Skip Navigation

History of Academic Regalia

The academic regalia - gown, hood, and hat - are adapted from the habits and gowns worn by medieval monks and priests, founders of the university and collegiate practices in Europe.

Gown

Usually black, with a few exceptions representing certain schools colors, gowns reflect the three levels of academic degrees granted by universities and colleges.

  • Bachelor: moderately pointed sleeves.
  • Master: full-length oblong sleeves hanging down from the wrists.
  • Doctor: tailored with full, bell-shaped sleeves; three velvet bars (signifying the third level of degree) on each sleeve; and two velvet panels on either side of the front closure. The bars and panels are either black or in the color of the given degree.

Hood

The three degree levels are represented in different hoods of increasing length. Not worn by graduating seniors, a hood is worn by faculty and staff whose terminal degree is the baccalaureate; the hood is short and hangs to about the middle of the wearers back. The masters hood is moderate in length, and the doctoral hood is fuller and longer.

Colors of the external velvet panels represent the particular degree field. Colors most commonly seen at commencement exercises:

  • Arts
  • Education
  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Science

Internal colors of the hood, opened outward on the lower end, represent the institution which granted the degree: Colors for Bemidji State University are green and white.

Hat

The academic hat can be either the traditional flat-top variety, known as a mortarboard, or the tam variety.

  • Mortar-boards: The Mortar-boards are so named "from the similarity to the top portion of the mortar-board used by a mason. At the University of Paris, teachers placed square, stiff caps on graduates to signify promotion. This type of headgear was adopted later by the masters at Oxford ?" (UMD Commencement program).
  • Tassels: The doctoral degree is represented by the gold bullion tassel on the academic hat. At Bemidji State University, all other degrees are indicated by black tassels.