May 13, 2008

The Judges Have New Robes

Apparently back in Merry Olde England, there are going to be new judge's robes very soon. They'll look like this:

The designer is the woman on the right; the model to the left is the "judge." Which is strange, because the designer's jacket has fringes and collars not unlike the kind I'd expect to see on an American judge's robe.

The rectangular things on the robe are called "poppers" and their colors will vary (red, gold, and lilac) based on the judge's rank. I guess they're "poppers" because they can pop on and off the robe quickly, if the judge changes rank? I don't quite get it.

No wigs. That's probably for the best. I found another interesting history of British judicial costume here; it now is outdated thanks to the "Star Trek" style of robes pictured above.

Certainly there is no need for the judges to keep wearing early seventeenth-century garb. While there's a certain charm to the anachronistic costumes, let's face it, law in the twenty-first century is not about horsehair wigs and silk vestments, it's about making decisions in a professional setting. Professional dress for the past hundred and fifty years has consisted of a nice shirt, a jacket and pants (or skirts for the ladies) cut from the same dark-colored cloth, and (for the gentlemen) a tie. Judges should look more like the people they're working with and less like extras from this week's episode of Doctor Who.

When I first saw the picture I thought it looked ridiculous. But after a little while, I'm starting to change my mind. A bit. It is simpler and it looks a lot more comfortable. I know they need some sort of external signal of rank; the British are a people seemingly obsessed with the ideas of rank, title, preeminence, and status. But I'm not sure that the rectangular "poppers" were the way to go. Maybe a scarf or a fringe around the neckline.

Oh well, it's not like I'll be practicing in a British courtroom anytime soon.

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