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What Are the Most Popular Types of Judge’s Wigs?

by Dominic Chandler
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There are a variety of different wigs worn in court to help uphold tradition and encourage respect for the authority of the legal figure. The type of wig you wear depends on the role you have in court and there are a few wigs that are more commonly used in day to day legal life that play a huge part in court proceedings.

The Barrister’s Wig

The barrister’s wig is worn by lawyers most commonly operating in higher courts and is a sign of respect for the traditional powers of the court, helping proceedings to become more formal and solemn. 

As a symbol of authority, barrister wigs are popular amongst those looking to have their cases be shown utmost respect and sincerity, acting as a way to divide the lawyers from those on trial and put them in a position of power over defendants. They also help them to become more trustworthy and professional in the eyes of a jury. 

Barrister wigs are not worn all the time though. In some cases, such as dealing with family law, the wig may be left aside to help generate a more comfortable atmosphere for any children potentially involved in the case. The wigs are also less generally used in civil court cases as a strong symbol of legal power and authority is not as necessary here as in trials involving more serious cases.

The Judge’s Bench Wig

Not all judges still wear wigs though like barrister wigs they are more common in the higher courts and the judge’s bench wig is more likely to be worn by senior judges who want to use the wig to uphold tradition and the history of the court. 

Out of the most popular types of wigs for judges to wear, the bench wig is more common as it is simpler and more subtle, an act of formality to represent the judge as being separate from everyone else in the court and thus solidifying their unbiased and fair judgement of a case. 

Bench wigs are less visually intimidating than a full bottomed wig, allowing the judge to remain personable and approachable despite their legal status which can often prove to be a benefit in certain court proceedings. 

The Judge’s Full Bottomed Wig

Less common, but certainly popular in higher courts and as a true symbol of the traditions of legal proceedings, the judge’s full bottomed wig is flamboyant and ornate, much more so than a barrister’s wig or a bench wig. 

The full bottomed wig is the most obvious symbol of the judge’s dignitary and power. It is a more traditional, symbolic wig than the other common wigs worn in court, used only for formal occasions and most often used by older, more senior judges.

It also serves as a great way for the judge to practice anonymity, making them less easily recognisable outside of the courtroom. The wig serves as a means of protection in case of more dangerous or high profile cases. 

Why Are Legal Wigs Worn in the Courtrooms?

Wigs were first worn in courtrooms in the late seventeenth century as they had become the fashion during the reign of Charles II. This made wigs a symbol of class, wealth and importance in society. 

As a monarchal society, judges in the UK have continued the tradition of wearing wigs in court ever since though the tradition has relaxed in some ways over the years. It paints them as a sign of respect for authority but where the wigs were first used in deference to the king and higher society, they are now symbols of power in their own legal right for others to defer to. 

Because of this tradition, judge’s wigs are still important and valued in today’s legal culture, making them popular choices for both new and senior barristers and judges alike. 

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