Academic apparel refers to the apparel which is worn in educational institutions. In the olden days, academic apparel was worn by students on a daily basis; however, it is now worn only for graduation ceremonies. It is also known as academic costume or academic heraldry. There are certain educational institutions, though, which mandate that their students wear academic apparel daily even today. This article attempts to study the kinds of academic apparel in U.S.A. in detail.


Academic apparel typically consists of a gown and a cap in black or in some dark colour. However, certain universities do use gowns of different colors for different disciplines. Usually, a student wears formal attire underneath the gown. Ideally, male students wear a white shirt and formal trousers beneath the academic gown. Women might wear a formal skirt or trousers below a light-coloured shirt.


Similarities are observed between the academic apparel of students pursuing the same courses from different universities throughout U.S.A. For instance, the gown for Bachelor of Arts students has long bell-shaped sleeves. In case of Master of Arts students, the gown has long sleeves that are closed at the end. In the Commonwealth, academic gowns are open at the front; while they are buttoned in the front in U.S.A. Different universities adopt certain signature styles in their academic apparel.


In case of gowns for students receiving their doctorates, the sleeves are long and they have strips of velvet attached at the ends. Sometimes velvet strips are also attached to the front of the gown, in the specific color for the discipline of the doctorate. Usually maize color is used for the agriculture discipline, white for arts and humanities, tan for business, lilac for dentistry, copper for education, light blue for education, orange for engineering, brown for the fine arts, crimson for journalism, purple for law, lemon for library and science, green for medicine, pink for music, dark blue for philosophy and peacock blue for public administration.


Some universities have gowns that are open at the front, so that a tie is visible. The gowns of some other universities are closely fitted to the neck and are almost like a cape.


The cap worn by students in U.S.A. generally has a square top, commonly known as mortarboard. Sometimes there is a tassel hanging from the top. Some people wear it straight, while some other people wear it in a slanting fashion. In certain universities, students wear a rounded cap that is known as a Tudor bonnet. This is generally found in case of doctorate students.


Sometimes the tassels used in the caps are in the color of the university. There is a tradition in some universities that during the graduation ceremony, on receiving the degree, the students turn the tassel from one side to another.


Certain universities have the practice of conferring hoods to the students while handing them their degrees. This practice is commonly found in some Scottish universities. Oxford University follows the tradition of having the students change their academic dress during the process of the graduation ceremony.


The hoods used by students of different levels are different. In the Commonwealth universities, the hoods of students of Bachelors programs are lined with white rabbit fur. The hoods of students in Masters programs are lined with ermine fur. The hoods of Doctorate students are lined with colored silk.


It has been observed that the academic apparel of some universities in the Commonwealth has been derived from that of the Oxford and Cambridge Universities. This in turn has been derived from the academic apparel of the medieval universities of Europe.


It is quite interesting to study the academic apparel of different universities in the country, the similarities and the minute differences between them.



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