The surprising reason behind why barristers wear wigs
September 26, 2022
why do barristers wear wigs? A barrister is a senior lawyer, who specializes in pleading cases in the higher courts of England and Wales or Ireland, and of many Commonwealth nations (the position exists in both the UK and Ireland). They are allowed to wear wigs in court – now you know why. But why do they wear them? What do they represent? We asked some barristers to find out…
Hairpieces Throughout History
In the 1600s and 1700s, men wore their hair long and were encouraged to grow clean-shaven faces. It was considered an offense to carry arms in public if you weren’t wearing some form of headgear, so men would typically put on a round hat or make the cuffs of their coat into makeshift turban.
The practice started around 1630 after King Charles I had his hair cut short in mourning for his recently deceased father. This new trend did not go unnoticed by Barristers in court who wanted to avoid false accusations of cutting someone’s hair.
The Physical Importance of Wearing a Hat
In medieval times, hats were expensive and sought-after status symbols. Noblemen would only remove their hats for the clergy or as a sign of respect to superiors.
The purpose of wearing hats was to show that they were not laborers like the people who wore caps. In more recent history, hats became a symbol of leisure rather than a luxury. Hats were seen as frivolous accessories that indicated someone had enough time on their hands to play around with something superfluous like fashion.
Is it painful to wear a wig all day?
Barristers don’t just wear wigs to look smart and professional in the courtroom, although it’s a nice bonus. In reality, they are a necessity of the job. Barristers need to take their ‘wig off’ before arguing a case so that no one knows what their arguments will be beforehand.
A barrister would never want to give their side of the story too soon or accidentally leak sensitive information about themselves before they are in court. So what’s this all got to do with barring?
It’s all about fairness. The wig is there for formality, but it also serves an important purpose – making sure everyone who plays by the same rules and has a fair chance of winning.
Getting Rid of Hair in All the Wrong Places
A barrister can end up with a rather severe lack of head hair after years of working inside a courtroom. They’ve been told by well-meaning family members to simply shave their heads and make them less conspicuous, but this is not the preferred option.
Barristers prefer to let their hair grow out for many reasons. When people know barristers that you are a barrister, they often have a certain expectation of what your appearance should be like. In addition, most male barristers are very loyal to their style and wouldn’t dream of altering it by getting rid of all their hair.
What happens if your wig falls off in court?
If your wig falls off in court, it’s considered a sign of disrespect to the judge. You’re supposed barristers to pick up your wig, then quickly tuck it back on without anyone noticing.
You could also try combing and arranging your hair over the bald spot so that the stray hairs are hidden. The rules are different in Britain: if you lose your wig, you can try saying my learned friend was jostled or I rise to object.
How hot do they get under those things?
Aside from being uncomfortable, the barristers wigs are hotter than your typical hair. This is because there’s an internal heater inside the wig to keep it from drying out and breaking off of your head when it gets too hot. It may sound weird but what if you were sweating in a suit all day? I’ll just stick with my Air Jordans, thanks.
Who Makes Your Suit and That Damn Wig Anyway!?
In the early 1800s, lawyers in the English courts wore knee-length breeches and stockings. They also sported silk periwig hairpieces that did not always match their natural hair. Court judges, too, sometimes wore long horsehair wigs while sitting on the bench.
Barrister John Philpott Lepper (1777-1842) disliked this practice and campaigned for a return to the toga, which is a wrap-around cloak of heavy material worn by judges in ancient Rome.
Safety First – Don’t Forget to Tuck That Wig In!
Pins are used to securing the wig and keep it in place, so when you’re finished wearing your wig for the day be sure to pull out the pins and put them in a container!
Pins can be dangerous, especially if not handled properly. Be careful of static electricity from other garments and try not to rub your head against carpeting or other furniture. Also make sure you keep your wig away from open flames, like candles or heating vents.
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