Why Judges Wear Wigs

British judges and barristers continue to dress as though they worked in the eighteenth century, with white horsehair wigs, gowns and Geneva bands- two white rectangular strips of cloth hanging from the collar. It’s an odd tradition and one which some feel puts the legal professions at odds with the public they serve. 

I prefer it. Wearing such archaic dress reminds onlookers that the law is solid and established, not subject to current fashions and cultural whims. I was once told by an Indian lawyer than the two bands represent the two tablets of stone upon which God gave the Ten Commandments. Although I can see little that confirms this link, it does support the notion that even human law has its origin in divine law. Wearing such dress reminds people of the solemnity of the court room and the dignity it demands. The judge wears distinctive dress to differentiate him or her from the various parties in the courtroom; the black-clad barristers must defer to the judge’s more resplendent authority.

It’s noteworthy that despite having dispensed with wigs and some formal gowns in the House of Commons, no doubt to make politicians ‘more relevant’ and approachable, Parliament was rocked by an expenses scandal and complaints of bullying by the modernising Speaker. I feel we need more decorum in our institutions, not less. When we relegate courtrooms and legislatures to casual gatherings, the integrity and dignity of such places invariably suffers. Perhaps the same could be said for our church gatherings.

When the God of heaven judges the living and the dead, I am certain He will not dress as an eighteenth-century graduate. But neither will He need this confirmation of His dignity and right to judge. There will be no contempt of His court, nor losing parties whining to the waiting media how it was ‘a bad day for justice’ because the decision went against them.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

Rev 19:11