Wigs, Robes, and Tradition

Recently at the end of the day I looked out my office window that overlooks the transit roundabout on Queensway…now in the process of being changed/upgraded….. to my right, towards the Memorial Arena…..I am reminded that is where the new park aide is to be built….across from there… at any time now, the new IHA building will be started.…diagonally from there, beside the library, the new commercial building, to house small business start-ups …almost everywhere I glanced, there was something in process of changing or scheduled to be changed.

Kelowna has undergone a lot of change since I arrived in 1972, at the ripe old age of 28, but the tradition of retaining the agricultural industry, of growing fruit, grapes and the friendly country atmosphere remains.

Thank heaven for tradition.

I eased back in my chair, glanced up to my cabinet of collectables to see my barristers wig fully on display with the black cloth to represent the gown, accompanied by a white tab (called a dickie).

For many hundreds of years, the barrister wig, black barrister gown and white tabs were traditional court room attire.

Initially wearing of the wig was considered a fashion statement (the various styles are quite humorous), but over time, was retained as part of traditional court attire to represent uniformity within the Court room.

The “dickie” has two equal sides to traditionally stand for equal consideration by counsel, one side applying to the rich, who can afford to pay fees and the other side to stand for the poor who cannot.

The black gowns, worn in the Superior Courts by all counsel and Judges alike, also signify the tradition of uniformity and impartiality.   There are differences in the design of gowns worn by Judges and Q.C.’s compared to counsel who have not be appointed as such.  Once again, based on tradition.

In Canada, the wigs were dispensed with in or around 1952, but the black gown and white tab tradition remains.   Part of my heritage is English, and after becoming a member of the Bar, I took the opportunity to visit London England, to attend the Inns of Court and to see firsthand the wigged/robed barristers doing their craft. It was not until around 2011 that the wigs became optional in the UK…a bending of tradition.

In England, there is a distinction between barristers and solicitors; you practice as one or the other.  Solicitors take instructions from clients and prepare the brief(s) and the barrister presents it.  To become a barrister took many years of apprentice training usually for very nominal compensation…not totally dissimilar to the traditional ‘articling’ position today….yup, tradition.

Being impressed with the history and the tradition, I did purchase a barrister’s wig for myself several years ago.  It is made from bleached horsehair and cost in excess of a $1000.00 at the time. That would not have been a small expense for any young barrister.

In London England, Ede & Ravenscroft Ltd, robe makers, wigmakers and Court tailors, are still located on Chancery Lane in London.  They were founded during the Reign of William & Mary in 1689.  They continue to work their craft…tradition.

For now, my barrister wig sits on display in my cabinet of collectables.  It will never be worn by me in court, but it has a nostalgic memory and represents part of a significant tradition in our legal system.

Thank heaven for tradition.

The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.

By , On , In Mediation & Arbitration