At college graduations, the faculty wear dark flowing robes, satiny hoods, and puffy hats. Look closely, and you’ll notice little variations—they are not arbitrary. Each detail tells a rich story about the professor wearing the regalia.

Robe Color
Indicates the professor’s approach to dressing for class:

  • Black: Funky vintage
  • Red: Four-season surf vibe
  • Dark blue: Frump
  • Any other color: Whatever the fuck I want; I have tenure

The Velvet Bands on the Robe’s Sleeves
Indicates the professor’s approach to grading papers:

  • Four stripes: Having read a reasonable number of papers per day, only when rested, calm, and well-fed, I return the papers with insightful, civil comments and fair grades within two weeks of their submission. (N.B. Four-striped robes are no longer manufactured and are only available via special order.)
  • Three stripes: I procrastinate all week, then do all the grading in a frenzied, caffeine-induced weekend delirium.
  • Two stripes: I procrastinate for weeks, then do all the grading over holiday breaks to maximize my sensation of martyrdom.
  • One stripe: I procrastinate for months, then give all students whose parents are lawyers an A and everyone else a B.

The Color of the Hood’s Velvet Trim
Indicates the professor’s reason for going to grad school in the first place:

  • Black: I say it’s because of my passion for my field. But if I’m being honest, I just wanted to avoid the “real world” for a few more years, and I felt lost without the validation and structure college offered. I also wanted a challenge, but now I constantly wonder, Why? Didn’t I know yet that life itself is already challenging enough?
  • Navy blue: Same.
  • Dark maroon: Same.
  • All other colors: Same.

The Color of the Satin Chevron Stripe Inside the Hood
Indicates the professor’s approach to the Q&A portion of panels at academic conferences:

  • Lilac: To promote my own research
  • Emerald: To hightail it out of Ballroom D early and beat the bathroom rush
  • Cardinal: To lavish unqualified praise that I’ll later try to parlay into sleeping with the presenter
  • Royal blue: More of a comment than a question
  • Yellow: Nap

The Color of the Satin Lining of the Hood
Indicates the professor’s approach to office hours:

  • Orange: I schedule office hours during my only free hour all day, lunch, then depress students by spending the whole time apologetically eating sad beige yogurt that crusts in the corners of my mouth.
  • Light blue: My office hours are always packed because of my nervous tendency to reveal exam answers when speaking off the cuff.
  • Purple: My office hours are always packed because I’m hot.
  • Burgundy: I keep my office door closed during office hours so no one sees me on my knees, praying no one will come to office hours.
  • Silver: What are office hours? Is that something people do on Fridays? I haven’t been to my office on a Friday in twenty-five years.

(optional accessories that hang around the neck)
Similar to football players awarded skull decals to stick on their helmets, faculty members are given a new cord for each sack. In academia, it’s considered a “sack” if you stand up during a faculty meeting and point out whatever way the administration is currently destroying the faculty / the students / the working class / themselves / the entire concept of education.

(the little hat)
No details about the tam mean anything. But the fact that you know it’s called a tam, and you call it a “tam” and not “the little hat,” means everything.

All-Black Robe, No Sleeve Stripes, Blue Satin Hood, Coat of Arms Over the Left Breast That Reads “RAVENCLAW
Indicates a Halloween costume purchased for $35 on Amazon by an underpaid contingent professor.