What was once considered common wear for any graduate has become a distinct piece of clothing that depicts a graduate’s efforts and accomplishments. But the commencement hood and how to wear it can be confusing.

History of the Master’s Hood

The master’s hood harks back to the Middle Ages and was originally worn by all classes as simply a hood, or caputium. It carried no actual academic significance. Around the 13th or 14th centuries, the hood evolved into other areas of culture, including monks who were also often teachers, clergy, and students who were pursuing higher education subjects and exploring math and science.

It was given distinct coloring and linings to depict the student’s level of education. For instance, undergrads were often given black hoods that were simple in assemblage and not lined. Graduates were given fur hoods or fur lined hoods to show their level of achievement in academia.

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Purpose of the Hood

The hood served many purposes. It was used as a:

  • Shoulder cape
  • Bag for alms for students looking to continue education
  • Head covering
  • Carryall

The drafty medieval buildings left many students shivering as they hunched over their work.

Hood Moves On

The front of the hood had a piece of material that was originally used for plucking the hood on and off of the student’s head. It was called the liripipe or tapetum. This later served as a type of scarf that wrapped around either side of the hood to keep the cool air at bay.

Bachelor’s Hood vs. Master’s Hood

Both hoods meant something in the world of academia. They were originally distinguished by the high or low value of the material that was used to make them rather than the shape or color.

Bachelor’s hoods were typically made from badger fur or would have a lamb wool lining. Eventually, the liripipe or scarf material became longer for undergraduates, further distinguishing them from graduates.

Master’s hoods evolved into scarlet colors around the 14th century and were required to have fur that was of good quality. Eventually silks were introduced around the 15th century for summer ceremonies or other events.

What to Wear Under There

After all the trouble of figuring out how to wear the Balfour master's hood and gown, it can be confusing what to wear under all that ceremonial dress. Beneath the robe and master’s hood, the students should simply wear dress clothing before donning the regalia of graduation.

Each institution of higher education will have its own dress code. More than likely pants and dresses need to be of a certain hue and fall at a certain place, such as the ankle for pants and mid-calf for dresses.

How to Wear the Master’s Hood

Place the graduation hood over your head with the velvet side up. The small tapered V-shaped end should be at the front of the neck. The long U-shaped rear part of the hood should drape over the back of the gown. The front of the hood should rest comfortably just below the chin and sit well over the shoulders.

The front loop should be secured to the gown’s zipper or your own clothing. This will keep the graduation hood firmly in place as you walk to and from your seat and across the stage.

The back of the gown may need an extra set of eyes or hands to put on correctly. Turn the lining of the hood out to expose the colors underneath from below the shoulders. Make sure to smooth the base of the rear of the hood so that it lays flat. The rear cord should be fastened to the two buttons within the hood lining to ensure the hood stays firmly in place.

Things Needed

  • Master's hood
  • Safety pin
  • 1 helper

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.