Why Do Barristers Wear Wigs in the UK?

The barrister’s iconic wig is the only physical object that truly embodies the profession. In the United Kingdom, barristers wear wigs, but why is that? Find out how this tradition began and why we decided to keep it in the following paragraphs.

Is There a Specific Date When the Trend of Wigs Began?

Louis XIV of France started the trend. Syphilis was thought to be a sign of a balding scalp in the mid-17th century. Because of this, the king wore a wig to cover up his hairline. The upper and middle classes in Europe quickly adopted this trend, including in Britain, where Charles II did so.

Why Do Barristers Wear Wigs in the UK?

The judiciary, on the other hand, was more reluctant to follow suit, with many judges opting to keep their hair natural for official portraits. Because barristers were also considered members of middle-class society, full, shoulder-length wigs became standard court attire by 1685.

Wigs had fallen out of favour by the 1820s, but they were still worn by coachmen, bishops, and members of the legal profession. In the mid-1830s, coachmen and bishops ceased to exist, but the courts continued the tradition.

The use of wigs in family and civil court, as well as in front of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, was abolished in 2007. It is not uncommon for criminal defendants to wear wigs, and some barristers choose to do the same in civil cases as well.

Why Do Barristers Wear Wigs?

Barristers continue to don wigs for a variety of reasons. According to most, it lends an air of respectability and dignity to the proceedings. Wearing a wig and gown shows that the barrister is an expert in the field of common law, which has a long and rich history.

Why Do Barristers Wear Wigs in the UK?

Those in favour of the idea that the wearing of a wig creates a visual barrier between the law and those it serves have also made their case.

The court dress code can be suspended at the judge’s discretion, such as when there are young children present in the courtroom or when it is extremely hot outside. As a result, it is more about symbolism than any specific rule.

What Is the Current Form of Court Dress?

An advocate’s white wing collar and dark suit are required attire for male advocates in the courtroom. In order for female advocates to practise law, they must wear a dark suit with collarette bands attached to their bar jacket or waistcoat.

Junior barristers wear an open-fronted gown with open sleeves over a black or dark suit with a short horsehair wig with curls at the side.

Silk gown, court coat, and waistcoat for the Queen’s Counsel. It is mandatory for QCs to dress in formal attire on special occasions, including long wigs and lace-cuffed shoes and black breeches.

According to their status and the type of court they work in, judges wear judicial robes of varying colours and styles. Have a short bench wig most of the time, and only use a longer one for formal events.

Will Wigs Be Worn by UK Barristers in the Future?

As a result of the reforms, the court appears to be more open to the idea of barristers wearing wigs. Possibly in the next 50 years, they will be thrown away.

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