It is a familiar fact that the influential professionals of the society maintain a certain dress code while at work and even the people recognize a particular profession by their attire. Few professions require a uniform to serve their tasks. We see the pilots and crew in their suits, police officers in khakee formals, miners and engineers by their hard hats with the torch, doctors, and nurses in their white aprons, and so on.
Well, for lawyers it is their black coat and white attire with which they are identified. Lawyers are considered as one of the best-dressed professionals. Though the color of lawyer's attire is, the same lawyers have a dress code that differs from country to country. In Canada, the lawyers’ uniform constitutes a red and white dress but in most of the countries, the dress code is white and black. In some European countries, the lawyers’ dress code is donning a traditional black winged jacket over their dress. A white shirt and black trousers and a coat with a white neck band are common attire for lawyers. Lawyers’ dress code in India for both men and women follow this. Most of the lawyers and justice clothing across the globe are formal wear combining a white shirt and black coat.
The reason behind the lawyers’ uniform
Selection of black colour as the lawyer’s uniform is backed by two reasons since ancient times. Practising Law is one of the oldest professions in the world when there was no availability of dyes in large quantity. The purple colour was signified to royalty, so the only fabric left was black. Therefore, an obvious choice left was to armour in black. Another reason behind this justice clothing is black to be a colour of authority and dominance. A person in a black coat looks more powerful and holds an impact. Also, black colour represents submission to a certain thing as we see the priests wearing a black coat to show their submission to the higher power aligning with them lawyers wear black as their submission to justice. Black is a prominent colour that offers sheer elegance. It is observed that people wearing black outfits are highly noticeable and thoughtful.
Lawyers’ dress code in India
It is pronounced that lawyers have one of the most elegant dress code compared to other professions. It is mandatory for advocates in India appearing in the Supreme Court, high courts, subordinate courts, tribunals or authorities to wear the Justice clothing, a sober and dignified dress which shall be followed unanimously according to the Advocate’s Act 1961. Advocates other than lady advocates can wear long trousers (white, black, striped or grey) or dhoti with the following combination:
(a) Buttoned-up black coat, chapkan, achkan, black sherwani and white bands with advocate’s gown, or
(b) Open breast black coat, white collar, stiff or soft, and white bands with advocates’ gowns.
Section 49(1) (gg) of the Advocates Act, 1961 says: “Chapter IV Form of dress or robes to be worn by advocates [Rule under Section 49(1) (gg) of the Act1].
In modern times appearance plays an important role in gaining success in today’s world. It is not just about looking good but also about looking the part of this great system. In either case, the lawyers’ uniform lends seriousness to their identity and provide a unique justice clothing to their professional image. It helps to build credibility and command respect from the clients and society.
The lawyers’ uniform creates a sense of discipline among lawyers and gives them the confidence to fight for justice. The lawyers are the first contact for citizens who need to access justice, and creating such uniform codes alienates them from the common people. Law is associated with nobility, justice, and peace. To maintain that one has to take all steps. The simplicity of the lawyers’ dress code in India also symbolizes that the judges’ and lawyers’ are neutral and humble people and need to work as servants of the people. The black color is a symbol of dignity, honor, wisdom, and justice and these are the values, which any lawyer or the judge has to keep up.
Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari, retired chief justice of Maharashtra observed that not having a dress code can jeopardize the court’s dignity. However, it should be in tune with our circumstances and psyche.