Subfusc is the traditional gown-and-bands
attire for students
in Oxford University
. It consists of a black suit
for women), white bow-tie
for women), mortar board
, and gown
. Bizarrely, though the mortar board is compulsory, it is illegal for undergraduates to actually wear it - it must be carried at all times. (There are actual university police
to enforce this. Penalties can result in a meeting with the dreaded proctors
.) Those who have won scholarships get a special robe (which usually costs about half the value of their scholarship!).
In Japanese it is apparently signifies "Quickly, quickly! I urgently need my photo taken". Those foolish enough to venture out in public during Trinity Term can testify to this unfortunate cross-cultural mix-up.
It's generally only worn on ceremonial occasions, such as matriculation, graduation, formal hall, and unfortunately, exams - though in some colleges with regular, compulsory formal hall this may mean twice weekly.