Which judges wear robes, which don't? In NYC, often they don't.

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In Britain, judges are wedded to a tradition of elegant attire: scarlet and ermine robes, tippets over the shoulders, black girdles and, of course, the crimped, gray horsehair wig.

In the United States, judges have been less attached to such grand garb. Robes were not even a necessary part of their attire in the decades after the Revolutionary War, though it eventually became the accepted fashion. But even today, New York does not require judges to wear robes, and various judges spurn them altogether from time to time, or at least try to wear them with a bit of flair.

When Judge ShawnDya L. Simpson of Manhattan does don her black robe, for example, she rarely fastens all the buttons and often accents it with a scarf or necklace. But on one day recently, she was an even brighter figure, wielding the gavel in a lime-green suit.

“It’s a different era,” said Judge Simpson, 42, a Criminal Court judge. “I think some judges, you just kind of bring your personality to the bench.”

For a visitor to the court, a judge without a black robe might prompt a double take. But on any given day in New York City’s courthouses, it is common to see judges on the bench with unzipped or unbuttoned robes; accessories like scarves, jewelry or collars hanging outside of a robe; and, in some cases, no robe at all.

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