How the Traditional Black Courtroom Robe Came to Be the Standard Uniform of Judges

In a new episode of the informative trivia series Today I Found Out, host Simon Whistler offers a short history of the origin of the judge’s black robe in 17th Century England, the compromise that was made during the formation of the United States and how some judges keep their look modern inside the courtroom.

Historians believe that the transition to only black robes may have begun in the second half of the 17th century in England. …When the judges in the American colonies presided over legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal cases, they carried over the English tradition of wearing robes. This topic produced debate between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams after the colonists won the American Revolution and formed their own government. Jefferson argued that American judges should distance themselves from the traditions set down by the English and wear only a suit in court. Adams, a lawyer, disagreed and wanted judges to continue wearing the robes and wigs of English judges. A compromise ensued, with it being decided that the new American judges should wear the robe and not the wig.