I came across a whole slew of weird facts while researching what a judge (or barrister rather) traditionally wears, and just had to share them with you!
Did you know that…
Barristers started donning wigs in the 17th century, when Charles II brought back with him to England the French fashion of powdered wigs. According to law professor Charles M. Yablon, they then soon became the “de rigeur” for English aristocrats. The wig wasn’t particularly hygienic, cost a ton and weighed probably about that much. Still, people came up with all sorts of weird reasons to preserve it, one being that it created a unified appearance of counsel, so that no one be favoured over another.
However, in recent years, traditional court dress appears… endangered, to say the least. As Ackland reports, last year, a Victorian supreme court judge expressed “profound disappointment” and even felt “disrespected” because barristers had turned up in wigs! Further, Aldridge notes a general trend towards informality in the legal profession, in that more and more London firms are adopting business casual dress codes – a stark difference from their devout commitment to formal dressing in the past. One law firm takes this to a whole other level, its only dress code being that “you have something between your feet and the carpet – and that’s because our insurance company requires it!”
Will lawyers in smart looking Ralph Laurens become increasingly commonplace then? Hm… Maybe in some places, but generally, my sense is probably not. In Singapore, for instance, expect advocates and solicitors in long sleeved white shirts, ties, dark jackets and trousers. After all, “conspicuous jewellery or ornaments”, or any other statement fashion in a way risks undermining the ‘image of good judgement’, does it not? Like Professor Oak says in the popular Pokémon game: “There’s a time and place for everything, but not now.”
So while horsehair wigs may fast become a thing of the past (that is, if they’re not already), we can still probably expect lawyers to be the most formal of dressers. And that’s great! Who doesn’t love a (wo)man in a suit!