Why Do the British Court Wear Wigs

Why Do the British Court Wear Wigs?

Wigs have long been associated with judges and lawyers in the British court system. From the distinctive white and powdered wigs to the more modern versions, these headpieces have become an integral part of the legal attire. But have you ever wondered why British courts continue to embrace this centuries-old tradition? In this article, we will explore the origins of this practice, its significance, and address some frequently asked questions surrounding the use of wigs in the British court.

Origins of the Wig Tradition:

The tradition of wearing wigs in the British court dates back to the late 17th century. During this time, wigs were already in fashion among the aristocracy and higher classes in Europe. King Louis XIV of France popularized the powdered wig, and it soon became a symbol of wealth and prestige.

When King Charles II returned to England after his exile in 1660, he brought the fashion of wearing wigs with him. The British court, known for its adherence to traditions, quickly adopted this trend. Wigs were initially worn by judges and lawyers to imitate the appearance of the upper classes, making them look more prestigious and authoritative.

Significance of Wigs in the British Court:

1. Professionalism and Tradition: Wigs are seen as a symbol of professionalism and tradition in the British court. They lend an air of formality and seriousness to the courtroom proceedings, emphasizing the importance of the legal process.

2. Equality and Impartiality: Wigs help to mask personal identities and physical appearances, ensuring that all individuals in the court are treated equally. By concealing personal attributes, such as age, gender, and hairstyle, judges and lawyers are less likely to be influenced by external factors when delivering justice.

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3. Historical Continuity: The use of wigs in the British court system signifies a connection to the country’s legal history. It serves as a reminder of the long-standing legal traditions and customs, instilling a sense of continuity and stability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Do all British judges wear wigs?
A: No, not all British judges wear wigs. Wigs are typically worn in higher courts, such as the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Crown Court. However, in lower courts, such as county courts and magistrates’ courts, judges and lawyers often do not wear wigs.

Q: Are the wigs made of real hair?
A: Traditionally, wigs were made from horsehair. However, modern wigs are often made from synthetic materials, which are more cost-effective and easier to maintain.

Q: Why are the wigs white and powdered?
A: The white and powdered wigs were fashionable during the 17th and 18th centuries. The powder was initially used to mask the smell of the wigs, which were often infested with lice. Over time, the powdered wig became a symbol of prestige and authority.

Q: Are wigs worn outside the courtroom?
A: No, wigs are typically only worn inside the courtroom. Once judges and lawyers leave the court premises, they usually remove their wigs.

Q: Are wigs still necessary in today’s modern legal system?
A: The necessity of wigs in the British court system is a subject of ongoing debate. Some argue that wigs are outdated and unnecessary, while others believe they preserve the formality and traditions of the legal process.

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In conclusion, the tradition of wearing wigs in the British court system has its roots in 17th-century fashion trends. These wigs have come to symbolize professionalism, equality, and historical continuity. While not all judges wear wigs and the use of synthetic materials has replaced real hair, the tradition persists as an integral part of the British legal system. Whether wigs are necessary in today’s modern legal practice continues to be a topic of discussion. However, for now, they remain a distinctive feature of British courts, adding a touch of tradition and formality to the proceedings.