Judicial robes have a long history in the legal arena. The robes have been used since before the 18th century. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the color and style of the robe signified the type of court the judge was presiding over. In the lower courts, black robes are used. In higher courts, judges often wear red robes with black markings. Today, judges in both state and federal courts are largely free to select their own attire.
The most common choice for a judge’s robe is the plain black robe, which extends from the torso to mid-calf or the ankle area. Female judges sometimes add a plain white collar to the piece to hide exposed skin below the neck. Underneath the robes, business attire is the standard. The English judge robe varies slightly from judge robe styles seen in American courtrooms. Matthew F. Sheehan carries both black and white robes from well-known brands including R. J. Toomey.
When performing a marriage ceremony, a judge may prefer a justice of the peace robe. These robes tend to be white rather than black, though the shape and style are similar. The lighter color of the robe is considered better fitting of the occasion where a judge is not making a judgment, but rather presiding over a ceremony.
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