Britain’s Lord Chief Justice, a position similar to our own Chief Justice, but lordier, announced today that judges and lawyers in that country will no longer be required to wear the white wigs that they have been practicing under since the 17th century. The British judiciary has been reviewing the wig issue for the last several years, which, frankly, seems like kind of a long time to have to think about whether or not somebody should wear a wig.
A survey of the British bar in 2003 showed that two-thirds of respondents thought the wigs should go, at least in civil cases. A majority wanted them retained in criminal cases, saying, according to the report, that the purpose of the wigs was still too important to ban them in such cases. That purpose? Those who endorse wiggery argue that the wigs provide judges and lawyers with “an air of authority as well as anonymity.”
First, it is possible that excessive British respect for authority figures who look like this is the reason they no longer have an empire. Second, anyone whose “anonymity” is preserved by wearing a wig probably isn’t wearing it right. So these seem like weak arguments to me. They seem to have been enough, however, to ensure that British criminals will still be sentenced to harsh punishment by people wearing comical wigs. But the wigs will no longer be required on heads appearing in civil and family court. The new rules will also allow lawyers to dispense with “wing collars and bands,” whatever those are, while judges will need “just one gown in future instead of a variety of colourful outfits currently required.”
The new policy was announced today by the head of Britain’s judiciary, Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips of Worth Matravers (pictured above), whose ridiculously long name is thought to confer upon him an air of authority as well as anonymity.