Importance of dress codes:
In the legal profession, the importance of dress codes and robes are indispensable. Dress codes form a significant aspect of any occupation. They symbolize responsibility, solidarity, and discipline. When it comes to legal practice, the prevalence of dress codes can be found throughout history. The practice of law itself demands the exhibition of certain virtues. Dress codes can be considered as a form of representation of such virtues.
Throughout times there have been significant changes all around the globe when it comes to the enforcement of dress codes for lawyers. However, there are certain countries like the United Kingdom that still follow the custom of lawyers wearing wigs in trials and courts.
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History of Dress Codes:
The legal system in India is largely derived from the judicial structure of courts in Britain. In Britain, it was customary for lawyers and judges to wear black gowns, white neck bands, and grey wigs. This tradition can be traced back to a few centuries ago in the UK.
Wearing a headgear of some sort has been a prevalent practice, in the legal profession in the UK even before the introduction of wigs. In the late 17th century, wearing wigs became a common practice in law. King Charles II of the UK made it compulsory for barristers to wear wigs. Apart from that, the fashion of those times also influenced the adoption of wigs as a part of the costume for advocates. Wigs were a symbol of power and dignity, and it was used to distinguish lawyers from people belonging to other sections of society. Wigs and their introduction in the judicial and legal systems can also be attributed to the French. King Louis XIV of France has been considered by many historians as the source of popularising wigs in the European nations.
The type and style of wigs have undergone constant change in the last four centuries. The wigs of judges are also different in kind from the wigs worn by barristers. In India, during the British reign wearing of wigs by barristers and judges was commonplace. However, in recent times the practice has been almost completely forsaken. In the UK, judges, and barristers still, wear wigs, but only for the trial of criminal cases. It is not mandatory to sport wigs for any other type of cases.
Why do lawyers wear wigs?
It was once a symbol of sophistication:
Legal practice in a well-established legal system has been prevalent in the United Kingdom for many centuries. The legal profession has always been considered an elite occupation. Wigs were a fashion statement in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. To reinforce the idea that law is a sophisticated field of practice, and that lawyers are sophisticated, well-dressed, and elite individuals, lawyers once started wearing wigs. Maybe in the present scenario, wigs are no longer a fashionable item, but this practice has evolved into a custom.
It is a custom:
Wearing wigs was a part of barristers’ costume in the United Kingdom. This practice became well established in the 17th century and had been continuing ever since. As wearing a black robe is an important wardrobe compulsion for lawyers, donning wigs is also essential in the same manner. Once introduced for its fashion-ability or distinctiveness, the wearing of wigs over one’s head in the field of legal practice has now become a tradition. This is why lawyers and judges wear wigs even today. Customs and traditions, in itself, influence laws to a great extent, especially since they form the genesis for any legislation. It has become an indispensable part of one’s attire because of its acceptance as an age-old practice.
The factor of distinction:
In the past, as well as the future, the costume of lawyers has served as a symbol of distinction. Black robes, white neckbands, and wigs are exclusive to persons who indulge in the legal profession. Wearing of the conventional costume meant specifically for their job gives lawyers a distinct identity. It becomes easier to recognize the profession of a lawyer when he/she is in the traditional costume. Therefore another factor to consider when debating the validity of wigs as a part of lawyers’ attire is the added connotation of distinctness. Wigs, along with the entire costume of lawyers, make look distinct and separate from the rest of the people.
Another reason why the wearing of wigs is prevalent practice in modern times is because of the degree of anonymity that it provides. In the legal profession, factors such as facial features and looks should not be considered important. The main focus should be on the arguments and mannerisms. Wearing wigs to a certain extent enhances the anonymity of the individual representing his/her client in a court of law.
All of these reasons elaborate on why lawyers wear wigs. This custom of wearing wigs as a part of one’s costume is a leftover tradition of British rule in the commonwealth.