Why British Judge’s Still Wear Judge Wigs And Barrister Robes In Court

You may think that you’ve travelled back to the Renaissance when you see the court attire of British judge, but they aren’t just wearing judge wigs and barrister robes in order to play dress-up. The tradition of wearing a white wig and a robe dates to the 17th century—and not much of the uniform has changed since then.

The History Behind The Wig And Robe

  • In 1625, an academic paper called The Discourse on Robes and Apparel forever changed the way British high court officials dressed. It was through this work’s influence that the adoption of judge wigs and barrister robes as legal attire was introduced.
  • This paper not only dictated what could be worn as court attire in the courtroom but the conditions and even seasons for each outfit, as well. While today in Canada and the US we are used to seeing the traditional black barrister robes, this was not always the case in the UK, even by today’s standards.
  • Seasons and the type of legal case determine the colour and style of robe British judges wear. Barrister robes of violet, green, black, and scarlet have served different purposes through the years, though the color requirements have fluctuated many times in the last few centuries.

British Judges Wigs

But What About Judge Wigs?

  • The fashion trends of the 17th century helped judge wigs work their way into courtrooms too and the headpieces were fully adopted as proper legal attire by 1685 with just as many strict rules as robes.
  • Courtroom wigs are white, often handcrafted out of horsehair, and can cost thousands of pounds
  • Judges used to wear long, curled, full-bottom wigs until the 1780s, then they switched to smaller bench wigs.

legal attire

The Wigs And Robes Of Today

  • While a growing number of people feel that the dress code is outdated, traditionalist believes that judge wigs should still be worn to maintain the tradition and to enforce the law.
  • In recent years, there have been several attempts to get rid of legal wigs completely, including a 2007 case which was brought to court and won the right to alter the dress code.

Judge Wigs And Barrister Robes

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