Academic regalia usually recognize three different degrees: the bachelor’s, the master’s and the doctorate, each derived by medieval university custom.
The bachelor’s, or baccalaureate, degree takes its name from the medieval practice of “bachelors” who wore a garland of bayberries to distinguish their status. They wore gowns of worsted material, fastened at the top, with pointed sleeves hanging nearly to the knees. The bachelor’s hood is three feet long, with a two-inch strip of velvet.
The master’s degree was equivalent to a license to teach. The gown, worn open, has long, closed sleeves with a slit for the arm near the middle of each sleeve. The master’s hood is three and one-half feet long, faced with a three-inch strip of velvet.
The doctorate degree indicated advanced study and independent research in a specialized field. The gown, worn open, is faced with a broad strip of velvet and has three bars of velvet on each sleeve. The hood is four feet long and faced with a five-inch strip of velvet. The color of the tassel or velvet strip on the hood indicates the field of study in which the degree was earned: white, arts; yellow, sciences; light blue, education; apricot, nursing; drab or light brown, business. Each hood is lined in silk with the colors of the institution which granted the degree. UNCW’s hood is lined with green and gold.
All degrees have a black “mortarboard.” A black tassel, or one in colors signifying the graduate’s field of specialization, hangs to the left of the face. Those with a doctorate degree may wear a soft velvet cap of the color indicating their field of study or a mortarboard with a tassel in whole or in part of golden thread.