After 350 years of wearing horsehair wigs, a tradition leftover from the days of English rule, the judges in Ireland are losing their wigs.
The Associated Press reported on October 14th that at a cost of 2,200 Euro per wig the tradition of Circuit and Supreme Court Justices wearing the horsehair wig in Ireland will no longer be enforced. The judges will also be facing a reduction in salaries in new austerity measures. Surely this will make them lose their real wigs?
A similar move occurred in Britain during the summer. Reuters reported in July that Britain’s judges will only be required to wear the horsehair wig in criminal court cases. In addition, the five different court capes which were required for different proceedings, will be reduced to only one.
The tradition of wearing wigs arose from vanity. Wealthy courtiers would try to out do one another by wearing large and elabourate wigs; hence the term ‘Bigwig.’
Courtrooms weren’t always the most hygenienic of places in the early days of our justice system. The wigs were reportedly worn over shorn heads in courtrooms to protect against the contraction of lice.
Women judges today have to alter their hair styles in order to wear the wig correctly.
One wigmaker’s site offers four types or styles of wig; Bench Wig, Barrister Wig, Frizz Top Wig and 100% Horsehair Wig. In addition to the wigs the site also offers a short and tall wig stand. What self respecting Judge would be caught without a tall wig stand, I ask you?
The move to stop wearing court room wigs is an attempt to reduce spending in Ireland and is part of on going austerity measures. Although I am glad that the government has decided that the cost of purchasing these horsehair wigs is too much to bear, it is sad to see a 350 year old tradition coming to an end, be it an adopted one or not.
I suggest, seeing as we too have horses in Ireland, we start making the horsehair wigs ourselves and require the judges to purchase their own wigs and wig stands.
I wonder what they will do with all those wigs now that they are to become obselete?