In the United Kingdom, the traditional wigs worn by judges and lawyers could be abandoned… for racial discrimination. This tradition, which dates back to the 17th century, has been the subject of strong criticism from several black lawyers, who consider it discriminatory towards people with Afro hair. These lawyers have simply asked to repeal the compulsory wig, which they also consider “archaic”.

It all started when Michael Etienne, a lawyer with afro hair, sparked a public debate in 2022, claiming to have been called to order for not having worn his wig in court, and threatened with administrative sanctions. The lawyer then described the obligation as hair discrimination, believing that it was a form of racism.

A spokesperson for the Bar Council, which represents lawyers in England and Wales, said that “following questions from lawyers about wig discrimination”, the Council “established a working group to examine court attire. The group’s conclusions are currently the subject of a “dialogue” with the judiciary, with whom the institution is “in regular exchange on issues of equality and diversity”, the spokesperson said. According to information from the Telegraph, changes to the dress code should be made in the fall at the earliest.

The wearing of this horsehair wig, in force since 1685, has already been made more flexible. Since 2007, it is no longer required in family, civil cases or before the Supreme Court, but only for criminal cases. A London lawyer, Leslie Thomas QC, one of the spearheads of the fight for the abolition of wigs, said however that he wanted to remove them once and for all, describing them as a “ridiculous costume”, symptomatic of a “cultural climate insensitive” to the British Bar.

He also called on the judiciary to abandon “archaic” court attire, such as wing collars, headbands and ruffs, while British lawyers – as in France – still wear the robes. “There is no place in a modern society for lawyers to wear 17th century fashion,” the barrister at Garden Court Chambers told the Telegraph.