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To mark the occasion of my friend Tim Parker’s step into a brave new world, at 9am sharp today morning at Sha Tin Magistracy, which is the first moment of his first pupilage, and because Yusuf bhai said it was an interesting little story, I share with you why barristers dress in such strange clothes when they appear in court.

In case you’ve never seen a barrister in full regalia (and if you’re not a litigant, a lawyer or a law student, why would you have?) they look like this:-


This regalia, the long black smock and the short curled horse hair wig, are quite distinctly today the attire of the advocate. No one else (well besides high court judges) dresses so peculiarly today.

How did this come about?

As Sir Frederick Pollock remarked, the Bench and the Bar went into mourning at the death of Queen Anne (in 1714), and have remained so ever since … Mourning seems to have continued for a very long time after the Queen’s death; and the black Court dress and silk gown worn by the Bench and Bar at her funeral continued the prevailing fashion of dress among them being … adopted by the Queen’s Counsel and others who had not … a distinctive costume.

The Order of the Coif, by Alexander Pulling, Serjeant-at-Law, 1884  [found here]