History of the
wig and gown
tradition of wearing wigs and the culture of adorning gowns was borrowed from
the prevailing practice of the time, however, in the case of gowns, it had a
little twist.

records that people wore gowns as early as the 17th century and it formed part
of the traditional attire of the ancient English people, however, these gowns
were very colourful gowns. Eventually, the English People wore a black mourning
gown after the death of King Charles II in 1685. Unexpectedly, after the
mourning period, the lawyers decided to keep wearing it, as it begun to
symbolise the sombre and solemn nature of the profession as well as the
attribute of neutrality.
black robe worn by lawyers also has a weird piece of triangular cloth attached
to the left shoulder, often described as ‘violin-shaped’, which is cut in two
lengthways. The origin of this is a bit more uncertain; there are two theories
on it:
The first of these theories is that the triangular clothe once
served as a money sack for the payment of a lawyer’s brief fees, more
professional called professional fees.
According to some, it is divided in half to create two segments,
one for gold coins, and the other for silver. The idea being that since lawyers
were initially not openly paid for their work, clients placed ex-gratia payment
into the Triangular-shaped pocket, literally behind their back, to preserve
their dignity. Therefore, because they could not see how much they were being
paid, the quality of their advocacy in court could not be compromised. (we like
this theory, but it’s an unlikely one)
The second theory is that the triangular cloth is a derivative of
the mourning hood introduced following the death of King Charles II, in
consonance with traditional mourning dress of the time.[1]
Subsequently, Lawyers and Judges started adorning the wigs around
1680. For 150 years, the wig worn by lawyers was usually made with powdered
white or grey hair. In 1822, Humphrey Ravenscroft invented a special wig for Lawyers
and Judges, which were  made from a
whitish – grey horsehair that did not need frizzing , curling, perfuming or
powdering . Wigs are like hats cone in various sizes and have to be fitted.[2]
Why Nigerian Counsel adopted the Tradition of adorning
the wig and the gown
Our colonial masters, who
still adorn the gown when appearing in courts, introduced the practice of
wearing the wig and gown by lawyers when appearing in court.
Whether the continued adornment of the wig and the gown is still
of any relevance in the Nigerian Legal System has sparked different reactions.
To some, the wig and gown is an inspiration to lawyers, as adorning the wig and
gown gives one a sense of satisfaction. Also, it gives respect to legal practitioners,
and make the clients respect the profession when in court because of the regal
nature of the attire.  To others, The wig
and gown distunguishes the legal profession from other professions and from
other members of the
Some are of the opinion that the Wig
and gown epitomizes authority, formality, dignity and solemnity of the law
. It emphasizes on the
objectivity of the law and deflects personal attention from the judge. It was
also introduced  for
hygienic reasons.

Instances where it will be compulsory to be adorned in
the wig and gown
A perusal at the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal
Practitioners (The Rules) 2007 shows more prominently Rules 45 & 36 which
stipulate that:
Except with the permission of the Court , a lawyer appearing
before a High Court , the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court shall do so in
his robes
(2)  A lawyer shall
not wear the Barrister’s or Senior Advocate’s robe
(A) on any occasion other than in Court except as may be
directed or permitted by the Bar Council ;or
( b) when conducting his own case as a party to a legal
proceeding in Court ; or
(C) when giving evidence in a legal proceeding in Court.[3]
 “When in the court room, a lawyer shall
(A) be attired in a proper and dignified manner and shall not
wear any apparel or ornament calculated to attract attention to himself.
(B) conduct himself with decency and decorum, and observe the
customs, conduct and code of behaviour of the Court and custom of practice at
the bar with respect to appearance, dress, manners and courtesy..”[4]
The specified mode of dressing for male lawyers is Black or
dark- blue two piece or three piece suit, white collarless shirt, white wing
collar ( size  bigger than shirt neck
size ) white band  ( bib) elastic or lawn
, two studs  ( one at the back and one in
front of The collar ) to hold collar to shirt ; and black shoes with black
stockings . Alternatively,  men would
wear  (a) 
white shirt with wing collar in lieu of collarless shirt and
detachable  wing collar . ( b) Black and
grey stripped trousers in lieu of suit trousers (c)  sleeved vest in lieu of coat
For the women, the specification are as follows:
a. Black or dark- blue suit or straight dress or skirt and
jacket with white blouse if open; white collarette or ladies white band and
black shoes . The dress must have long sleeves and be high to the neck and the
dress or shirt must be knee length , it must also be of a sober appearance and
not worn in a manner as to attract unnecessary attention. The skirt should not be
too tight as to expose the stark figure or contours of the body.
For inferior Courts :
For inferior courts, White shirt and long tie may be worn with
the suit in lieu of wing collar by men . The wig and gown should not be won
in  the inferior Courts or outside Court
premises, except with the permission of the General Council of the Bar. See
Rule 45 (2)(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct 2007. The occasions to this
may include lying in state of a deceased colleague, valedictory sessions,
opening of legal year.[5]Etc.
Also, the Rule as cited above precludes a  lawyer from remaining within the Bar while
conducting a case in which he is a party. He should leave the Bar and remove
his wig and gown .[6]
Furthermore, Counsel  are
not allowed to wear the wig and Gown in the following Courts;
courts like the Court  Martials, coroners
court etc.
Courts which includes the Magistrate Court and Customary Court

When do counsels get wigs and gown
Wig and gowns are first worn officially during the call to
the Nigerian Bar ceremony of the Aspirant to the Bar. Vendors usually come to
meet students at the Nigerian law school to introduce them to different wigs
right from the first term at the law school. The vendors come to advertise
those wigs and they also mention that there are discounts on each wig. The wigs
are priced according to the quality. 
Some of the vendors succeed in convincing the students, Some will  tell students to buy it and start praying on
it. Student who are excited about the idea will buy while some others will
calmly wait to buy after the results are out. The ones who calmly wait are
usually the lucky ones because they would get the wigs at a price  lower than the supposed  discount price. Some other aspirants order
for theirs from abroad.
It is a thing of joy for both the aspirants and the family
to be adorned in this beautiful and honourable attire.
THE Wig as a symbol of seniority at the bar.
I am still very young at the Bar, but from my days at the
law school especially during the externship, I noticed that one can tell the
age of a Counsel at the Bar in Court by the wig.
When you see a white wig , it presuposses that the gentleman
is  a new wig. When you see the
not-so-white wig it means the gentleman is advanced in age at the bar.
I can not
deny that it is worrisome that some lawyers attend court with torn wigs and
shabby gowns as an expression of their long years at the bar. This actually
goes to say that they don’t look after themselves because such dressing only
undermines the high standing of the legal profession.
I know the
problem is; the old wigs do not want to be addressed as new wigs and they also want
to be given the respect that they deserve. Hence, I will advice and suggest as
Counsel should purchase a
strong and durable wig when being called to the Bar.
In the course of the years,
counsel should maintain the wig and the gown well, especially the wig,so that
it does not get torn or tattered
Counsel should endeavour to
buy at least two wigs and use them interchangeably.
If your wig is torn or your gown is battered, buy a new one.
Wearing torn or tattered wig does not bring any sort of honour to you nor the

Written by;

Damilola Dawodu
LinkedIn :
Damilola Dawodu

[1] Administrator, Why do Nigerian Lawyers wear wigs and black gowns, law
paid.com , administration of justice, http://lawpadi.com/why-do-nigerian-lawyers-wear-wigs-and-black-gowns/ 
[2] Why do Judges and barristers wear wigs, the Nigerian lawyer.com,  life and tech category, Jan 21, 2016, http://thenigerialawyer.com/why-do-judges-and-barristers-wear-wigs/
[3] Rule 45 Rules of Professional Conduct for
Legal Practitioners
[4] Rule 36 Rules of  Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007
[5] A. Obi Okoye ,Law in Practice in Nigeria ( professional
Responsibilities and lawyering skills ) page 228
[6]  Rule 36 (f) Rules of
Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007