Barrister’s Wig: What to Know!

Barrister’s Wig: What to Know!

The Wig!

No! Not the accessory African ladies adorn to accentuate their faces.

By the way, a group of college guys asked random women why they wear wigs and among the reasons they collected included; for religious reasons (Orthodox), it’s fashionable, camouflage hair loss, protect their real hair (?) and most interesting, to look and feel beautiful (?)! Not my business!

Wig in Court!

My target was the wigs, coifs, gowns, jabots, and other idiosyncrasies of English judicial attire. Why do lawyers, judges, barristers et al wear wigs? While passing near a clothing shop with a colleague, we noticed a lawyer’s wig through the glass display. She, like me, wondered how a wig could be so crucial in the judicial process.

The Chief Justice of Victoria in 2016 banned wigs from the Victorian courtrooms. Closer home, former Kenyan CJ, Willy Mutunga made it an option for lawyers. So it’s kinda not a requirement for practicing law in Kenya. You don’t have to have a wig budget to enter our courtrooms.

Wig history dates back to England in around 1660 when wigs were a fashionable item that everyone, not just lawyers, were wearing. That’s over 350 years of history in the law of the wig, jabot, gowns, and other legal regalia. Of course, being a colony of the British, we happily embraced it, and boy, don’t we love the wig!

It’s been argued that the wigs show respect and maintains the tradition of the law and courts, acknowledge the origin of our legal system and bring authority, formality, and dignity to court proceedings as well as distinguish court officers from “others!” Jesus Christ!

Then there are those, like me, who honestly believe that wearing wigs is old-fashioned, irrelevant to our modern society, and are associated with exclusivity, colonialism, and superiority of court officers. Just to intimidate those seeking justice. The judge should uphold the formality and dignity of court proceedings, not the clothing worn by officers of the court. In any case, at the end of the day, what lawyers and judges are wearing makes no difference to court proceedings, their adjudication, or their outcome.

But still, courts would never be the same without the court regalia. Court regalia only exists for traditional purposes and since courts have a history of following traditions like following previous judgments, I guess it suits them just as fine as it looks ridiculous and sounds archaic.

Wiggy affair!

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