Vegan Pupil Barrister Samuel March has partnered with Hemp Textile Designer Laura Bossom, and unveiled the first locally made industrial hemp wig for barristers. Set to be manufactured in the UK this year, the wig will be rolled out as legal wear around the country to be worn in court.
Traditionally barristers have worn horse-hair wigs for the past 200 years and were first invented in 1822 by Humphrey Ravenscroft.
Vegans and vegetarians look set to make up a quarter of the British population in 2025. Generation Z (aged 18 -23) are currently the most meat-free generation. This means there is an incoming generation of law students and future pupil barristers whose ethical beliefs prevent them from wearing animal products.
Previously synthetic wigs had been available to order from Australia for some time, but prior to Mr March’s prototype there were no plant-based wigs produced anywhere, and no widely available vegan-friendly options produced in the UK.
Announcing his protype, Mr March adds, “As a vegan, I oppose all forms of animal exploitation, from gratuitous cruelty like bull fighting or fox hunting, to the industrial-scale cruelty of factory farming, to more subtle forms of cruelty which nevertheless involve the ownership and commodification of animal bodies.
For me, horsehair is at the latter end. Of course, it is conceivable that there are ways this could be taken without immediate physical pain, but that does not mean it is not exploitation.
I refuse to sponsor exploitation by buying expensive items made from animal products as this adds value to the practice of owning them and selling them for parts.”
Not only that but we see a native natural fibre come back into use for the modern world. Around 100 years ago, industrial hemp was used to help the British army compete in the world wars, making sails and ropes for their ships. There were rope manufacturers, clothes makers and industrial hemp grown all around the UK to supply this demand.
Recently government legislation around the world has set new net zero carbon targets. The UK plans to see all green-house gases to net zero by 2050.
After the unrevealing of the product, Laura Bossom, founder of the hemp manufacturer said, “It is exciting to see how we have brought this material back to life, applying it to a product which will be showcased in a legal setting and can make a contribution to environmental objectives.
As the plant can absorb four times as much carbon than the average plant, this wig can off-set carbon dioxide as its raw materials are grown. In addition, this bioremediation crop only requires one third of the water than cotton which reduces its impact on water resources and land degradation.
This is imperative if we wish to see depleted soils recover over intensive farming practices which have been carried out for centuries. This goes down from generation to generation without compromising ethics or sustainability. "
The wig has received a positive response from the legal industry. After 48 hours of releasing the idea, Mr March has already received over 30 order requests.
The wig has been estimated to retail at £650, which puts the wig in a high-tier bracket next to traditional horse-hair wigs sold at £400 and £700.
Ivy & Normanton, the UK’s first legal outfitter for women has already shown an interest in stocking the product.
Karlia Lykourgou, founder of Ivy & Normanton and practicing criminal barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “There’s definitely a positive conversation to be had and we are interested.
“I’ve actually been shown a synthetic wig and it does not have the same quality as a horsehair wig. The legal garb that we wear is significant and it means something.
“We do not want to dilute the quality of this garb that we wear, it’s a sacred uniform and it takes a lot to get there. A hemp wig sounds like it might have a similar quality to horsehair, there’s certainly a conversation to be had.”
The product caught the attention of Labour’s Shadow Minister for Legal Aid, Karl Turner, who described it as a “brilliant idea”.
Miranda Moore QC, one of the heads of Chambers at 5 Paper Building said: “Sam is fully supported by Chambers, as I made clear to him when he first mentioned the idea to me some months ago.
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.
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."
Photography by Chloe Evans