Hemp Breaks UK Tradition

Liz Filmer
31 Mar 2022

A UK solicitor based in the U.K. has disrupted the longstanding tradition of barristers wearing wigs made of horsehair. He wants barristers in the country's high courts to choose vegan, hemp-based head coverings instead.

Samuel March first debited his hemp wigs last year, saying that horsehair wigs are outdated. The canna version could function as a more environmentally tolerable vegan alternative to the horsehair norm. Currently, the hemp wig is still in its trial phase, but Mr March hopes it is successful.

"Hemp is a notoriously tough material so I do not anticipate there being any issues [with wear and tear], but there is always a risk where you're the first in the world to try something. Making them in the U.K. on this scale andbudget means my customer base is primarily limited to vegan barristers. This is a small market—but one that I intend to keep selling to."

"Hemp & Hemp", the company March established to supply plant-based headwear, states that it produces "the world's first-ever plant-based, vegan-friendly wigs for barristers."

The U.K. government has failed to evolve significantly regarding marijuana reform until this point. However, we have embraced hemp in its varying forms in recent years. Mr March appreciates that hemp wigs aren't for everyone despite his good intentions. He doesn't plan to push it on barristers who have reservations.

His view is that maintaining the longstanding legal custom of wearing wigs should be an option "for people who wear turbans, headscarves, have afro hair or any reason to feel uncomfortable dressing as a white man from the 18th century. Not all barristers are eccentric white, male, privately educated former Cambridge drama students," 

The tradition of requiring lawyers to wear horse-derived hair to appear in legal proceedings has recently been criticised for being a "culturally insensitive" and "ridiculous" tradition.

Leslie Thomas QC said that the wig ruling "represents and signifies the culturally insensitive climate"—an issue that came to the forefront after another barrister, Michael Etienne, was threatened with disciplinary action for choosing not to cover his afro hairstyle with a wig.

In the meantime, legislators and officeholders in other countries have also taken steps to regularise hemp. Last year, Berlin's public transit authority aimed to take the stress out of travel with promotional hemp-infused tickets that passengers could eat.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently financing a project to develop hemp fiber insulation. Something that's designed to be better for both the environment and public health than conventional insulation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asserted this week that it is granting a Washington State-based company $100,000 to support the production of sustainable bricks manufactured from industrial hemp.


Liz Filmer