Friday, May 20, 2011

Last night was my graduation from college.

And so, I figured I'd post something about the history of the graduation ceremony.

The style of caps, gowns and hoods worn during graduation and other such honorary academic functions dates back to the middle ages. Monks and students originally wore the garbs to keep warm in the damp, drafty chambers of the castles and halls where academia-- learning-- took place.

The gowns for the bachelor's degree have long, pointed sleeves and are designed to be worn closed.

A master's degree has a gown with oblong sleeves, open at the wrist. The sleeve base hangs down and the rear part of its oblong shape is square-cut. The gown is worn closed.

An older master's gown is always worn open, with a sleeve that is square and closed at the end, and has a slit near the elbow which permits the forearm to come through.

Gowns of the doctoral degree may be open or closed. They have broad velvet patches down the front, and thee velvet bars on the round, open sleeves. The velvet trimming may be either black or the colour distinctive of the field of learning to which the degree pertains. For doctoral degrees only, the cap is made out of velvet, and a tassel with a gold bullion.

Academic gowns are traditionally black. It's only recent that institutions have been allowed to have the alumni wear institution colors.

Caps are usually made out of broadcloth or serge, with a black tassel or one appropriate for the degree distinction.

Hoods are the true distinction, however. A black shell, varying in size for the three degrees and material to match the gown, it is silk-lined with the colour(s) of the institution conferring the degree. The hoods for bachelor's and master's degrees are the same shape, where a doctoral degree is larger and cut in a different style-- having a flat panel in the back. The hood is usually bordered with velvet of the proper width to indicate the degree, and of the colour signifying the field of learning to which the degree pertains.

Maize, a dull pinkish colour, is used to indicate agriculture.
Arts, letters and humanities are indicated by the colour white. 
Commerce, Accounting and Business are usually shown by a drab colour. An off white.
Dentistry is lilac.
Economics is copper.
Education is light blue.
Engineering is orange.
Fine arts and architecture is brown.
Forestry is russet.
Home economics is maroon.
Journalism is crimson.
Law is purple.
Library science is lemon yellow.
Medicine is green.
Music is pink.
Nursing is apricot.
Oratory or speech is silver.
Pharmaceuticals is olive green.
Philosophy is dark blue.
Physical Education is sage.
Public Administration is peacock blue.
Public Health is salmon.
Science is gold.
Social work is citron.
Theology is scarlet.
Veterinary science is gray.                


  1. public health and dentistry are almost fitting

  2. gl on your blog, following :)

  3. @Nao: Thanks!

    @Duke: I know, right? I was amused.

    @Slash: Thanks! :)

  4. Never thought there would be so much information on this! But I guess that was silly of me! haha.

  5. Haha, indeed. There was a history pamphlet given out at the graduation with the commencement packet. I think I'm the only one who didn't chuck it.

  6. very interesting post! always wondered what all the colors meant.

  7. Oh the places you'll go... /drseuss.

  8. @Bentyl: Yeah, until I read about it I didn't even know half the colours were used. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

    @Fortune: That was my favourite book when I was little.

    @Collin: Thanks!