In a world-first, U.K.-based vegan and animal-loving lawyer Samuel March decided to design his wig out of hemp rather than the traditional wig that uses horsehair.
Designed and manufactured by Oxford-based Cultiva Kingdom, a hemp manufacturer that develops sustainable materials for the textile industry, the 100% hemp head covering ‘prototype’ is now proudly being worn by animal rights campaigner and pupil barrister Samuel March.
In 1822, wigs made by taking hair from the horse’s mane were invented by Humphrey Ravenscroft, as horsehair claimed to lend its soft and fine characteristics to the headwear. There are claims that suggest that horses are neither killed nor harmed during the collection of hair and that it is cut as part of the animals’ care and hygiene. However, the hair is taken from slaughtered horses and even if it doesn’t directly exploit the animal, there is no need to commercialise the animals’ bodies.
To this day, the company still manufactures court attire meaning for around 200 years, barristers have been wearing these traditional wigs in the U.K. and if someone needed a vegan synthetic wig, it had to be ordered in from Australia.
However, with the launch of the new hemp wig, vegan barrister wigs are all set for mass production in the U.K. for legal professionals who would like to opt for an animal-friendly wig for use in courts across the country.
Cambridge-educated March thought of the vegan wig idea last August and then joined forces with Cultiva Kingdom to turn the idea into a product. Working closely with an experienced wig maker in England, the company developed a 100% biodegradable wig made entirely from hemp.
Laura Bossom, owner and founder of Cultiva Kingdom, said that the wig was designed keeping the longevity in mind so that it could be passed down from one generation of barristers of family members to the next.
Sharing pictures of the head covering on Twitter, 29-year-old March who works at 5 Paper Buildings and turned vegan around three years ago, tweeted: “The prototype has arrived. This is the world’s first hemp barrister’s wig. 0% horsehair, 100% vegan friendly. What do we think? Will it pass in court?”
Wigs are traditionally made from horsehair. Admittedly, it’s at the milder end of animal exploitation if you consider gratuitously killing animals in things like bullfighting or fox hunting. If a person can take from and sell parts of an animal, even if that immediately does not harm an animal, then it incentivises and industry-based around commodifying and selling their bodiesSamuel March, the U.K. barrister who designed a vegan wig
Since March tweeted about the wig, he received around 20 requests in just under 24 hours showing the demand of the vegan wig amongst sustainable U.K. lawyers.
In an interview with The Telegraph, March said that it doesn’t make any sense to exploit animals in the least bit for wigs or any other products. “Wigs are traditionally made from horsehair. Admittedly, it’s at the milder end of animal exploitation if you consider gratuitously killing animals in things like bullfighting or fox hunting. If a person can take from and sell parts of an animal, even if that immediately does not harm an animal, then it incentivises and industry-based around commodifying and selling their bodies.”
Expecting the production to begin by end of 2021, March hopes that the vegan wig becomes the norm in all courtrooms. He also predicted the wig will sell for GBP£650 (approx. US$900), compared to the traditional horsehair wigs that are priced between GBP£400 and GBP£700 (approx. US$556 and US$974).
Practicing criminal barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and founder of Ivy & Normanton, U.K.’s first legal outfitter for women, Karlia Lykourgou, said: “There’s definitely a positive conversation to be had and we are interested. I’ve actually been shown a synthetic wig and it does not have the same quality as a horsehair wig. The legal garb that we wear is significant and it means something. We do not want to dilute the quality of this garb that we wear, it’s a sacred uniform and it takes a lot to get there. A hemp wig sounds like it might have a similar quality to horsehair, there’s certainly a conversation to be had.”
U.K.’s Labour’s Shadow Minister for Legal Aid, Karl Turner also showed his support for the wig calling it a “brilliant idea”.
Miranda Moore QC, joint head of chambers at 5 Paper Buildings, a leading criminal set, expressed that the Chambers fully support Sam’s idea. “I am generally supportive of the practice of wearing wigs but consider that appropriate court attire should be inclusive and what it is made out of is immaterial. People should be able to express themselves in line with their values, whether that means a Sikh being able to wear a turban instead of a wig or a vegan going out and sourcing something suitable.”
With over 20,000 uses, hemp has been used for industrial fabrics such as sails for ships, canvas, sacks, rope, bedding, cigarette filter papers, bio-composite plastic, organic compost, thermal insulation, concrete blocks and fibre reinforcement. The best thing about hemp textile crops is the entire plant can be utilised to make other products.
According to an analysis published in the journal Science, one of the cheapest ways to solve the issues caused by climate change and encourage reforestation is by planting billions of hemp trees. Aside from this, hemp products can also help promote biodiversity as they can replace petroleum-based plastic products that contribute to micro-plastic pollution, especially given how our oceans are being filled with tiny plastic particles that not only suffocate aquatic life but also come back into our food chain through water and seafood consumption.
Other companies that are underatanding the multifunctional purpose of hemp as a sustainable alternative material are New Zealand alternative protein food tech Sustainable Foods, better known by its retail brand The Craft Meat Co, that will soon launch a new hemp plant-based meat.
In the sustainable fashion industry, Amsterdam-based HoodLamb by Hemp Tailors has unveiled a range of parkas and long jackets made out of hemp, and other alternative materials like organic cotton and soy.
Lead image courtesy of Samuel March’s Twitter.