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Where are all the vegan wigs?

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More are shunning animal produce, yet the legal dress industry just won’t ditch its horsehair

The Vegan Society reckons there are more than half a million vegans in the UK, documentaries such as Earthlings and Cowspiracy going someway to explain this decade’s four-fold increase.

Though sales of plant-based foods have skyrocketed, the legal dress market hasn’t been quite as receptive to the trend.

We are, of course, talking about barrister wigs. A universal symbol of the legal profession, it’s been tradition for advocates to plonk tightly-curled strands of horsehair on their heads since the 17th century. However, vegans do not eat nor wear animal produce (wool, leather, etc), and would therefore object to horsehair wigs. As one aspiring lawyer and strict vegan put it:

Bottom line is, it’s unethical and unnecessary to chop off a horse’s mane and tail to make a wig. It’s no different to skinning rabbits for fur or cows for bags.

This strength of belief, coupled with the rise in veganism, led me to assume finding synthetic wigs would be easy. It’s not.

Having spoken to the main legal dressers, Stanley Ley says it doesn’t provide vegan wigs (and that the horses from which the wigs are made from have led a life of luxury…), while Ede & Ravenscroft tells me it doesn’t either. There’s nothing on eBay too, apart from stuff like this:

Chancery Wigs informs me it doesn’t sell vegan wigs too, though it was able to point me in the direction of the Australian company Ludlows. A Ludlows spokesperson tells me it sells vegan wigs made from plastic. Its aim, they say, is to meet the needs of all its customers, and given the rise in veganism, it makes sense to offer synthetic wig options.

But, as for the UK market, the spokesperson says:

We do on occasion ship to the UK. We have not received much interest in vegan wigs from the UK, however this may be because people are unaware of the availability.

I do wonder whether more people would punt for the synthetic option if awareness was increased. John Gallagher, a barrister at Hardwicke, tells me he wears his synthetic wig out of preference because it’s more comfortable, a better shape and less hot.

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Though not a vegan himself, Gallagher bought his synthetic wig many years ago from a small retailer in West London, the name of which escapes him and that I’ve been unable to locate. Like me, he assumed non-horsehair products would be more commonplace than they are, saying:

Ordinary, non-lawyer wigs are often synthetic, so I’m shocked that it’s so difficult to find barristers’ wigs like this.

Having been engrossed in the world of vegan wigs in writing this piece, I can only find two possible options to explain this surprising lack of availability: tradition and business sense.

On the latter, Gallagher points out wigs, which cost about £500 in the UK, are now only really worn in criminal courts and some senior courts. Though the number of vegans has increased, plant-based dieters only make up approximately 0.8% of the population. Is the demand sufficient?

And then the former — tradition.

The bar has remained a stalwart of conservativism throughout history, shunning social media and marketing strategies more readily embraced by law firms. That said, in the words of our aspiring lawyer and vegan, “it’s 2017 and time to stop using tradition as an argument for animal exploitation.” Another vegan, a law student, tells me: “In this day and age there should most definitely be synthetic wigs. This would suit vegans and also be more sustainable and cheaper to make.”

In researching this piece, I spoke to Martin Lewis, the owner of a small supplier of graduation gowns and barrister wigs called Graduation Attire. He says he sells gowns made from 28 recycled plastic bottles. It’s an interesting example of a traditional sector being made more ethical and modern, maybe it’s time for the wig industry to follow suit. Yay or neigh?

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37 Comments

Neigh

Katie King has the personality of a horse. A dead one. Let’s use her hair.

Anonymous

Ouch

Anonymous

She has really nice hands though. Magical hands.

Anonymous

She also looks like one

Anonymous

And you sir are a pig.

Anonymous

Disgusted that someone would write this and 9 people would ‘like’ it. What the hell is wrong with you?!?

Anonymous

Actually quite surprised in fairness

Anonymous

“Yay or neigh?”

Dying over here.

Anonymous

Just another way for vegans to shove veganism down our throats when most of us don’t care

Fed up Lawyer

Alternative- I’d like to have a cheap wig that doesn’t boil my brain and happens to be vegan and you’re a small minded ass.

Confused.com

How is an animal exploited if its hair is cut?

Anonymous

That is an unbelievably stupid question.

Anonymous

Please enlighten us

Anonymous

Its a good question – I think its because the animal is kept as a “business commodity” in order to harvest the hair. To lower the cost of production and increase the profit margin, the horse may be kept in poor conditions – a small space, restricted movement (not in a normal stable / yard which is costly, but more like an enclosed cubicle stable which is cheap), and given a very basic diet, and shot once the hair is taken from the horse. Ailments that the horse may suffer from go untreated. As its treated as “business stock” once the “asset” no longer brings a return, it is simply “disposed” of / killed because it would cost money to maintain.

The living conditions / treatment of the animal is objectionable.

Vegan wigs – should be plant based, therefore sustainable, above all cheaper, and cause the person to feel less hot when wearing the thing on their head all day.

– But its a bit of a money making racket to keep ripping people off with these horse hair wigs, so i doubt anything will change….

Flossy

Fun article.

Anonymous

Instead of vegan wigs, why don’t we just scrap wigs altogether? It’s ridiculous to keep eighteenth century court dress just because it’s always been that way. Why should junior civil counsel have to fork out hundreds of pounds they can ill afford for a pointless piece of costume they will barely ever use.

Anonymous

I love what you say

Fed up Lawyer

I think there is something to be said for tradition- but I think loan wigs for call night might allow civil counsel to save money and keep the tradition going.

What do you say?

Anonymous

Congratulations, LC, on easily the worst story you have ever done…

Anonymous

It’s unethical to cut off a horse’s hair and is no different to skinning a rabbit? Really? That’s like comparing a hair-cut to murder.

Anonymous

Agreed – for an aspiring lawyer, vegan or not, that’s quite a weak argument.

Vegan pupil

I made a wig out of a bean and lentil patty.

I therefore generally look like a naive, poverty-stricken turd when in court, but that is a small price to pay for having ethics and being able to feel smug about my diet.

Anonymous

Presumably you can use the hair from dead horses. That would be vegan.

Domi

It wouldn’t be vegan – vegans don’t use any animal products regardless of where they came from. There’s no need from it and we shouldn’t see animals as commodity to profit from

Yet another barrister.

I never realised one was supposed to eat one’s wig!

Anonymous

I’m not vegan, but it surprises me that someone claiming to be a barrister can’t even work out what being vegan means.

Domi

Veganism is not simply a diet. It’s a lifestyle choice that people make for very important reasons. Vegans don’t use animals or animal products in any way because animals are sentient living beings who deserve not to be treated as commodities

Huh?

Barristers don’t eat their wigs.

Anonymous

Speak for yourself

Pantman

FWIW the synthetic wigs from Ludlows are not cheaper than the horsehair wigs AUD:1,350 (about 1s/6d – or GBP:800.00).

http://www.ludlows.com.au/shop/synthetic-barristers-wig/

Anonymous

Friday dross ‘article’

Poor Content.

Anonymous

Snowflake

Huh?

???

Anonymous

What about the ones from Model Wigs? They are generally coarser than the Stanley Ley or Ede and Ravenscroft ones, as well as being about £200 cheaper.

Are they synthetic?

Anonymous

Nope.

100% horsehair according to the website.

But my, they are cheaper!

Ed C

So much hatred and ignorance here, be it covert or overt. Is it really that strange to prefer a product that is plant-based? It means the product is probably sustainable (at least more so), can be made to be more comfortable, and is surely cheaper to produce than raising an animal.
The fact you don’t need it to be horse hair, I would suggest, places a burden on those using horse hair to justify why livestock should be kept and controlled for its production. Even if it’s ‘free-range’ (phff) there is a degree to which we are interfering with this animal – not least controlling its breeding (most likely via artificial insemination). If I was routinely artificially inseminating animals, I would rightly be asked what I was doing it for. I’d need a good reason, right? To say, ‘it’s ultimately for a wig’ or ‘I plan to eat the young’ or ‘I plan to kill the young and drink the mother’s milk’ sounds, to me, like the response of a mad person. Vegan barristers might like to have sustainable, more comfortable, and non-beastiality-based wigs. I’d say allow it.

Ed C

Sorry ^ = 1st LC article I’ve seen. Damned snowflake.

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