The origins of academic dress date back to the 12th and 13th centuries when universities were taking form. The ordinary dress of the scholar, whether student or teacher, was the dress of a cleric. Long gowns were worn and may have been necessary for warmth in unheated buildings. Hoods seem to have served to cover the head until superseded for that purpose by the skull cap.
The assignment of colors to signify certain faculties developed much later and only was standardized in the United States in the late 19th century.
The sleeves of the robes vary, depending on the degree held by the wearer. The bachelor's robe has long, pointed sleeves. The master's robe has sleeves that are oblong and closed at the ends, open at the wrist. The doctoral robe has bell-shaped sleeves with a velvet facing on the front and at the neck, and three velvet bars on each sleeve. The velvet may be black or of a color that symbolizes the degree held by the wearer.
The head covering most commonly used in the United States is the square, tasseled mortarboard. Those in doctoral regalia may wear an eight-sided tam. Tassels are worn over the left front quarter of the mortarboard if a baccalaureate degree has been earned, and worn on the right for bachelor's degree candidates. Holders of doctoral degrees may wear gold tassels.
The hood is the most distinctive feature of American academic dress, which through color and design may indicate the wear's degree and the institution at which that degree was earned. Hoods are lined with the colors of the institution that awards the degree, and are faced with the color designating the degree awarded. Hoods vary in length. The bachelor's hood is three feet long, the master's hood is three and one-half feet, and the doctoral version is four feet long and is decorated with broad color panels.
The gown is the bottom layer of the regalia followed by medallions and cords, followed by the hood. At Oklahoma State University, bachelor's hoods are only worn by undergraduate candidates for an honors degree. Learn more about Honors Regalia.
Candidates for advanced or professional degrees wear hoods symbolic of the degree. The color of the trim of the hood and the sleeve chevrons and panels of the academic gown are distinctive of the degree.
The colors of Oklahoma State University are embodied in the lining of the hood (orange and black chevron). The colors of the hoods of faculty and guests are those of the institution conferring the degree.