Photo of Ruth Kennedy and Emily Albou interviewed in The Times’ Student Law Supplement

Ruth Kennedy and Emily Albou interviewed in The Times’ Student Law Supplement

Date: October 19, 2017

£560 for a wig alone: the cost of kitting out

To beg, borrow or buy? That is the question facing barristers as they approach the start of their career at the Bar. However, this is not about law books or a pricey computer or smartphone. It is the rig that they must wear when appearing before a circuit judge, in the High Court or the Court of Appeal. Wig, gown and all the trimmings must be in place or you risk being rebuked. Strangely enough, the highest and lowest courts — the Supreme Court and magistrates’ — have no such dress code.

“I was fortunate in that I had had full scholarships for my Bar professional training course and so my parents funded the cost of my wig and gown as a kind of reward,” says Ruth Kennedy, of 2 Temple Gardens, now in her second year at the Bar. “But I rather enjoyed the experience of going to the shop and feeling that I was part of a long tradition.”

Emily Albou, also at 2 Temple Gardens, who was called to the Bar in 2014, opted (as many do) for a rather more modestly priced plastic bag (five pence from most retailers) for her wig, although those with a sweeter tooth are drawn to the ever popular empty Quality Street tin. She was also lucky when it came to her gown. “My referee handed on to me in a very sweet gesture his own gown, which itself appeared to have come originally from Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions,” she says. “It creates a nice sense of continuity.”

Although the wearing of wig and gown comes under regular criticism for being archaic or even elitist, Albou says that she enjoys the ritual of the robing room and the conversations and jokes that go on there. She adds: “There is also the benefit if you are a criminal barrister of maintaining your anonymity.”

Read the full article in The Times here, behind a paywall.