What Robes Do Professors Wear At Graduation?

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If you have attended a graduation ceremony in a University or college, you must have noticed the different robes worn by graduating students, faculty members, and administrators. Most of the time, the robes vary in design and elegance.

If you are observant, you must have noticed that different schools have unique gown designs and colors. For Professors, you will also see something special about their robes which is that they are different. This post will explain these phenomena and answer some of the frequently asked questions about Professors’ robes.

So, What Robes Do Professors Wear At Graduation? Professors wear academic robes that represent their alma mater. The Academic regalia of a professor includes Robes (Gowns), a hood, and a cap.

The gown of professors varies depending on the level of scholarship attained. If the highest degree of the professor is an honorary one, he can either wear a robe from the school where they received that honor, or if they earned multiple degrees and hold higher ones than those obtained through honorifics, then it would be more appropriate to don on robes of schools which conferred these.

Professors with Bachelor’s and master’s degrees only should wear black square mortarboards with tassels at both sides while Professors that have attained doctoral degrees usually prefer wearing tam-shaped hats instead.

The robes that Professors wear at graduations are classified under Academic regalia. Academic regalia is also known as academic dress, academicals, or subfusc.

An academic regalia is a traditional form of robes peculiar to educational settings, especially tertiary education. It is worn by those who have obtained a university degree or possess certain statuses entitling them to assume it.

Academic robes are worn in ceremonies and other special functions by students, faculty members, and alumni from universities worldwide. In ancient times it was required to be worn every day but now today mainly only seen during graduation or when attending events such as lectures.

Why do Professors wear robes at graduation?

To understand why Professors wear robes at graduation ceremonies, let’s first take a brief look at the history of academic robes. The tradition of academic regalia started in the 12th and 13th centuries when universities began to form.

Because they were often priests, monks, or clerics themselves, professors typically wore clerical clothing at this time while their students usually studied something similar. Historians believe scholars originally donned robes for warmth since most buildings back then were unheated.

Academic robes have a long and exciting history. Druids, Celtic priests with higher intelligence and superiority, wore capes with hoods that symbolized their beliefs over 2000 years ago.

The practice was imported to academia with the Professors wearing academic robes to signify their scholarship, intelligence, and knowledge superiority.

What is the meaning of the hood that Professors wear on their robes at graduation?

Most professors are Ph.D. holders, and doctorate graduates are often “hooded” at their graduation ceremony. The material draped around their necks and down their backs is referred to as a hood because it is gotten from actual hoods worn by eminent scholars many years ago.

While you can’t use your new doctor’s robe to protect yourself against rain anymore, many universities still maintain this tradition today.

The inside lining of the hood has colors representing where the professor received his degree, while the edging around my neck means the degree he received.

For example, the University of California’s color scheme for their doctorate degrees robes includes yellow with a blue stripe on top to represent someone who earned an undergraduate degree in California, so this would be present in their college community at UC Berkeley as well.

Therefore, when you see a professor dressed in a yellow robe with a blue stripe, it should tell you that he has his undergraduate and Ph.D. from the University of California.

The hood is usually worn over a black robe, though different universities have their colors for the edging around the neck.

For example, professional fields like medicine and education often call for specific designs with certain colors to indicate degrees or ranks within each respective area.

Some examples are MD., which uses green as its color of choice; EdD., where powder blue represents it; Ph.D. in Education has navy blue representing this degree because even if you get your doctorate in another profession such as law or business, your Ph.D. will be considered one from philosophy regardless of what subject area you majored in during college.

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Do all Professors wear the same type of robes at graduation?

No, professors’ robes are usually different depending on where they attained their highest education and discipline. Some university professors wear the academic regalia of their alma maters at graduation ceremonies.

Sometimes, this can lead to a significant disparity in how they present themselves: some universities use robes and mortarboards with colors that match most other institutions (typically deep blue for doctorate degrees). Others have more unique color schemes.

Can a professor NOT wear a robe to graduation?

No, a professor is expected to wear an academic robe to graduation. In fact, for most universities, only those with their academic gown are allowed to sit in the space arranged for professors and other academics in front of the podium.

The professors are expected to wear their academic robes for a procession to the graduation ceremony venue before retiring to their seats.

A professor should only consider not wearing a robe as a professor to a graduation ceremony if he is attending a graduation ceremony outside of his institution and does not want to identify with the hosting institution.

For instance, if you are attending the graduation of your child, wife, friend(s), or relative in another university, you may decide to wear non-academic attire for the event.

This will also mean that you will stay with the audience and not be accorded any special recognition that would have been extended to you as a professor.

What is a Professor’s Dress code for a graduation ceremony?

Ideally, a professor should wear the following for a graduation ceremony:

Academic Robe

Robes for use in colleges and universities have different characteristics. Professors typically put on the gown representing the highest academic degree they have attained, usually a doctorate.

A doctorate gown has bell-shaped sleeves, opening up all around or zipping close depending on preference. The materials for the robe vary depending on the university or college, but they generally range from very light to heavy materials.

The most popular color for academic robes is Black, although this may vary depending on the degree-awarding institution from which the professor attained his highest academic degree.

The doctoral gown is faced with velvet (usually black) and has three fabric bars across the sleeves. The facings are generally in the professor’s institution’s color.

The facing for all degrees, including edging, hoods, etc., always matches that which belongs to their college or university’s official colors even if it does not include a specific shade they require.

Read Also: Why Do Master’s Robes Have Long Sleeves?


The hood is always made with the same material as the robe. In most cases, the hood is also black. The length of a professor’s hood is usually 4 feet and must have panels at all the sides.

The colors on the hoods are specific to each college or university where the Professor obtained his highest academic qualification (usually a doctorate).

These colors can be divided up in various ways, such as chevrons and equal division. Companies that make academic regalia have all this information.

The binding or edging of the Professor hood should be Velvet or velveteen, which is 5 inches wide. The color of the binding should indicate the area of specialty of the professors.

The binding usually has a blue color that signifies that the professor has mastered the discipline of learning and scholarship in this chosen field.


The academic cap of a professor is made of velvet. The color is black, but most institutions may choose colors that represent their color. A tassel is placed upon the cap, fastened at the middle point of the top of the cap but should not fall over. The color can be either black or gold, depending on your major.

What Robes Do Professors Wear At Graduation – Conclusion

It is always a beautiful scene watching professors adorn their beautiful robes at graduation ceremonies. These robes are symbols of excellence.

In this article, I described the different robes worn by professors at graduation ceremonies, their origin, their reasons, and why you see professors from the same universities wearing different robes.

I will be happy to hear from you on the topic discussed; drop your questions and suggestions in the comment box, and I will be glad to receive them.

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