In the United Kingdom, they wear wigs in the criminal courts. This headpiece is known as a peruke, and some say it “brings a sense of formality and solemnity to the courtroom.”
Wearings wigs and robes are part of separating those representing the law from those who are bought up against it.
The balance between tradition and modernity always has to be well balanced. Tradition is often wisdom that has been gathered through trial and error, and passed down many generations. Even when it comes from times before the scientific method, there are often kernels of truth.
For instance, many foods that are banned by certain religions are the foods that would make you ill back when those rules came into place, due to the different levels of sanitation compared to the modern world.
So, while I believe that having a uniform for judges and barristers can be a good one, I don’t believe this means wearing robes and wigs — something more in tune with modern times makes sense. When the rules about wigs were made, those in charge didn’t pick the fashion of ~350 years previously, thus 1335! They picked what was natural to wear within a certain level of society at that time.
So, this short thought asks whether we should ban wigs in court.
My answer is no.
This may be surprising, but it’s not for the reasons you think.
The book The Secret Barrister highlights how the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is in need of a severe overhaul and modernization. We should start with the symbols that showcase an old system.
If we were to start a criminal justice system today, we obviously wouldn’t be wearing wigs. Take any government service started today or teams at any United Nations agency. They don’t wear wigs; they wear regular clothes for everyday work and suits and ties for formal and official occasions.
But also, we wouldn’t set any rules about wigs if we’re starting a criminal justice system today. In the same way, workplaces don’t need explicit rules about individuals wearing clothes: everyone still manages to turn up dressed.
Banning wigs would continue a legacy of keeping absurd things on the books. I would suggest removing the rule altogether and setting a new modern standard that wouldn’t look out of place in other highly professional workplaces.