English legal dress has a long history. The introduction
of wigs into polite society in the reign of Charles II (1660—
85) was an innovation which could not be resisted. After a
period of disapproval, wigs were generally assumed by lawyers
in 1680's. Before the 17th century lawyers did not wear
wigs. But professional discipline required that their hair and
beards should be moderately short. By the middle of the 17th
century wigs of powdered white or grey hair were the universal
custom. But during George Ill's reign (1760—1820) wigs
went rapidly out of general use.
Although bishops were given royal permission to abandon
their wigs in 1830, this was not necessarily true of other
officials. There is a story that one Lord was refused permission
to leave off his wig at court. In 1860 the council were permitted
to remove their wigs during a heatwave. This attracted some
comment in the press and it was suggested that wigs were
abandoned altogether by the legal profession. However, the
proposal met with little support, though it has been a common
occurrence ever since for judges to allow wigs to be left off in
very hot weather, and sometimes turbans are allowed to be
worn instead of wigs on religious grounds. Early wigs are
difficult to identify in portraits of the period because they
were of a natural colour and were sometimes combined with a
lock of growing hair at the forehead. However, wigs soon
became large and increasingly stylized.
1. When did the introduction of wigs take place?
2. In the middle of 17th century wigs have already been
the universal custom, haven't they?
3. Who was given royal permission to abandon wigs in
4. Are the lawyers allowed not to wear wigs in heatwave?
5. What can you tell about early wigs?