Traditions can be difficult to break, but one pioneering pupil barrister has made it his mission to break a 200-year-old tradition by creating the first vegan barrister wigs to be produced in the UK.
Barristers have been wearing wigs made from horsehair for almost 200 years since 1822 when they were invented by Humphrey Ravenscroft in an attempt to distance the wearer from personal involvement.
In fact, wigs are so ingrained in the tapestry of British criminal courts that if a barrister doesn’t wear a wig, it’s seen as an insult to the court.
‘World’s first hemp barrister’s wig’
But what if you’re a vegan barrister who wants to uphold the tradition while staying true to your ethics? Pupil barrister and animal protection activist Sam March has just come up with an innovative solution to solve this issue.
Working with hemp brand Cultiva Kingdom, March has created the first vegan barrister’s wig made from hemp rather than horsehair which is also 100% biodegradable and sustainable as hemp is the most durable natural fibre.
‘0% horsehair, 100% vegan-friendly’
March told the Telegraph: “Wigs are traditionally made from horsehair. Admittedly, it’s at the milder end of animal exploitation if you consider gratuitously killing animals in things like bullfighting or fox hunting.
“If a person can take from and sell parts of an animal, even if that immediately does not harm an animal, then it incentivises an industry based around commodifying and selling their bodies.”
Taking to social media to share his creation, March wrote: “The prototype has arrived. This is the world’s first hemp barrister’s wig. 0% horsehair, 100% vegan friendly.”
The prototype has arrived.
This is the world’s first hemp barrister’s wig.
0% horsehair, 100% vegan friendly.
— Samuel March (@Sam_Oscar_March) February 27, 2021
Although it is already possible to purchase vegan barrister wigs, they are currently only available to order from Australia to the UK making them expensive and difficult to source.
March is also concerned about the carbon footprint of shipping the wigs across the globe and wants to “keep things as local as practicable” with his hemp wigs.
March has big goals for his vegan alternative as he hopes that the production of his hemp wigs will be up and running by the end of the year. Not only that, but he also hopes that with the tide turning on non-vegan materials used in clothing that his vegan barrister wigs will be widely used in courtrooms in just “a few years”.
‘Designed with longevity’
According to March, the wig will retail at around £650, making it a more expensive option than traditional horsehair wigs which range between £400 and £700.
However, as hemp is such a durable material the wigs will last for the duration of a barrister’s career and is a more animal and planet-friendly option for the eco-conscious lawyer.
The durability of barrister wigs is a major concern for Karlia Lykourgou, the founder of the UK’s first legal outfitter for women, Ivy & Normanton.
According to Lykourgou, “We do not want to dilute the quality of this garb that we wear, it’s a sacred uniform and it takes a lot to get there.”
Lykourgou says she has been shown synthetic wigs in the past which do not have the same quality as a horsehair wig, but remains hopeful that “a hemp wig sounds like it might have a similar quality to horsehair.”
If this proves to be the case, Ivy & Normanton said they were keen to become one of the first stockists of the hemp wigs.
Laura Bossom, owner and founder of Cultiva Kingdom, said the wig was “designed with longevity to allow it to be passed down to the next generation of barristers of family members”.
‘Animal-free courtroom attire’
Edie Bowles, co-founder of Advocates for Animals, said: “It is very important that those with vegan beliefs are able to access products that align with their values. Sam has now paved the way for other barristers in need of animal-free courtroom attire.”
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