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 Home > Graduation Caps And Gowns > Why do we wear a Cap and Gown for graduation?

Why do we wear a Cap and Gown for graduation?

Why do we wear a Cap and Gown for graduation?

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Why do we wear a Cap and Gown for graduation?

In the often unheated buildings of the middle ages, long gowns were necessary for scholars to ward off the cold.

Academic dress for graduations started in the 12th and 13th centuries when universities first began forming. Whether a student or a teacher, standard dress for scholars was clerical garb. Most medieval scholars had made certain vows, and had at least taken minor orders with the church so clerical robes were their main form of dress to begin with.

In 1321, the University of Coimbra mandated that all Doctors, Bachelors, and Licentiates must wear gowns. In the latter half of the 14th century, excess in apparel was forbidden in some colleges and prescribed wearing a long gown. By the time of England's Henry VIII, Oxford and Cambridge began using a standard form of academic dress, which was controlled to the tiniest detail by the university.

Not until the late 1800s were colors assigned to signify certain areas of study, but they were only standardized in the United States. European institutions have always had diversity in their academic dress, but American institutions employ a definite system of dress thanks to Gardner Cotrell Leonard from Albany, New York. After designing gowns for his 1887 class at Williams College, he took an interest in the subject and published an article on academic dress in 1893. Soon after he was asked to work with an Intercollegiate Commission to form a system of academic apparel.

The system Gardner Cotrell Leonard helped form was based on gown cut, style and fabric; as well as designated colors to represent fields of study. For example green was the color of medieval herbs, and was assigned to medical studies. Because olive is close to green, was designated for pharmaceutical studies.

In 1959, the American Council on Education had a Committee on Academic Costumes and Ceremonies review the costume code and make changes. In 1986, the committee changed the code to clarify the use of dark blue for a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


The shape and size of the hood and the sleeve design of the gown show the degree a student pursued: a Bachelor's Degree gown has pointed sleeves and no hood, a Master's Degree gown had long, closed sleeves with arm slits and a narrow hood, and a Doctor's Degree had bell-shaped sleeves and a draped, wide hood.

The color of the hood's lining tells which college or university the degree was given by. For example: Harvard is crimson, Temple is cherry and white, and Cornell is purple and white. However, other than the lining, the hood must be black.

The field of study is designated by the color of the hood's facing. For example: Theology is scarlet, Arts Letters and Humanities are white, and Music is pink.

Caps should only be made of black cotton poplin, broadcloth, rayon, or silk, to match gown they are to be used with. Velvet may only be used for a doctor's degree.

Tassels should be fastened to the middle of the cap's top and allowed to lie where it will. It should be black, or the color of field of study, unless it is for a doctor's degree in which case is may be gold.

Academic dress or academical dress (also known in the United States as academic regalia) is traditional clothing worn specifically in academic settings. It is more commonly seen nowadays only at graduation ceremonies, but in former times academic dress was, and to a lesser extent in many ancient universities still is, worn on a daily basis. This article deals chiefly with academic dress in the English-speaking world.

Academic dress in most universities in the Commonwealth is derived from the academic dress of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which themselves are a development of academic and clerical dress common throughout the medieval universities of Europe. In the United States, however, academic dress has also been influenced by the academic dress of continental Europe. Academic dress is also worn by members of certain learned societies and institutions as official dress.

Academic dress today generally consists of a gown (also known as a robe) with a (usually separate, unattached) hood, and sometimes a cap (either a mortarboard or a bonnet). When wearing academic dress, it is usual to dress formally and soberly beneath the gown; so, for example, men would typically wear a dark suit with a white shirt and tie, or military or national dress, and women would wear equivalent attire. Some older universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, have a prescribed set of dress (known as subfusc) to be worn under the gown.

Contents [show] 1 British academic dress 1.1 The gown 1.1.1 Dress and undress 1.2 The hood 1.3 The cap 2 United States 2.1 Opposition to academic attire 2.2 Inter-Collegiate colors 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

British academic dress

The gown 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 Bachelor of Arts (BA) clerical type gown and the Master of Arts (MA) lay type gown, 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 college'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. 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.

Undergraduates at many older universities also wear gowns; 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. This is not the case at the Ancient Scottish universities, such as the University of St Andrews, where the undergraduate gown is scarlet and typically features a velveteen collar.

Dress and undress Since medieval times, doctors, like bishops and cardinals, have been authorised to wear garments of brighter colours such as scarlet, purple or red. In many older universities, doctors have scarlet dress gowns or robes (sometimes called "festal robes") which are worn on special occasions (for example, at graduation ceremonies and on certain festivals of the Christian calendar), as well as black undress gowns which are worn on ordinary occasions. A third form of dress, now rarely seen except at Oxford, is the Convocation habit. This is a scarlet sleeveless garment worn over the black gown, with the sleeves of the gown pulled through the armholes. It is similar to a bishop's chimere. It is worn at meetings of Convocation or Congregation by those presenting candidates for degrees.

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.

The hood 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. It is also worn by clergy of the Anglican Communion, depending on the type of theological degree held, in choir dress over the surplice.

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 which have lost their cape, and retain only the cowl and liripipe. Some universities only have a cape and cowl and no liripipe; these are referred to as the "Aberdeen shape". Various other universities have different shapes and patterns of hoods, in some cases corresponding to the pattern current at the ancient universities at the time when they were founded, and in others representing a completely new design.

The colour and lining of hoods in academic dress represents the rank and faculty of the wearer. 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.

The cap 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 center of the board. Properly worn, the cap is parallel to the ground, though some people, especially women, wear it angled back.

The mortarboard may also be referred to as a trencher cap (or simply trencher). In many universities, holders of doctorates wear a soft rounded 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 and the Bishop Andrews cap.

For Catholic clergy, the traditional black biretta is worn instead of the mortarboard. Those clerics who possess a doctorate wear the black biretta with four ridges--instead of the usual three--and with piping and pom of the color of the discipline, thus, e.g., emerald for canon law, scarlet for sacred theology, etc.

As with other forms of headgear, in the Commonwealth, academic caps are not generally worn indoors by men (other than by the Chancellor or other high officials), but are usually carried. In some graduation ceremonies caps have been dispensed with for men, being issued only to women, who do wear them indoors, or have been abandoned altogether. This has led to urban legends in a number of universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland which have as a common theme that idea that the wearing of the cap was abandoned in protest at the admission of women to the university. This story is told at the University of Cambridge, Durham University, the University of Bristol, the University of St Andrews and Trinity College, Dublin among others.

However, during graduation ceremonies in the United States, both women and men wear caps, and both women and men wear their caps indoors throughout the ceremony.

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. Often the stands are plaited together to form a cord with the end threads left untied.

United States

American academic dress is typically closed at the front and, as well as the hood, other items such as scarves, stoles or cords may be worn.As well as deriving from British academic dress, academic dress in the United States has been influenced by the academic dress traditions of continental Europe. There is an Inter-Collegiate code which sets out a detailed uniform scheme of academic dress, but not all colleges follow it.

Bachelors' and masters' gowns in the United States are similar to their counterparts in the United Kingdom, but the bachelors' gown is only worn closed.

Doctoral robes are typically black, although some schools use robes in the school's colors. In general, doctoral gowns are similar to the gowns worn by master's graduates, with the addition of three velvet chevrons on the sleeves and velvet facing running down the front of the gown, tinted with the disciplinary color for the degree received. The robes have full sleeves trimmed with bands of velvet instead of the bell sleeves of the bachelor's gown. Some gowns open more at the front to display a tie or cravat, while others take an almost cape-like form.

In the US, academic dress is rarely worn outside commencement ceremonies or other academic rituals such as encaenia. In most American schools, the color of the velvet outside of the hood represents the degree the wearer is earning (see the table of degrees below) and the silk inside lining shows the colors of the school from which the wearer is graduating. A number of other items, cords or sashes, may be also seen worn, representing various academic achievements.

The tassel worn on the mortarboard or tam may indicate the university's colors, or the colors of the specific college or discipline from which the student is graduating. There is in some universities a practice of moving the tassel from one side to the other on graduating, but this is a modern innovation which would be impractical out of doors due to the vagaries of the wind. However, this mark of transition to graduate status has the benefit of taking less time than more traditional indicators such as the conferring of the hood (which is also done at some Scottish universities), or a complete change of dress partway through the ceremony (as at Oxford). In such universities it is common for undergraduates to begin the commencement ceremony with their tassels on the right. Switching the tassel to the left may be done individually or as a group. For doctoral and masters students, the tassel commonly begins and remains on the left.

Opposition to academic attire During the American civil rights movement and culminating during the Vietnam War, eschewing academic regalia became a popular means of political opposition in the United States. Student protests, which had the effect of cancelling graduation ceremonies at some American universities, led to a general relaxing of protocols on academic attire and ceremonial pageantry. After the war, academic regalia continued to be shunned by some who considered it a symbol of elitism. However, since the 1980s, academic regalia has been in resurgence. Some colleges or academic departments allow graduating students to vote on whether or not to wear academic regalia at graduation ceremonies.

Since the 1970s, academic uniforms have gained popularity among administrators of American secondary schools. This has been particularly notable at socially diverse public schools where the use of uniform academic attire is considered preferable to individual displays of wealth and fashion. Others have argued that academic uniforms are inappropriate in the context of secondary education and that such uniformity stifles freedom of expression.

Inter-Collegiate colors The colors allocated to the various degrees have been largely standardized in the United States by the American Council on Education in their Academic Costume Code [1], so that a Bachelor of Arts wears white velvet (Arts, Letters and Humanities) while an M.D. wears green velvet. Other degrees are as shown below:

Faculty Color Sample Agriculture Maize Arts, Letters, Humanities White Commerce, Accountancy, Business Drab Dentistry Lilac Economics Copper Education Light Blue Engineering, Computer Science Orange Fine Arts, 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, Foreign Service Peacock Blue Public Health Salmon Pink Science Golden Yellow Social Work Citron Theology, Divinity Scarlet Veterinary Science Gray

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