Lawyers: Wigs make us look smug, says Irvine

It is an issue which has long exercised the finest legal minds: to be wigged or not bewigged. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, has now added his views by claiming that such headgear gives an image of barristers and judges which is "old-fashioned, out of touch and self- satisfied".

Lord Irvine also made clear his daily unhappiness at having to wear the 17th century costume that goes with his job - wig and silk tights, despite his apparent dexterity in putting on the latter.

However, the Lord Chancellor's trenchant personal views are unlikely to see a rapid de-wigging of barristers and the judiciary. When the matter last came to prominence a few years ago, the Lord Chancellor's Department carried out research and found that most barristers wanted to retain their wigs - especially in criminal cases.

One barrister, Bruce Holder QC, said: "I think on balance ... we should keep wigs, they help preserve the formality in criminal cases. It's just that they are a nuisance to keep carrying around."

Currently, wigs can be removed with the consent of the judge, and the inevitable move is towards less formality.

But the Lord Chancellor's Department made clear that rapid change was not imminent. "Wigs are a long way down the priority list," said a spokesman.