Breaking Down the Cap and Gown

Georgia Tech graduates and professors showing commencement regalia with a humorous mock diagram of a graduation cap

Breaking Down the Cap and Gown

Academic regalia, also known as the “cap and gown,” varies according to the degree conferred and the level of scholarship attained. The bachelor’s gown is a simple robe that covers the entire body. The master’s gown has longer, closed sleeves. The doctoral robe usually is the most elaborate; it is made of velvet, has three stripes on the arms, and includes a hood.

For faculty and doctoral robes, the robe itself is usually specific to the university, while the hood trim indicates the academic discipline. In addition, the faculty member wears the robe indicative of his or her highest degree. If the highest degree is an honorary degree, the faculty member has a choice of wearing the robe of the school that conferred the honorary degree, or the one that conferred the highest earned degree. Bachelor’s and master’s candidates wear a square mortarboard. Doctoral students and faculty usually wear a tam.

In this feature we look at the details of Tech’s bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral regalia. We also highlight some of the more eye-catching regalia — from colorful gowns to ruffled collars to hats reminiscent of Harry Potter — worn by Tech faculty.

Let’s commence!

text - Georgia Tech Faculty Regalia

Oliver Brand

Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ph.D., Physics • ETH Zurich • School Colors: Blue and white

oliver brand in regalia

Details: His regalia, given to him in 2007 by his Ph.D. advisor, was worn by his advisor at ETH Zurich’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2005. He wears a six-sided hat (1), as well as an ETH Zurich necktie (2).

Karen Head

Executive Director, Naugle CommLab
Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication

Ph.D., English • University of Nebraska • School Colors: Scarlet and cream

karen head in regalia

Details: (1) She wears the Omicron Delta Kappa key, representing the national leadership honor society. A velvet, Tudor-style bonnet is a gift from the provost of Worcester College, Oxford. (2) She has a variety of pins, medals, and ribbons acknowledging her membership in various academic honor societies.

Magnus Egerstedt

Steve W. Chaddick Chair and Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ph.D., Applied Mathematics • KTH Royal Institute of Technology • School Color: Blue

magnus egerstedt in regalia

Details: 1) The tassel colors on the biker’s-style cap indicate the academic discipline. Orange represents physics, and brown and white is for applied mathematics. The gray velvet cap has the university logo and a patent leather bib. Commencement attire at the Royal institute of Technology is formal evening dress. Instead of wearing a tuxedo to Tech’s ceremony, Egerstedt wears a standard robe. 2) The cap is lined in yellow and blue, the colors of Sweden’s flag.

Julia Kubanek

Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Sciences

Ph.D., Organic Chemistry • University of British Columbia • School Colors: Blue and gold

julia kubanek in regalia

Details: 1) Her gown has gold buttons and rope on the sleeves. 2) She wears a Tudor-style bonnet with gold tassels.

Colin Potts

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology • University of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England
School Colors: Scarlet and forest green

Colin Potts in academic regalia

Details: 1) He chooses to wear a tam instead of a velvet mortarboard. Unlike regalia for U.S. universities, there are no bars on the sleeves of British regalia. 2) British gowns have an open front, instead of the closed front found on American regalia.

Bonnie Ferri

Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development

Ph.D., Electrical Engineering • Georgia Institute of Technology • School Colors: White and gold

Vice Provost Ferri in academic regalia

Details: 1) The gown’s lapels are emblazoned with the Georgia Tech seal.

Rafael L. Bras

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Sc.D., Water Resources and Hydrology • MIT • School Colors: Red and gray

Provost Bras in academic regalia

Details: 1) He wears regalia of the University of Perugia (Perugia, Italy), where he received an honorary doctorate. This includes a white ruffled collar, and a four-sided tam with no tassel. 2) He wears gold braids and a gold scarf over his left shoulder.

G.P. “Bud” Peterson


Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering • Texas A&M University • School Colors: Maroon and white

President Peterson in academic regalia

Details: 1) The president's traditional tam is finished off with a gold tassel. 2) The garment bag for his regalia has a personalized label that was sewn by Cindy Naivar, a medical assistant at the Stamps Health Center. 3) The president wears the Institute Medallion, which bears Georgia Tech’s “Progress and Service” motto.The medallion’s chain has the initials of each of Tech’s 11 presidents. During the ceremony, students often compliment the president on his “bling.”

text - Georgia Tech Graduate Regalia

Congratulations to the students below — Casey Gomez, Nahom Solomon, and Iris Lu — who are graduating this semester.


Casey Gomez wearing regalia for Georgia Tech bachelor's degree

Details: 1) Undergraduates wear black mortarboards with white and gold tassels, and 2) black robes that bear the Georgia Tech seal on the lapels.


Nahom Solomon wearing regalia for Georgia Tech master's graduates

Details: 1) Master’s graduates wear the same mortarboards and a similar robe to that of undergraduates, but the sleeves have an extension at the back of the wrist opening, as is customary for master’s gowns. 2) Master’s hood colors correspond to the academic degree programs.


Iris Lu wearing academic regalia for Georgia Tech doctoral degree

Details: Ph.D. graduate robes are Georgia Tech gold with navy blue accents. 1 and 2) The sleeve bars and lapels, which also bear the Institute’s seal, are velvet, as is the navy part of the hood. The hood is gold, navy, and white. 3) Ph.D. graduates wear a six-sided tam, which is navy velvet with a gold tassel.


Writer: Victor Rogers
Photographers: Rob Felt, Christopher Moore
Design: Monet Fort, Kristen Bailey