012), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 11.
  • Wolgast, Stephen L. (ed.) et al. (2013), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 12.
  • Wolgast, Stephen L. (ed.) et al. (2014), Transactions of the Burgon Society: Volume 13.


  • Sullivan, Eugene (ed.) An Academic Costume Code and An Academic Ceremony Guide, American Council on Education. Reprinted with permission from American Universities and Colleges, 15th Edition (1997). Walter de Gruyter, Inc.
  • Smagorinsky, Margaret. The REGALIA of Princeton University: Pomp, Circumstance, and Accountrements of Academia. The Trustees of Princeton University (Printed by Office of Printing and Mailing), 1994. Accessed 26 September 2008.

Further reading

  • American Council on Education staff (1997). American Universities and Colleges, 15th Edition. Walter de Gruyter, Inc. ISBN 0-275-98745-0
  • Belting, Natalia Maree (1956), The History of Caps and Gowns, New York : Collegiate Cap & Gown Co. via Internet Archive
  • Franklyn, C.A.H. (1970), Academical Dress from the Middle Ages to the Present Day Including Lambeth Degrees. Lewes: WE Baxter.
  • Haycraft, F.W. (1948), 4th ed. rev. Stringer, E.W Scobie, The Degrees and Hoods of the World's Universities and Colleges. Cheshunt Press.
  • Rashdall, H. (1895, 1936), The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Claredon Press.
  • Rogers, F.R.S., Shaw, G.W., Boyd, H.A. (1972), The Degrees and Hoods of the World's Universities and Colleges. Lewes: WE Baxter.
  • Smith, H.H., Sheard, K. (1970), Academic Dress and Insignia of the World. Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.
  • Wood, T.W. (1882), The Degrees, Gowns and Hoods of the British, Colonial, Indian and American Universities and Colleges. London: Thomas Pratt & Sons.


  1. ^ Shaw (1995), p. 3
  2. ^ e.g. Burgon Society: Robes
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Gowns, Material
  7. ^ Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Caps, Material
  8. ^ American English uses 'rented', British English uses 'hired'.
  9. ^ An Ede & Ravenscroft Oxford MA hood made of pure Ottoman silk will cost around £347. Source: (21 September 2007)
  10. ^ The cost difference between artificial and real fur can be as much as a few hundred pounds.
  11. ^ Ede & Ravenscroft: Oxford DMus undress and full dress academic dress costs £2910 (undress gown: £181, hood: £409, rigid mortarboard: £80, full dress gown: £2117, velvet bonnet: £123). Information retrieved 18 May 2007.
  12. ^ Hired hoods are usually partially lined instead of fully lined when the regulations specify a fully lined hood. However, there are some cases where a hood that is specified as fully lined in the regulations, in practice, is part-lined to save on materials. This is especially the case for Glasgow full-shape hoods [f9] as they are large and most of the lining may not be seen when worn.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Gibson, William (2004). The Regulation of Undergraduate Dress at Oxford and Cambridge, 1660–1832. Burgon Society Annual.
  15. ^ Hargreaves-Mawdsley, W.N. (1963). A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the End of the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  16. ^ Armagost, Robert (2009). University Uniforms: The Standardization of Academic Dress in the United States. Transactions of the Burgon Society, 9, p. 140.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b c
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ The Burgon Society: The Design of Academical Dress (6 May 2007) Classification of Styles
  43. ^ Burgon Society: Introduction (2 November 2008)
  44. ^ Groves, Nicholas. "Shaw's Academical Dress of Great Britain and Ireland", London: Burgon Society, 2011.
  45. ^ "Meeting of the Burgon Society."
  46. ^ Shaw (1995); pp. 4–7
  47. ^ Hargreaves-Mawdsley, pp. 91–101, 128–135, 146, 148–149
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ Burgon Annual 2003 (2004); pp. 18–23
  52. ^ Groves (2008), Hood Key
  53. ^ Shaw (1995); p. 8
  54. ^ Burgon Transactions vol. 5 (2006); pp. 80–89
  55. ^ Goff; pp.22–23
  56. ^ Shaw (1966); pp. 94–95
  57. ^ a b Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Historical Overview
  58. ^ a b Smagorinsky. The REGALIA of Princeton University: Pomp, Circumstance, and Accountrements of Academia. Page 5.
  59. ^
  60. ^ New York Times. "Gowns for College Men; Academic Costumes in American Universities (1896): Plan to Secure a Uniform Practice in the Use of the Caps and Gowns in This Country So that the Degree of the Wearer, the Faculty Under Whom It Was Obtained, and the Institution Conferring It May Be Readily Seen." Sunday, 26 April 1896.
  61. ^
  62. ^ a b c d Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Gowns
  63. ^ Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Hoods
  64. ^ a b Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Hoods;Linings
  65. ^ a b c Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Hoods;Trimmings
  66. ^ Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Additional Guidance on Costume
  67. ^ Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Some Permissible Exceptions
  68. ^ a b c Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Caps
  69. ^ Sullivan. The Academic Costume Code, Wearing the Costume
  70. ^ John Abel Nainfa, Costume of Prelates of The Catholic Church: According To Roman Etiquette, 164.
  71. ^ Codex Iuris Canonici, 1917, can. 1378; Commentarium Textus Codicis Iuris Canonici, 1923, comm. 262: Commentarium Codicis Iuris Canonici, 1922, Liber III, Pars IV, Tit. XXII, 262
  72. ^ Accessed 3-25-2011
  73. ^

External links

  • "Academic Dress" mini portal – A list of internet resources compiled by The New York Times
  • Academic Costume Code and Ceremony Guide from American Universities and Colleges, 15th Edition, by Eugene Sullivan.
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