Academic regalia have been around since the 12th and 13th centuries as a way to designate graduates of a specific undergraduate or graduate degree program. Typically, these pieces are worn during a ceremony such as graduation, commencement or other formal university events. Colors will vary according to the professional school or college. Other indicators will also be acknowledged by dress, including the level of the degree, as well as honors and accolades.

Robe or Gown

Various robes or gowns are used to designate the type of degree someone has earned. Regardless of whether one has earned a bachelor's, master's or a doctorate, the gown is typically black. However, some colleges and universities choose to select their school colors. Although the same color, the gowns vary in style. Bachelor gowns are worn closed and are pointed at the sleeves. They are typically mid-calf or ankle length. The master's gowns can be worn open or closed and have oblong sleeves that open at the wrist, the bottom portion bellowing beneath the arms. Doctoral robes can also be worn open or closed and have bell-shaped sleeves. They also have velvet trimmings—three bars across the front and on the sleeves.

Hood

The hood is made out of the same material as the gown or robe, but they come in different lengths and color accents based on the degree. The inside is lined in the color of the university while the outside is normally black with a chevron pattern in another color. The hood is edged in velvet, the color specific to the degree subject. The length of the academic hood will vary, although most are three to four feet long. However, the doctoral hood is wider.

Tam

Usually reserved for doctoral degrees only, tams are velvet with a ribbon across, and they are poofed at the top. Their color will vary according to the university, but they are typically black. They can be four-, six- or eight-sided depending on the preference of the university. The tam is decorated with a gold tassel and one or two buttons.

Mortarboard or Cap

The mortarboard, or cap, is designed to match the gown or robe. It is flat, four-sided and typically black with one button on the top to hold the tassel. Both the color of the tassel and the cap itself will vary according to the institution.