Why are barristers such awful dressers?

By on

On reflection, the real story of the Bar Council conference was the smart casual on display


For just about all their working lives, barristers are not required to struggle with couture choices. Men in effect wear a uniform of dark, sometimes stripped, suits and are one of the few groups still keeping necktie purveyors employed. While women barristers go for pretty much the same outfit, simply replacing suit trousers with a skirt and losing the tie, although, to be fair, not always.

But when the option of casual wear is on the cards — as at the Bar Council’s weekend shindig — many often freeze rabbit-in-headlights-style and then panic. The result is often to shrug shoulders and revert to what is known, that same dark, perhaps striped, suit with white or cream shirt and tie — or skirt with no tie (delete as gender appropriate).

However, some brave cavalier souls grasp the mufti challenge with both hands — but sadly that normally results in another type of uniform, albeit one far more entertaining for the casual observer of the species.

For the males, this generally involves either a blue blazer — of the type traditionally favoured by weekend yachtsmen — or a checked jacket that has something of the hunting whiff about it.

Those tops go over all manner of potential colours in the trouser department — burgundy for the more discreet gentleman barrister, lime green, lemon or mustard yellow for the more adventurous. And a pair of brown wing-tipped brogues normally also features.

Having only relatively recently crashed through the glass ceiling of the barristers’ profession, women generally tend to be a little less confident in the mufti stakes. That means lots of work suits at the conference.

But to be fair, at last weekend’s London bash the chaps in mufti were also few and far between. Perhaps that is to do with an over-riding uncertainty around the profession’s future — highlighted by the faux bravado of a council statement insisting, “the bar is here to stay”. In such uneasy times, the chaps didn’t want to appear to be anything but serious.

Nonetheless, as our murky photographs illustrate, at least a couple delegates attempted to fly the flag for entertaining clobber.


Making up for the lack of catwalk entertainment, however, was the general post-conference banter of the delegates, enhanced by several glasses of warm white wine and the odd drop of jet fuel lager. Indeed, despite the traumas facing the young bar, conference delegates retained an upbeat — and at times fantastic — mood.

The best example came from one slightly lubricated middle-aged and clearly successful barrister, who pronounced to another middle-aged and clearly successful counterpart:

“We are the Jedi Knights of the legal profession.”

In response, the colleague boasted: “Absolutely. And this is my light saber,” pointing to a tightly furled umbrella.