The caps, gowns, and hoods worn at college and university functions date back to the Middle Ages, when monks and students of those days wore them to keep warm in the damp, drafty castles and halls of learning.
The bachelor’s gown, normally worn closed in front, is distinguished by long pointed sleeves. The master’s gown is worn open and has the wearer’s forearm coming through a slit near the elbow of the sleeve. Doctoral gowns, worn either open or closed, have broad velvet panels down the front and three velvet bars on the open sleeves.
All holders of a doctoral degree may wear black regalia with velvet trimming either in black or in a color indicating the field of learning in which the degree was earned. In addition, many universities have now authorized distinctive gowns made in the school’s color. Examples include: Columbia—light blue, Cornell—red, Harvard—crimson, Johns Hopkins University—gold, Michigan State—green, New York University—violet, Northwestern University—purple, Pennsylvania—red, Rutgers—scarlet, University of California—navy blue, Wesleyan—red, University of Kansas—royal blue, and Yale—blue.