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Old July 10th, 2011, 02:38 AM   #1

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Why did Judges wear Wigs ?


I've always wanted to know why Judges, typically British, wore these wigs. Why do they wear it ? Was it sorta required ?
What did it show/symbolize ?
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Old July 10th, 2011, 04:29 AM   #2

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Well, from the mid 17th to the mid 18th century, wigs were fashionable for men in general, anyone with a desire to be thought fashionable would wear a wig. I don't know why barristers and judges continued to wear them when other men gave them up. Clergymen also continued to wear them longer than other men did, Queen Victoria for instance never got over the dislike she developed of bishops when she was a little girl 'on account of their wigs and aprons' as she said later. But bishops don't wear wigs nowadays. I think wigs have just become a tradition for barristers and judges.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 05:09 AM   #3

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Exactly, its just a tradition for gentlemen thats been retained.

Everyone used to wear large lace collars that shrank to high collars and lace at the throat. Everyone else dropped them but they maintained and became the symbolic priests collar.

Every Gentleman used to wear a wig. It was a sign of breading and wealth as well as hiding any physical lack of hair, they went out of fashion for the general population with wig taxes. Barristers and lawyers kept them on, possibly just because it was a conservative thing to do and the law doesn't change quickly, maybe to show they were wealthy and successful enough to pay the taxes, maybe just because it was expected of them.

These things just happen, its tradition.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 05:19 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nemowork View Post
Exactly, its just a tradition for gentlemen thats been retained.

Everyone used to wear large lace collars that shrank to high collars and lace at the throat. Everyone else dropped them but they maintained and became the symbolic priests collar.

Every Gentleman used to wear a wig. It was a sign of breading and wealth as well as hiding any physical lack of hair, they went out of fashion for the general population with wig taxes. Barristers and lawyers kept them on, possibly just because it was a conservative thing to do and the law doesn't change quickly, maybe to show they were wealthy and successful enough to pay the taxes, maybe just because it was expected of them.

These things just happen, its tradition.
I hope that law is still in place, and we are still taxing them for wearing their wigs.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 05:33 AM   #5

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Some of the traditional clothing is even more ancient, however. For instance the lace collar supposedly stems from the Roman senatores. It is meant to keep the voice warmed up for people who have to regularly speak.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 06:33 AM   #6

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My apologies it wasnt the wig itself that was taxed it was wig powder, the white powder used to give it colour.

The tax stopped in 1820 because so few people wore wigs any more it was pointless. Anyway it was only introduced to help pay for fighting Napoleon and the income tax system did that more efficiently.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 06:35 AM   #7

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It is a British national characteristic to be hidebound by silly traditions, that either make us look quaint or daft to the rest of the world. A style, fashion, or mode of behavior that made sense once can become set in stone as a fixed "tradition".

At one time back in the 18th century, wearing those wigs that our judges put on their heads was the height of male fashion. Every man who regarded himself as a person of note wore one. But for some reason, in the legal arena this became a fixed tradition that continued, long after those 18th century wigs went out of fashion.

Personally, I think that this sort of thing makes us look ridiculous. But so enamoured are many Britons with everything traditional, that the belief is widespread that just because something is a tradition it is also automatically good.
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Old June 9th, 2014, 12:45 AM   #8

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It seems the end is nigh. I shall miss them.

Good riddance to barristers' wigs ? they're pompous, pointless and itchy ? Telegraph Blogs
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Old June 13th, 2014, 07:50 AM   #9

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I always thought it was more to do with the gravitas aspect of rhetoric - having a sense of 'presence' and authority. In Ireland after Independence the top legal and political movers and shakers discussed whether to do away with the wig and gown affair that had been left over by the English, but still, they appreciated the importance of having judges *appear to have an added air of gravitas about them and even went so far as to base new designs for judges official wear based on imagined ideas of what the ancient Irish judges might have looked like.
Basically, they wear the wigs because it made there brains look bigger, hence superior intellect, superior person, who commanded respect and authority.
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Old June 13th, 2014, 09:06 AM   #10

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Judge's garb in every government is symbolic of something. Check out this page.

I'd say that it symbolizes the stability that the UK has had since 1688, when wigs were everyday fashion.
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