All of us have grown listening, always stay away from white coat and black coat people, once trapped it’s forever trapped thing with them.

However I was wondering, why the lawyers always wear the black coat?

Is it some kind of a compulsory rule or a long going tradition that lawyers follow?

What I have figured out is that, this dress code dates back to the 17th century.When Queen Mary II died of smallpox in 1694, her ‘widower’, the bisexual King William III ordered all judges and lawyers to attend court wearing black gowns as a token of public mourning for the queen.The order was never formally revoked. However, lawyers liked and adopted the uniform as it gave them a distinct intimidating presence in court.So the culture has started from Britain and as Britishers have ruled a big part of the world the same was carried widely around the world.

In Nigeria, The Legal Practitioner’s Act 1962/1997 makes it mandatory for advocates appearing in superior Courts and Tribunals to wear a dress that is sober and dignified and since then we have been following the British constitution it was never changed in Nigeria even after the British left.

Also, in Nigeria the Legal Practitioners Act lays down details of the dress code, both for male and female lawyers.They are not expected to wear loud jewellery or bright lipstick — things that would distract the attention in the court room.

Likewise, the dress codes have been modified slightly in other countries as well to conform to local cultural requirements, values and traditions. But till now may countries follow the old traditional dress code of British i.e black robe and a wig.

In Afghanistan and Iran, the chief justice wear white gown and black turban.

In Australia, court dress code varies according to the jurisdiction.

In United States Lawyers wear normal business attire in courts of all levels. So its not a fixed dress code system all over the world but every country wants their lawyers and judges to be dressed formally so that privilege and decorum of court can be maintained.

The dress code is not merely a status symbol, but brings out discipline among lawyers and gives them the confidence to fight for justice. The dress code also differentiates the lawyers from other professionals even litigants in court room.

But just think about lawyers in Black gown in Nigeria during Dry Season. Even ordinary people, wearing white or light shade clothes perspire heavily in temperatures hovering between 38 and 48 degrees Celsius. One can easily imagine the plight of lawyers, attired in black coats.

It would not be out of place to mention that in most cases, courtrooms and the adjoining places only in superior courts are air conditioners available. Other courts that constitute the majority continue to function in the old fashion, served by air coolers subject to availability of water.

The same way, the comfort of air conditioned chambers is enjoyed by only privileged advocates who function from officially allotted rooms or shared accommodation in metro cities. But in most of the villages, many lawyers sit under tinned or thatched roofs and even under trees, swept by hot winds — and don’t forget, wearing a black coat.

Petition for changing this dress code has been filed by Muslim students of the College of Education in Ilorin high court.

So as a conclusion, it was a culture that started from Britain and passed around in remaining world that we later on can term it the better way as,

Lawyers wear black coat so that they have to defend the case of each of the side and black is the colour of defence. To say that law is blind. To say that law is only based on weight of evidence and not on colours of people.

Now we know why lawyers wear black so just think of why doctors wear white??

By Unini Chioma K

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  1. Beautiful article. In Nigeria however, judges may be dressed on Red gown when about to give Death sentence. Also the court can order the removal of the black gown if their is hot temperature. A Lawyer can even ask for such permission in court. l have actually thought of this before. I am happy you have written on it. I will work on an Article on similar probe citing your work too. But my Focus will be on the BLACK AND WHITE OF THE LAW STUDENTS. Enjoyed the way you asked about the Medical profession dress code.