The ancient Scottish universities all have a rich tradition of distinctive academic gowns for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. However, the University of St Andrews is the only institution that continues this tradition amongst its students to this day.
The red gown was introduced post-Reformation as compulsory 'school uniform' to students as young as 13 as a way of preventing them from illicit drinking in public houses. While the red undergraduate gown is iconic within the town, there is no obligation to own a gown. However, the red gown is a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the historical culture of the University.
The red gown is probably the most well-known of the University’s academic gowns and is worn by undergraduate students of all Schools with the exception of St Mary’s, who have their own variation.
The gown is knee-length with cape sleeves. The main body made from 100% wool while the collar is made from velveteen.
The red gown is commonly worn for the weekly chapel service and pier walk, where students proceed from St Salvators down to the pier to commemorate the rescue of crew members of the ship Janet of Macduff by a former student, John Honey, along with other special occasions.
Students wear the red gown differently according to which year they are in:
- First-year students (bejants) wear the gown fully up on their shoulders.
- Second-year students (semi-bejants) wear the gown slightly back off their shoulders.
- Third-year students (tertians) wear the gown either fully off the right shoulder if studying science or the left shoulder if studying arts (“Arts have hearts, but scientists are always right”!).
- Fourth-year students (magistrands) wear the gown off both shoulders, across the elbows.
This tradition represents each student growing wiser with each passing year and shrugging off the support of the University until they finally leave as a graduate, ready for the world.
St Mary’s gown
Students of St Mary’s College are members of the Faculty of Divinity and, rather than the red gown, have the option to wear a knee-length black gown with short, open sleeves. The gown also has a violet cross of St Andrew on the left-facing sleeve.
The University also offers a postgraduate gown of black cloth faced with burgundy. The postgraduate gown was introduced to provide better integration for students coming from Schools that didn’t offer their own gowns and to extend the academic dress beyond undergraduate level.
Students have the option of wearing their original undergraduate gown (including those of other universities), or they may choose the postgraduate gown.
Are gowns compulsory?
While the red undergraduate gown is iconic within the town, there is no obligation to own a gown. However, the red gown is a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the historical culture of the University.
How do I purchase a gown?
You can purchase one here. We hold stock of some sizes throughout the year, however we receive our bulk delivery in September in time for the new academic year.
How do I pre-order my gown for starting in September?
All gown orders placed from April will go into our pre-order folder ready for you to pick up at our gown event at the start of freshers week.
Where do I pick up my gown?
We have a gown event every year, the weekend before freshers week. You will be emailed the location and times of the event middle to late August.
How do I measure myself?
You can follow our video here on how to measure yourself.
Do I have to pre-order my gown?
You do not need to pre-order your gown, however if you pre-order your gown we can guarantee that we will have your size.
What if I pre-order the incorrect size?
When you come to collect your gown, we will measure you to check you have ordered the correct size, if you have ordered the incorrect size we will ensure you go away with the correct size, or order the correct size in for you.
Why can I not select shipping for the gown?
The gowns are available for pick up only, however if you wish for your gown to be shipped to you, please contact us.
Do you buy back gowns?
Once you are finished with your gown we will buy your gown back in exchange for a £40 gift voucher to spend in our shop. The gown needs to be in near perfect condition as we sell these on. We only buy gowns back from April – September.
I would like to buy a pre-owned gown but I can't see them on your website?
We keep all pre-owned gowns to the side and sell them at our gown event the weekend before freshers week. The pre-owned gowns are very popular and usually sell out very early. We do not know how many pre-owned gowns we will have and we cannot guarantee that we will have stock of every size.
How much are pre-owned gowns?
Pre-owned gowns are £95.
Do you wear the gown for graduation?
The gowns we sell are not for graduation, for graduation gowns please visit the University website.
Do you sell other gowns, hoods or hats?
We have a variety of gowns, hoods and hats we can purchase in for you. Please contact us for further information.
The Gown Event
click here for all gown event information.