How Justices Wear and Style Their Judge Robes

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Judges don’t simply choose whatever robes hastily. In fact, they can be rather picky with what they wear, even when they adhere to a certain standard. Although judge robes are rather traditional when it comes to appearance—having been used for centuries now—there are also some preferences when it comes to how the robes look per se.

In America especially, judges choose robes more liberally. Eschewing the judicial practices of Britain when it comes to the appearance of robes, American justices may choose whichever material they please just to make their whole attire more functional.

However, in terms of design, the standard black robe is still very much in use. This allows for even more innovation, since its appearance may seem limiting. While changing the look of the robes themselves may go against conventions, it is easy to switch up the linings and trims accordingly—so long as they match the overall outfit.

Many judges throughout history have done so. For example, late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist had gold stripes on his sleeves. Former governor John Jay donned a scarlet and black robe, along with a silver trim. Justice Melissa Jackson often kept her robe open because she feels more comfortable with it.

Regardless of how judges wear their judicial apparel, they should still stick to whatever standard set upon the entire judicial realm. It is still important, therefore, to have that traditional look in court, no matter what one’s preferences are. As such, the formula remains within courts that a plain black robe should be worn whenever cases are heard.

How do you think judges should wear their robes? Is it too much for them to innovate for either comfort or style and deviate from the typical look? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!