Identification of the hood and robe as academic apparel is believed to have originated at the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge during the 12th and 13th centuries. The hoods are a carry-over from the times when monks, who operated these universities, wore them to protect their shaved heads in winter. The robe is an adaptation of the shoulder cape also worn by these same monks while collecting alms.
Use of the academic robe came to the United States in 1754. In 1985, a commission of university officials adopted a universal code of design and color. This code has undergone several revisions in subsequent years.
The Oxford-type cap or mortar-board seems to have evolved from the squire biretta of Renaissance churchmen. It is always black and may be of any appropriate material except that velvet is reserved for doctors. The tassel worn with the cap may be black for any degree or the color of the faculty in which the degree was granted. A tassel made of gold metallic thread is reserved for doctors and governing officials of institutions.
Styling of the robe varies for the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The width of sleeve border and length of the hood increases with each advanced degree. The specially designed gowns include silk-lined hoods with the colors of the college or university that conferred the degree. The velvet border identifies the field of learning. SUNY hoods are lined with the silk colors of blue and gold.
The velvet border colors seen most often in the Erie Community College procession, with the fields they represent are:
White – Arts, Letters, Humanities
Drab – Commerce, Accountancy, Business
Purple – Criminal Justice, Law
Light Blue – Education
Brown – Engineering
Apricot – Nursing
Dark Blue – Philosophy
Sage Green – Physical Education
Golden Yellow – Science