One of the earliest references in the university archives to St Andrews' students wearing gowns comes from the Statutes of St Leonard’s College in 1544.

According to a post on the issue from the official blog of the Special Collections at St Andrews the statutes describe the requirement that students wear the cap and gown when going outside of the college, though there is no mention of colour.

READ MORE: Historic red gown worn by St Andrews University students mired in legal wrangle 

The blog notes speculation the red gown was introduced to all Scottish universities by James VI as part of 1621 legislation which stated: "all masters, professors, students and founded persons shall hereafter walk in their gowns", although there is no mention of colour.

One of the earliest reference to the red gown comes from "A Modern Account of Scotland by an English Gentleman" in which author Thomas Kirke shares his observations of the four Ancient universities of Scotland in 1679.

He writes: "The regents wear what colour’d cloaths or gowns they please, and commonly no gowns at all … the younger students wear scarlet gowns only in term time."

In 1695 commissioners who inspected the university recommended the Regents or Masters should wear black gowns and the students were to wear “red gownes that thereby vaging and vice may be discouraged”.

Daniel Defoe's journal “A tour thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain” from the 1720s states: "The students wear gowns here of a scarlet-like colour ... and are very numerous."

The red gown continued to be worn in the 19th century, although in 1838 students requested that it be altered so that is could also serve as a cloak. This led to the introduction of sleeves and a velvet yoke.

By the middle of the 20th century there were fears the red gown was falling out of use and the issue was raised by the Student Representative Council in 1950. The issue was raised again in 1966 with the Academic Costume Committee expressing dismay at the decline in the wearing of gowns.

They recommended that the rule obliging matriculated students to wear the gown at lectures and at academic ceremonies "might be expressed in stronger terms". While the use of the gown continued to decline, it remains one of the most popular and iconic parts of the university's tradition.