The history of judge and barrister robes dates back to the 17th century. Similar to the history of convocation robes, judges and barristers began wearing legal attire as a symbol of their status and education. Today, black robes are traditionally worn when a judge takes their position on the bench. While you may assume that the robes are black to denote formality and authority, the tradition actually comes from a period of mourning when Queen Mary died in 1694. Her funeral was attended by judges from around the world, and each judge wore black as they mourned and grieved her loss. Since then, the black robe has been a common part of legal attire, dictating the look of judge and barrister robes across the globe.
Legal attire worn by judges in the UK may have the oldest history, however, other parts of the world also have staunch traditions and customs when it comes to dressing judges and barristers.
What Do Judges Wear In Different Countries?
Let’s take a closer look at what judge and barrister robes look like in court rooms around the world. Whether the dress code is driven by centuries of tradition or has migrated over the years as the world has changed, there will always be some similarities.
The British judicial system has many courts of jurisdiction including the “Queen’s Bench”, “Chancery Division”, and the “Crown Court”. The legal attire a judge wears depends on the branch they belong to. The traditional black robe is very common but is not the only colour of robe they can wear. Additional options include blue, white, green, purple, pink, and red. In addition to a robe, court justices in Britain also wear a wig. A full-bottomed wig denotes upper court justices, while a barrister wig is worn by lower court justices.
As with many things in Canada, the attire worn by Canadian judges is influenced by British judges. Canadian judges wear traditional black robes that have a colour lining or a sash attached to the front. The colour of the lining or sash depends on the branch of court where they belong to, such as the Supreme Court, Provincial Family Court, or the Tax Court of Canada. It is important to note that Canadian judges do not wear wigs.
In Scotland, judicial robes are dark red with red crosses, Sheriffs wear black robes, and High Court Judges are outfitted in red and white. For barristers, tail coats are worn underneath their robes and they also wear white bow ties.
In the High Court of Australia, a plain black robe with a zippered front, as well as a wig, is customarily worn by judges. The most notable difference is that they also wear collars or bands. In addition, depending on the type of case, a black robe may have a different trim, such as a red trim for appeal cases.
Where To Find Judicial Attire
Legal and judicial robes are the uniform of the legal profession, and it’s important to wear custom-fitted, quality robes to maintain a professional appearance in court. Harcourts has been the primary supplier of robes for the legal profession for over a century, with a history of supplying garments to the Canadian federal government, the Canadian provinces and territories, and the Caribbean and British Commonwealth courts. Request a free quote or contact us for more information on creating a custom tailored legal or judicial robe with a perfect fit.