Why Do British Still Wear Wigs in Court

Why Do British Still Wear Wigs in Court?

The British legal system is known for its rich traditions, and one of the most distinctive aspects is the wearing of wigs by judges, barristers, and solicitors in courtrooms. While this practice may seem archaic and peculiar to outsiders, it holds great significance within the legal profession in the United Kingdom. To understand why wigs are still worn in British courts, we need to delve into the historical origins and examine the practical and symbolic reasons behind this unique tradition.

Historical Origins

The tradition of wearing wigs in court dates back to the 17th century when wigs became fashionable among the British aristocracy. During this time, King Charles II popularized the wig-wearing trend, and it soon became a symbol of status and authority. When wigs were introduced in courtrooms, they were initially worn by judges as a way to imitate the appearance of the upper class and to enhance their authority and dignity.

Practical Reasons

While wigs may have lost their popularity in everyday life, they still serve several practical purposes in the courtroom. First and foremost, wigs help to maintain a sense of anonymity for judges and lawyers. By wearing wigs, legal professionals are able to present themselves as impartial figures of justice, rather than individuals with personal identities. This anonymity is believed to ensure fair and unbiased judgments, as it eliminates any potential bias based on appearances or personal backgrounds.

Furthermore, wigs also provide a sense of uniformity and professionalism within the legal profession. In a courtroom, where multiple lawyers may be present, the use of wigs helps distinguish judges from other legal representatives, ensuring clarity and order. Additionally, wigs help to conceal any personal grooming choices, such as hairstyles, which could potentially distract or influence the judgment process.

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Symbolic Significance

Beyond their practical utility, wigs hold a symbolic value in British courts. The tradition of wearing wigs represents a connection to the legal system’s historical roots and the principles of justice. It signifies the continuity of the legal profession and the respect for legal traditions that have been upheld for centuries.

The powdered and curled wigs worn by judges are also a sign of authority and wisdom. They evoke a sense of gravitas and command respect in the courtroom. The wearing of wigs serves as a visual reminder to all present that the proceedings are serious and demand the highest level of professionalism and decorum.


Q: Who wears wigs in British courts?
A: Judges, barristers, and solicitors wear wigs in British courts.

Q: Do all judges wear wigs?
A: In the United Kingdom, judges in higher courts, such as the Supreme Court and High Court, do not wear wigs. However, judges in lower courts, including county and magistrates’ courts, may still wear wigs.

Q: Are wigs worn in all legal proceedings?
A: Wigs are typically worn in more formal court settings, such as criminal trials, but may not be required in certain civil cases or during administrative hearings.

Q: Are wigs made of real hair?
A: No, modern wigs worn in British courts are typically made from horsehair or synthetic materials.

Q: Do other countries still use wigs in their legal systems?
A: While the tradition of wearing wigs in courtrooms has diminished in many countries, some Commonwealth countries, such as Canada and Australia, still follow this practice to varying degrees.

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In conclusion, the practice of wearing wigs in British courts has its roots in historical trends, practical considerations, and symbolic significance. While it may appear peculiar to outsiders, it plays a crucial role in maintaining the professionalism, impartiality, and traditions of the British legal system. The continued use of wigs in the courtroom serves as a reminder of the enduring legacy of the British legal profession and its commitment to justice.