How to Dress for the Courtroom

Introduction to wearing the proper clothes for court


Whose case would you listen to? The man on the left or the man on the right?

You can see that the left and right photograph is the same man. You can see the importance that clothing and grooming make. The way you dress and groom yourself is the way the world perceives you. Perception is even more important in a courtroom. In fact, it can be the difference between being judged as a violator and being seen as a victim.

The above example is an extreme case. Nevertheless, a gentleman and an outstanding citizen should consider what he wears on the streets, to the stores, and to the courtroom. Most of us won’t stand trial for heinous, well-publicized charges, however a gentleman should not neglect what he wears even if he goes to traffic court.

Why is proper clothing important in the courtroom?

To be blunt, wearing appropriate clothes in the court pays respect to the integrity of the judicial system. Taking the time to select what you wear before each visit to the courtroom shows the judge, the lawyers, and the legal system that you care about the laws and your rights.

What should you wear to court?

Judges are becoming stricter in what is appropriate dress and behavior. Those who do not fit the dress code could find themselves thrown out of the courtroom and / or fined for violating the dress code. The general rule is to dress conservatively. Depending on why you are summoned to court, a solid charcoal or navy suit with a white shirt and coordinating tie will pass any judge’s standards. But if you don’t own a suit or go to court for minor reasons (like a traffic violation), then a blazer and coordinating trousers show everyone that you are mature and take your visit to the court seriously.

If you are standing trial for major reasons and you have an attorney, then listen to what your attorney suggests. Dressing down to seem innocent or dressing up to disassociate yourself from negativity could contribute to what the judge or jury think about you. For example, wearing clothing – such as a long sleeved dress shirt – that hides gang-related tattoos will help minimize people’s initial negative judgment. Wearing your best clothing when you defend yourself against not paying child support will also prove counterproductive.

Sound advice to aid you in the courthouse

1) Understand the court dress code. There is a difference between big city and village courts. Do not be surprised to see judges and attorneys wear blazers, dress shirt and trousers in a town court. However, judges and attorneys in, for example, New York city will most always be wearing suits. You do not want to overdress nor under-dress. Know the environment before you step into the court.

2) Be sufficiently groomed. Make sure your hair is kempt. If you have facial hair, make sure it is groomed and trimmed. Brush your teeth, wash your hands and trim your fingernails. There is no need for cologne or aftershave; a judge will not make a decision based on what aftershave you put on.

3) Wear comfortable, fitted clothing. Some of you gentlemen might like the space that XXXL shirts and pants may have to offer, but to the law and the judge over-sized clothing brings negative imagery to mind. Wear your pants around your waist. Tuck in your shirt. Wear a belt. And make sure that your clothing fits you. A simple visit to the court may take only an hour, while major procedures may last all day. Being comfortable in your clothing will better your posture and keep you focused.

4) Cover, to the best of your ability, any tattoos you may have on your arms, legs, or neck. Even if your tattoo is the globe and anchor of the Marine Corps, a tattoo still carries negative connotations. Up close the details of the tattoo can be seen, but from ten feet away a judge may not be able to see the harmlessness of your tattoo.

5) No beach clothing. Do not wear sandals, shorts, and t-shirts to court. This is not a time to be portraying an image of sipping margaritas in Cancun while you defend yourself against a D.U.I. / D.W.I. for example. Flip-flops, clogs, and other open toed footwear are not acceptable; neither are shorts and t-shirts.

6) Avoid excessive jewelry. The only piece of gold on your body that could be seen as acceptable is a wedding ring. Necklaces, earrings, nose rings, tongue or eyebrow piercings, gaudy rings and watches should be removed.

7) No hats. If you go to court in winter, you can wear a hat outside the courthouse. But once you enter, remove your hat. Wearing a hat indoors is a sign of ignorance. Take your hat off even if you have a bad hair day.

8) Minimize pocket bulk. Most people have cell phones nowadays. You can bring yours inside the courtroom, but make sure you turn it off! If your cellular device is large, then consider leaving your telephone in the car. Hide your keys inside your coat pocket. Avoid bringing money clips, pocket knives, and thick wallets. Not only are overstuffed pockets uncomfortable, it will take longer to get through security.

9) Never wear costumes to court. Put away your powdered wig and breeches for a different occasion; while your intentions of dressing like the Founding Fathers may be sincere, a judge will see it as mockery and probably ask you to leave and come back once you put on decent, modern clothing. And no Superman costumes either.
10) Never go to court naked. Being in the nude in public will certainly get you arrested for public indecency and fined. Also it will tarnish your reputation should you find yourself in court again. Save the birthday suit for your private life.

Dressing for the court conclusion

Putting forth a bit of effort into how you present yourself will aid you for whatever reason you go to court. Remember that first impressions are very important. Wearing appropriate clothing will make a favorable impression on the judge, lawyers, and jury. Take this guide into consideration the next time you are summoned to the courthouse; chances are that a presentable man will present a winning case.