What Does My White and Black Represent

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Aisha Salami

Penguin! Chorister! Waitress/Waiter! Ushers! These are aliases for law students in regulation dress; if they (non-law students) see you in mufti they’d ask;  no uniform today?’ Or ‘is today your birthday?’ Some would even claim not to recognise you because ‘you are looking normal’.

You might decide to ignore such comments but most times you want to respond but just can’t figure out the perfect response so you end up saying just about anything in response. Sometimes, I find myself saying, “Just wait until you’re in trouble then you will know why I’m looking like a penguin” or I’ll proudly hold my head up high and walk on.

What is permitted in every faculty of law differs, some allow black dresses, some allow navy blue/brown/grey in place of black, and some even allow the ladies to put on pants. However, the standard regulation for men is a white shirt, black trousers, black shoe, black socks, black tie and a black blazer/suit (optional). For the ladies it is a white shirt, black skirt, black shoes and a black blazer/suit (optional).

But really, what is the rationale behind law students wearing uniform to school and what informed the choice of black and white as the colours?

There may be two reasons that can be conveniently considered;

  1. The fact that our system of dressing in the legal profession as a whole is inspired by the British. One can easily opine that white and black, wig and gown, and the entire legal system are borrowed from our colonial masters. Or
  1. One can rely on the consideration of what black and white colour represent.
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The first reason has been canvassed and considered a lot of time in the past. The second reason is a consideration of what black and white symbolizes.

White is a neutral colour, aside from its place on the colour palette, it is neutral in the sense that it depicts fairness, equity, equality of the justice system. This colour is popular as the symbol of peace but in the outfit of law students and lawyers, it means more than that, it also represents purity in the sense that justice is pure and untainted. The colour white also signifies light, goodness, innocence. It also means transparency the arguments canvassed is based on facts as the lawyer is furnished with, without adulteration or manipulation.

However, the main reason behind wearing black is because black is the colour of authority and power. Black is also said to represent submission, lawyers wear black to show their submission to justice. For Lawyers it means that they are meticulous with their opinions, thoughts, interpretations of the law and processes, they in any respect are not ready to compromise, they are tenacious for justice. Black is the colour of professionalism, when you hear ‘corporate outfit’ the first thing that comes to mind is BLACK! It gives a lawyer a dignifying look.

Both colours (white and black) are unsaturated, this means that there are untainted and as plain as it can get, uncorrupted from the stains of other colours. White for instance if smeared is easily visible, while black does not allow for any other colour to be painted on it, just like the wheel of justice has no room for nonsense, it also cannot be bias by identifying one over another.

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Majority of law students are uncomfortable with the dress code/ regulation but this profession is one of discipline, it encourages strict adherence to its rules and normative practices. Many might want to argue that it’s a breach of their inalienable right of expression and liberty but we must remember that ‘where one man’s rights stop is where another begins’. Most importantly, the system is interested in breeding ADVOCATES and not REBELS. Law is a noble profession and it should not be abused because of the love for rainbows.

All in all white and black may seem boring, pointless and annoying to keep up with (trust me I know) but if you fix your eyes on the prize (becoming a lawyer) and just hang in there it will pay off on the long run.

So the next time you put on your black and white regulation, wear it with dignity, honour, pride, authority, vigour and most of all NOBILITY!

Please share for “In vain have you acquired knowledge if you have not imparted it to others”. Deuteronomy Rabbah.

Your contributions and opinions are highly welcome. Thank you.

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