A Bit of History Regarding Where Judge Robes Came From

It’s a brand-new week and the last week of December 2020; we hope that every one of our readers has been enjoying their holidays and that they are looking forward to the upcoming year of 2021. During the days leading up to a new year and even up to the first few weeks of January, many people start to think about what they would like to accomplish throughout the new year; while certain people dream about starting families or visiting different parts of the world, others think about finishing their academic studies and then finding their perfect job.

One of those perfect jobs for certain people is the idea of being a judge. Within law and order, righteous judges are the pinnacle of correct justice; with the amount of crime throughout the world, especially in the United States, there is a grand need for judges to look at crime situations with a non-distorted eye so that they can make the right decisions to vindicate those who are not responsible for crimes and punish those who actually are. Judges – with the grand weight that is on their shoulders – are very noble people who should be respected 100%; one of the ways in which they flourish as people who should be respected is by their robes. Within the next few paragraphs, we’d like to give a little bit of history regarding where judge robes came from.

According to a specific source, judge robes began as academic robes in England and have a long history. During the 12th and 13th centuries, gowns were worn by students to signify their religious status and marked the difference between them and the laypeople of the city or town in which they took their studies. These gowns were originally black or dark brown and that eventually translated to judges wearing such robes later on in history.

Before the color black became the standard for judge robes worldwide, judges actually wore colorful robes; this, however, did not last long within the United States as Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court re-considered the honor of the robes worn throughout the 12th and 13th centuries and decided to set the color black as the standard for all judges within the U.S. Something interesting to also consider is that the United States founding fathers had already decided to ditch the white wigs favored by English judges – which speaks to the fact that the United States wanted to form their own standard when it comes to the judge dress.

Black robes were adopted by the highest court in Rhode Island during the early 1900s; an editorial discussing the change in Rhode Island judicial dress noted that Rhode Island judges would “set a [prime] example for judges all over the [world] to follow.” The editorial finished with “…there is [absolutely] no reason why [any] objection should be made, and there are [a lot of] reasons why [Rhode Island judges wearing black robes should receive] the approval of those who believe in doing [everything] ‘decently and in order.’” As a result of the Rhode Island change when it comes to the way that judges should dress, the Superior Court adopted black robes and, then, the last Rhode Island court (the District Court) adopted black robes as standard judicial wear in 1960. Following this last adoption, black robes became the standard throughout the entire United States. Though, one interesting fact is that, while there are no rules dictating what judges or justices should wear – even while there is not even a common source for Supreme Court robes – judges continue to wear the color black, and it looks like the trend will not change for the future of all judges.


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