Why do Lawyers wear Black Robes?


It is a saying that “Dress how you want to be addressed” because colour plays a vital role in creating an impact. Every colour symbolizes and conveys one or the other meaning, and maybe that is why certain colours are used explicitly for professionals’ uniforms. There is a reason behind Police wearing khakhi, Doctors and Chefs wearing white and Advocates wearing black.

Worldwide black and white are the colours for advocates. The reason behind it is that the black colour is the symbol of ‘power’ and ‘authority’. On the other hand, the black colour shows death, evil and mystery, but this is just a negative connotation of colour and not profession. However, it also portrays that the lawyers and judges wearing black are loyal towards the court and justice. A priest wearing black shows his submission towards God, and Judges and Advocate wearing black shows their submission towards law. The reason behind the white colour is that it connotes innocence, purity and safety. For a common man, the court system is only the ray of hope for justice; therefore, these colours are used. Whether the advocate is presenting on behalf of the petitioner or respondent, both wear the same uniform, which symbolizes that the law is blind. It only provides justice on the weightage of evidence and innocence. 


The British had adopted the robes and wigs in the 13th century. Edward III chose the discipline of robes and wigs for the advocates and judges, attending the royal court and this continued for approximately six centuries. By the end of the 13th century, all the British judges used to wear white coiffure wigs. During the 1340s, the general people of Britain opposed the length of this attire, but the advocates remained firm in continuing this uniform.

The British believed that the wigs and gowns worn by advocates and judges symbolize the degree they hold. It was around the 17th century when the wig appeared for the first time during King Charles II’s reign. However, this uniform was designated to the lawyers when King Charles II died in 1685, and people wore a black gown as a symbol of mourning the death of their king.

In 1694, when Queen Mary II died, all the nation judges attended her funeral wearing black robes as a sign of morning. However, it became a custom when this mourning period lasted for few years after Queen’s burial. Another story which is assumed is that the same mourning was followed in the memory of Queen Anne in 1714.

With the Judges rule of 1635, the codification of the English Judicial Uniform was done in England. This rule did not introduce any change; instead accepted the existing practice. A Black Girdle or Cincture was worn with all Robes, by the end of the 1680s, two rectangles of linen used to be tied at the throat.[1]In the 17th Century, Judges, barristers, and solicitors used Black Coats, Gowns, White Bands, and traditional Wigs in England. Even in Europe, the lawyers of Roman Sapienza wore black robes. The Italian judges followed the English way of uniform, so they too wore the wigs and robes.

Current Laws

India was once a British colony; therefore, the rules imposed by the British in their country were the same imposed in their colonies. The Advocate Act of 1961 made mandatory for Indian advocate to wear ‘Black Coat’ as their uniform with a white band on top.

Section 49(1)(gg)of the Advocates Act, 1961 states that:

“Whether the advocate is a designated senior advocate or not everyone will wear a black coat.”

Advocates, appearing in the Supreme Court, High Court, and Subordinate Courts, Tribunals or authorities shall wear the following as part of their dress which shall be sober and dignified; Advocates other than lady advocates:

  • a buttoned-up black coat, chapkan, achkan, black sherwani and white bands with advocate’s gown, or
  • a black open breast coat, white-collar, stiff or soft, and white bands with advocates’ gowns. In either case long trousers (white, black, striped or grey) or dhoti.

For Lady advocates

  • a black and full or half-sleeve jacket or blouse, white-collar, stiff or soft, and white bands with advocates’ gowns;
  • Sarees or long skirts (white or black or any mellow or subdued colour without any print or design) or flares (white, black or black-striped or grey):

It provided that wearing an advocate’s gown shall be optional except when appearing in the Supreme Court or a High Court.

Provided that in courts other than the Supreme Court, High Court, District Court, Sessions Court or City Civil Court, a black-tie may be worn instead of bands.”[2]

It should be noted that the dress for all the advocates, including senior advocates, is similar. If a senior advocate wears anything other than the prescribed dress code to prove seniority, it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.


The legal profession is magnificent and hence, it obliges responsibility on the advocates to provide justice to the common man. Therefore, their dress indicates etiquette and professionalism and imparts confidence in advocates fighting for justice which ultimately works as a ray of hope to justice seekers.


  1. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-665-historical-background-in-wearing-black-robes-by-advocates.html
  2. http://www.ebc-india.com/lawyer/articles/859.html

This article is authored by Prathana Patel, Student at GLS Law College, Ahmedabad.

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