BRITISH judges have abandoned the 300-year-old tradition of wearing horsehair wigs to a chorus of mockery from fashion critics and traditionalists, who say the new robes have turned them into Star Trek look-a-likes.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, felt the old-style wig and gown look was out of touch with the 21st century and thought it was time to go bare-headed.
So from October, judges hearing civil and family cases in England and Wales will don a new robe designed by Betty Jackson, who also makes "funky British clothes for aspiring funky British girls."
They will wear simple black gowns fastened with poppers (snap fasteners) and decorated with gold, red or lilac bands depending on their seniority.
"We've tried to keep a link with tradition. The idea of collar bands is retained in the colored bands. It's quite a big thing after 300 years of history," Jackson told the Times.
Critics say the itchy, hot and old-fashioned wigs made judges look out-of-touch and outdated. But not everyone is happy with abandoning what is seen as a worldwide emblem of the legal profession.
Phillips said, "Quite a lot of judges are not in favor of change because it is a break with tradition."
And he failed to convince judges hearing criminal cases ?? they argue that wigs add to the dignity of the occasion and also offer anonymity with villains finding it harder to recognize them out of court.
A majority of barristers, sounded out about the change, also wanted to stick with the wigs. More than 800 of the new robes are being made at a one-off cost of 450,000 pounds (US$876,200).
Guardian fashion correspondent Hadley Freeman was not impressed with the new attire, concluding "Lord Phillips now just looks like the man who sells you tickets for the Star Trek Experience at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas."
"Judges throw away 300 years of tradition and reveal their new bare-headed Star Trek look," The Daily Mail declared alongside pictures of Phillips and Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
But Times fashion writer Alice Olins defended the new look, saying it "ticks all the fashion boxes but remains cerebral enough to invoke respect in the courtroom."