Hemp barrister wigs weave sustainability and animal rights into a 200-year-old tradition
Makers who experiment with hemp rarely seem to be disappointed. This versatile plant is proving to be a sustainable material that can be adapted for use in a wide variety of high-quality products.
Although the fiber production of hemp plants is nothing new, the use of that fiber in wigs is. This unexpected hemp product recently made its debut in the United Kingdom where traditional barrister wigs are still worn in court.
Taking a fresh look at an old tradition
A barrister is a type of lawyer in the British justice system, as well as the justice systems of other countries around the world. To this day, pale, curly wigs remain part of the uniform for these legal professionals.
Humphrey Ravenscroft reportedly invented these wigs in 1822. At that time, they were made of hair cut from a horse’s mane, a material that is still used in nearly all barrister wigs almost 200 years later. Synthetic barrister wigs are reportedly available, but they must special ordered from Australia.
Vegans draw attention to potential ethical concerns
Media reports indicate that horses are not harmed or killed for their hair, which can be cut as part of a horse’s hygiene regimen. However, many vegans prefer to avoid using any products that come from animals and may feel like any commercialization of animals’ bodies is a form of exploitation.
“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 incentivizes an industry based around commodifying and selling their bodies,” Samuel March reportedly told The Telegraph.
March, who is an animal rights campaigner and student barrister, came up with the idea for hemp barrister wigs in Aug. 2020. He collaborated with hemp manufacturer Cultiva Kingdom to turn his idea into a reality. Recently, March has been seen wearing the prototype product for the first time.
The 29-year-old vegan reportedly tweeted, “The prototype has arrived. This is the world’s first hemp barrister’s wig. 0% horsehair, 100% vegan friendly.”
Hemp wigs are getting attention for all the right reasons
March’s tweet about the prototype seems to have generated significant interest. He reportedly received 20 requests for his product in less than 24 hours.
Also, leaders in the U.K. justice system and legal outfitting industry have reportedly shared their enthusiasm for the product.
“There’s definitely a positive conversation to be had and we are interested,” Karlia Lykourgou reportedly said on behalf of Ivy & Normanton, U.K.’s first legal outfitter for women.
Miranda Moore QC also shared her support for the wig. She is the joint head of chambers at 5 Paper Buildings, a leading criminal set.
“I am generally supportive of the practice of wearing wigs but consider that appropriate court attire should be inclusive and what it is made out of is immaterial,” Moore reportedly said. “People should be able to express themselves in line with their values, whether that means a Sikh being able to wear a turban instead of a wig or a vegan going out and sourcing something suitable.”
These new wigs are 100% biodegradable and made entirely from hemp. Yet, they were designed to remain in good condition for a very long time so they can be passed down from generation to generation.
Although March’s prototype is currently the only available hemp wig, he reportedly hopes that hemp wigs become the prominent type of wig in U.K. courts. Production of this product is expected to begin before the end of the year.