Why do Advocates or Lawyers wear black clothes? This question must have hit everyone involved in the Legal Profession. Let us try to find out the answer.
Presentation is a key factor in many professions. It is how people recognize those engaged in it. Thus, a dress-code or uniform comes in, and stands as a symbol of professionalism, etiquette, discipline and uniformity.
Similarly, when one hears the word Advocate, an image of professionals always dressed in black and white comes to mind. Law Students and Professionals, always get asked the question of why advocates dress the way they do.
Elements of the attire:
The Advocates Act, 1961 gives power to the Bar Council of India to make general rules for discharging its functions. One of the provisions made under the Act (Sec.49 (1)(gg)) is for the BCI to make rules on the forms of dresses and robes to be worn by advocates.
Thus, the BCI Rules, makes the provision for it in Part 6, Chapter 4.
An advocate is to mandatorily wear Advocates’ Gowns, Blcak Open Breast Coat, and White neck bands; regardless of their gender. It further makes a distinction between attires of male and female lawyers, to say what is appropriate in court. All of these specifications are in two colors: Black and White.
Thus, the important elements are:
- A Black Advocates’ Gown
- A Black Open Breast Coat
- White Bands
Apart from that, all attire worn must be in shades of black and white; such as a black blazer, black or white trousers; and for females, a blouse or saree or trousers or salwar suit in black or white.
Importance of the Colors:
Black and White are generally the distinct colors of the legal profession around the world. The colors are symbolic of the characteristics that legal professionals and the law must have.
Black represents professionalism, power and authority. It implies the accommodation to justice.
The black robes actually came into being after or due to the death of King Charles II in 1685. He would often wear robes (gown), which became the way for people to honor and remember him. However, for the legal profession, it just stuck. In Christianity, priests often wear black to show their submission to the almighty, their accommodation to God. Thus, wearing black symbolizes the submission and accommodation to Justice by the wearer.
White is a symbol of purity, cleanliness, clarity and light. The white actually represents the common man, in his search, quest and hope for justice. It shows the importance of the common man to the wearer.
Further, both sides in any matter are represented by the same color. Thus, it shows the equality of law and its un-biasness. It is based purely on the facts and circumstances of the case, and not by who the party is.
It is a well-known fact that law in India is largely a result of the British Rule. Thus, much of the attire of Indian Lawyers has its roots in British Legal History.
This is also how the neck bands or white collars remained a part of the attire. In the old English Courts, the barristers wore white collar bands. Since this was the first position in Indian Courts, this symbol was adopted by the Indian Advocates.
The collar actually has a Christian origin. The two pieces of white cloth stitched together, form the collar, which represents the Tablets of the Laws or Tablets of Stone. This refers to the 10 commandments by Moses, inscribed on two stone tablets, which he had received from a burning bush in Mt. Sinai. These 10 commandments are believed to be the origins of Christian Law and thus, a first example of uniform coded law. Thus, they represent the respect and upholding of Laws given by God to all.
Rajat Rajan Singh
Editor-in-Chief at Law Trend
Advocate, Allahabad High Court Lucknow