Like many uniforms, wigs are an emblem of anonymity, an attempt to distance the wearer from personal involvement and a way to visually draw on the supremacy of the law, says Newton. Wigs are so much a part of a lawyers’s attire to courts that if a barrister doesn’t wear a wig, it’s seen as an insult to the court.
Barristers must wear a wig slightly frizzed at the crown, with horizontal curls on the sides and back. In addition, there are two long strips of hair that hang down below the hairline on the neck and sport a looped curl at each end. Different types of lawyers, though, have distinctions in the style of wig.
A judge’s wig is similar, but more ornate. It’s a full wig, from a slightly frizzed top that transitions into tight horizontal curls that range several inches below the shoulders. Most wigs are made of white horse hair, but as a wig yellows with age, it takes on a coveted patina that conveys experience.
Horse hair may not seem like a particularly precious material, but pair specialty hair with an age-old craft of styling, sewing and gluing, and the resulting wigs aren’t cheap.