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Why Do British Lawyers Wear Wigs

Have you ever wondered why British lawyers wear wigs in court? In this article, we will dive into the history behind this age-old tradition and examine the significance of this unique practice. We will discuss various types of wigs worn by legal professionals, the reasons behind their use, and the ongoing debate surrounding the tradition. So, let's unravel the mystery behind the British lawyer's iconic wigs.

1.History of British lawyers wearing wigs

The tradition of British lawyers wearing wigs dates back to the 17th century when wigs were a popular fashion statement among the upper class. King Charles II, who was influenced by French fashion, introduced wigs to the English court in the 1660s. Initially, the wigs were made of human hair, but over time, they transitioned to horsehair and other materials. Legal professionals, including judges and barristers, began wearing wigs as a symbol of authority, wisdom, and professionalism. The tradition has since been passed down through the generations and remains a staple of the British legal system today.

2.Types of wigs worn by British lawyers

There are several different types of wigs worn by British legal professionals, including the full-bottomed wig, the bench wig, and the tie wig. The full-bottomed wig is the most formal and is reserved for ceremonial occasions, such as the opening of a new court session. The bench wig is worn by judges during court proceedings, while the tie wig is worn by barristers. These wigs are made from horsehair, which provides a distinctive appearance and ensures durability.

3.Reasons for wearing wigs

The practice of wearing wigs in the courtroom serves several purposes. Firstly, the wigs provide a sense of anonymity, allowing legal professionals to separate their personal and professional lives. This separation is essential for maintaining impartiality and protecting the safety of those involved in legal proceedings.

Secondly, the wigs serve as a symbol of tradition and continuity within the legal profession. The practice is a nod to the rich history of the British legal system and serves as a reminder of the profession's longstanding commitment to justice and the rule of law.

Lastly, the wigs contribute to the formality and decorum of the courtroom. They help to establish a sense of order and professionalism, reinforcing the gravity of the legal proceedings and the importance of maintaining respect for the law.

4.The debate surrounding the use of wigs

While many legal professionals appreciate the tradition and symbolism associated with wearing wigs, others argue that the practice is outdated and unnecessary. Critics of the tradition believe that the wigs create a barrier between legal professionals and the public, making the courtroom feel intimidating and inaccessible. They argue that modernizing the legal profession's attire would make the courtroom a more welcoming and inclusive space.

In recent years, there have been some changes to the tradition. For example, in 2007, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales announced that wigs would no longer be required for civil or family court cases. However, they are still worn in criminal court cases, and the debate surrounding the use of wigs in the legal profession continues.

5.Embracing tradition while adapting to change

Despite the ongoing debate, the tradition of wearing wigs in British courtrooms has proven to be remarkably resilient. As the legal profession evolves, it is important to consider how the use of wigs can be adapted to meet the changing needs of society. For example, some legal professionals have suggested incorporating more modern and comfortable materials into the design of the wigs or allowing for greater flexibility in when and where they are worn.

6.The global perspective on wigs in the legal profession

The practice of wearing wigs is not unique to the British legal system. Other countries with a history of British colonial influence, such as Australia, Canada, and several Caribbean nations, also have legal professionals who wear wigs in the courtroom. In some cases, these countries have implemented their own modifications to the tradition, reflecting their unique legal cultures and histories.

7.The future of wigs in the British legal system

The tradition of British lawyers wearing wigs is deeply ingrained in the legal profession's culture and history. While some changes have been made to modernize the practice, the wigs remain a symbol of authority and professionalism in the courtroom. As the debate surrounding the use of wigs continues, it remains to be seen what the future holds for this iconic tradition.

In conclusion, the practice of British lawyers wearing wigs is a fascinating aspect of the country's legal system. The tradition serves as a reminder of the rich history of the profession and the importance of maintaining respect for the law. As we look towards the future, it is essential to balance the preservation of tradition with the need for accessibility and modernization in the legal profession.


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