Wigs, Black Gowns and British Judges

A Bloomberg News report states that civil court judges in England and Wales will be trading in their traditional horsehair wigs, black gowns, winged white collars and neckbands for modern designer threads this October. The traditional garb of the British judiciary dates to the 1680s. The history of court dress in the UK is described in detail on the web site of the Judiciary of England and Wales.

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Phillips, initiated the change as part of a reform to simplify judicial court working dress in England and Wales and to bring the judges into the 21st century. The change comes with concerns on a number of fronts. Some judges see the change as a break with tradition and see the traditional garb as protecting their anonymity. As a result, the change will not affect criminal courts judges who will continue to wear the traditional outfits. Barristers, unlike solicitors, will also continue to wear wigs as has been the tradition. Solicitors are worried they will be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to court dress. On a purely aesthetic level, critics, such as the fashion editor of the Guardian, have likened the new attire to costumes out of Star Trek.

Fortunately, BLS law school graduates can focus all their energies on passing the bar exam.