My Powdered Wig Fell Off – Barristerial Chattels

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transparent1px1Indeed it was one of those days. Either a (ward)robe malfunction or the robe misbehaved.

“All rise” and keep your pants wig on!

I’m reminded of the moment. when facing the judge (in District Court in Adelaide), my wig slipped forward and down as I bent to get up from the bar table.  “I slapped my hand on that wig so fast….”

As I stood up I must have trodden on the gown which jerked me suddenly, still, in my bent position. I felt it. I couldn’t get up to stand. The force yanked the robe down and the wig followed as did some strong forensic mutterings under my breath.

“All rise if you can!”

Mental note to myself:  Make sure your feet are not on the gown when you next go to rise.

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(courtesy Pinterest)

While we’re on the topic of perukes and periwigs, the powdered wigs are not actually powdered today: they are powderless, made of horsehair, and come in white, off-white, cream or a light drab sort of grey.

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A perfectly coifed wig (mine)

Do you really wear those wigs there?” some of my American attorney friends would ask intrigued by lawyers’ court dress in Australia.

Indeed we do,” I said mentally scrambling for reasons why.

It’s historical,” I said. “A long standing tradition that migrated from England with settlement of Australia in the late 18C. Unlike you guys we didn’t give the ‘boot’ to good King George III so wigs and other barristerial chattels like black robes and jabots and stuff came here and stayed.” 

It’s all so quaint isn’t it, especially those powdered wigs,” my lawyer friend from the USA commented and then asked, “What’s a jabot?”

 

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Who can tire of watching episodes of Rumpole of the Bailey the crusty old Horace and ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’?

The legal profession is slow to change and wigs are still worn, albeit inconsistently in Australian courts.

 

 

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While legal regalia may seem anachronistic and outdated to some, others say it dignifies and gives formality to the proceedings.

It preserves anonymity for lawyers – both prosecution and defence – especially in criminal matters. Lawyers (and judges) are identified as members of a profession, not as individuals.

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Louis Wain

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‘The Barrister’ (top postcard) by Louis Wain 1906 an artist well known for his depictions of cats with human attributes – anthropomorphization.

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Remember the Australian TV series Crownies?

Crownies is an Australian television drama series which was originally broadcast on ABC1 from 14 July until 1 December 2011. The series revolves around a group of solicitors fresh from law school, working with Crown Prosecutors, who are the public prosecutors in the legal system of Australia, working for the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

If there’s one prominent reminder of our Britishness in Australia today it’s the lasting traditions of the legal profession, the wigs and gowns and accessories – all those barristerial chattels.  Is it time for a fresh look at wearing wigs?
For answers Subjudiced may be a good place to start.

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For legal regalia I’ve shopped at Blashki in Adelaide and Ludlows out of state.

Art work at top,  ‘Barristers’ Wigs and Velcro’ from Oliphantics – a South Australian barrister also featured in yesterday’s post.

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