Customs & Traditions

The custom of wearing academic dress has been handed down from the Middle Ages. In the medieval universities of Europe, where many scholars were also clerics, flowing gowns were standard dress. The hood was originally a cowl attached to the gown, which could be slipped over the head for warmth in the poorly heated buildings of that era.

Today, of course, the cap, gown and hood are purely symbolic and are worn only during academic ceremonies. But each piece of this regalia has a special meaning. The black mortarboard cap with tassel is standard attire for graduates of American colleges and universities. The square cap came into use during the 16th century, and authorities differ on its meaning. One states that it was square to resemble the books that characterize scholars; another suggests that it was derived from the master workman’s mortarboard; and a third says that it symbolizes the quadrangular shape of the campus of Oxford, where the cap originated. Those holding the doctorate wear a gold tassel, while all others usually wear a black tassel.

The cut of the gown distinguishes among holders of the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The bachelor’s gown is worn closed and has long, pointed sleeves, while holders of the master’s degree wear the gown open with the arms worn through slits in the elbows of the sleeves. The doctor’s gown, worn open, has full, bell-shaped sleeves with three horizontal bars stitched across the upper arm.

It is the hood draped from the shoulders that offers the most information about its wearer. By looking at colors and length, one can determine the highest degree held by the wearer, the academic field and the college or university from which the degree was earned. The inner lining of the hood identifies the institution where the individual earned the degree. Hood College graduates wear a hood lined with blue and grey, the traditional colors of the College. The bachelor’s and master’s hoods are of the same design, pointed at the base.

The bachelor’s hood is three feet long with a three-inch border. The doctor’s hood is four feet long, of fuller shape and rounded at the base, and the border is five inches wide. The color of the velvet trim on the hood indicates the field of study in which the degree was earned. Hood awards degrees in Arts and Letters (white) and Sciences (gold-yellow). The colors associated with other academic fields include copper for Economics, light blue for Education, brown for Fine Arts, crimson for Journalism, purple for Law, lemon for Library Science, pink for Music, dark blue for Philosophy, sage green for Physical Education, peacock blue for Public Administration and Foreign Service, citron for Social Work, silver grey for Speech, scarlet for Theology and grey for Veterinary Science. The academic colors are often repeated on the three horizontal bars stitched across the upper sleeve and the velvet panel draped around the neck of holders of the doctorate.

Many Hood graduates are wearing ribbons or emblems of academic achievement, including completion of the Hood College Honors Program, Departmental Honors or membership in an honor society. The colors of the cords, medallion and cloth strip symbolize membership in various organizations:

  • Cords of gold and silver and medallion = Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society, which recognizes the qualities of academic ability, outstanding and continual leadership, and dedicated service to the College
  • Cords of black and red = Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honor society in political science
  • Cords of blue = Alpha Mu Alpha, the national honor society in marketing
  • Cords of blue and silver = Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology
  • Cords of cardinal red = Tischer Scholars, students who have written and presented Departmental Honors papers
  • Cords of gold = Ionic Society, the honor society of service to Hood
  • Cords of gold and red = Sigma Delta Pi, the national honor society in Spanish
  • Cords of gold, white and red = Alpha Lambda Delta, the national honor society for first-year students
  • Cords of green = Student-athletes
  • Cords of purple and gold = Delta Mu Delta, the international honor society in business
  • Cords of green and medallion = Chi Alpha Sigma, the national college athlete honor society
  • Cords of jade green and violet = Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education
  • Cords of Madonna red and light blue = Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society in history
  • Cords of navy blue and white = Gamma Sigma Epsilon, the national honor society in chemistry
  • Cords of red and green = Beta Beta Beta, the national honor society in biology; blood red is for zoology and leaf green is for botany
  • Cords of blue, white and red = Pi Delta Phi, the national honor society in French
  • Cords of red, white and blue = Veterans/Active-Duty Military
  • Cords of royal blue and gold = Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international honor society in economics
  • Cords of silver and royal blue = Hood College Honors Program 
  • Cords of violet, gold and lavender = Pi Mu Epsilon, the national honor society in mathematics
  • Cords of cardinal red and black = Sigma Tau Delta, the national honor society in English
  • Kente cloth strip = a symbol of unity and achievement
  • White ribbon with burgundy meander pattern = Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective all-discipline honor society