Why Do the British Court Wear Wigs

Title: Why Do the British Court Wear Wigs: A Fascinating Tradition Explained


The British court is renowned for its unique customs and traditions, and one of the most distinctive features is the wearing of wigs by judges and barristers. This curious practice has captured the attention and curiosity of people from around the world. In this article, we delve into the historical origins of this tradition and shed light on its significance in the British legal system.

Historical Origins:

The tradition of wearing wigs in the British court can be traced back to the late 17th century. During this period, wigs were a common fashion accessory for the upper class in Britain. King Charles II, who popularized the wig fashion, began wearing a wig to conceal his prematurely balding head. The trend quickly caught on, and wigs became a symbol of high status and prestige.

Wigs in the Legal System:

The adoption of wigs in the legal profession was initially a matter of practicality. In the 17th century, lawyers and judges often had long hair, which was considered a symbol of intellect and wisdom. However, maintaining long hair was not only time-consuming but also impractical during court proceedings. The use of wigs provided a convenient solution, allowing legal professionals to maintain a neat and professional appearance without the hassle of maintaining their own hair.

Symbolism and Tradition:

Over time, the wearing of wigs in court became deeply ingrained in the British legal system, representing tradition, respect, and formality. Despite changes in fashion and cultural norms, the tradition has persisted, symbolizing a link to the past and emphasizing the importance of the judiciary’s impartiality and independence.

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Wigs Today:

In modern times, wigs are predominantly worn in higher courts, such as the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The majority of barristers and solicitors no longer wear wigs in lower courts, as the legal profession has evolved to reflect contemporary styles and practices. However, judges in higher courts still wear wigs as a symbol of their authority and role in upholding the law.

FAQs about Wearing Wigs in the British Court:

1. Why do judges wear wigs?
Judges wear wigs as a symbol of tradition, formality, and impartiality within the British legal system.

2. Do all judges wear wigs?
No, wigs are primarily worn by judges in higher courts. Barristers and solicitors typically do not wear wigs in lower courts.

3. Are the wigs made with real hair?
Traditionally, wigs were made from horsehair, but today, they are often made from synthetic materials.

4. Do wigs serve any practical purpose in court proceedings?
The primary purpose of wigs is symbolic, although they also lend an air of professionalism and uniformity to the courtroom.

5. Can judges choose the style of their wigs?
The style of wigs worn by judges is standardized, with different styles denoting their seniority or the type of court they preside over.

6. Are wigs worn outside the courtroom?
No, wigs are exclusively worn inside the courtroom during official proceedings.

7. How often are wigs cleaned or replaced?
Wigs are regularly cleaned and maintained to ensure their pristine appearance. They are usually replaced every few years.

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8. Is the wig tradition unique to the British court?
No, similar traditions of wearing wigs exist in some Commonwealth countries influenced by British legal traditions, such as Australia and Canada.

9. Do wigs have any impact on court decisions?
Wigs have no direct impact on court decisions. They are a symbolic representation of the judiciary’s authority and impartiality.

10. Are there any plans to abolish the wig tradition?
There have been occasional debates about abolishing the wig tradition, but as of now, it remains an integral part of the British legal system.

11. Are wigs uncomfortable to wear?
Wigs have evolved to be more comfortable over time, with modern materials and designs ensuring a better fit and breathability.

12. Are there any exceptions to wearing wigs?
In certain circumstances, such as family court or cases involving minors, judges may choose not to wear wigs to create a more relaxed atmosphere.


The tradition of wearing wigs in the British court is a fascinating historical practice that has endured for centuries. While wigs may seem peculiar to the uninitiated, they play a significant role in upholding tradition, formality, and impartiality within the legal system. As the legal profession continues to evolve, the wig tradition remains an enduring symbol of the British court’s rich heritage and timeless pursuit of justice.

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