Appropriate dress for court is one of the most common questions our clients ask. How you dress when in court may not change the outcome of your case, but it does send an important message. The first impression you make is based on how you look. As a client, the way you dress directly reflects how seriously you take your situation. Whether it is in family court, criminal court, or civil court, dress is important. It is often said that as much as 60% of communication in a courtroom is non-verbal; meaning it’s not what you say, but how you say it and how you look.
While it is important to dress appropriately in court, clients are well advised to remember that they are not lawyers and don’t need to dress like lawyers (don’t run out and buy a suit for your traffic ticket hearing). With that, we offer our own list of do’s and don’ts when dressing for court (many of these from first-hand observation):
- Do wear nice pants and a nice shirt (men, ties are optional).
- Don’t wear your short skirt, dress or low-cut top. Save those for going out with friends on the weekend, Court is not a place to show a lot of skin.
- If you’re in court on a drug case, don’t wear a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it. Actually, that’s probably good advice for any court appearance.
- Do take your outside jacket off when you get to court.
- Don’t wear a baseball cap. Leave it at home. Someone with a gun (the bailiff) will ask you take it off anyway, then you’ll have hat hair. Not a good look.
- Do comb your hair.
- Do wear clean, presentable clothes.
- Don’t wear sandals or flip flops, even in summer. You’re not at the beach.
- NEVER wear a swimsuit. Yes, we’ve seen this before.
- Don’t wear a chain wallet.
- Don’t wear short shorts. Shorts might be ok, but daisy dukes? Not so much.
- Do pull your pants up. No judge, clerk or attorney is impressed that you can wear your pants around your thighs. You can drop them when you leave.
- Wear a shirt long enough to cover the top of your pants when seated. No one needs to know what kind of underwear you’ve got on.
- That funny “Co-ed Naked Volleyball” shirt you have? Don’t wear it to court. (We know, this one dates us a bit, but you get the idea. Be aware of what your t-shirt says.)
- Don’t wear huge gold chains. When you want the judge to give you a break on your fine, it doesn’t help if you’re sporting 10 pounds of jewelry.
- Do shave before court. Beards and mustaches are ok if taken care of.
- Don’t wear stretch, yoga or sweat pants.
- Do shower before court.
- Don’t wear your pajamas (it happens…more than you know).
- Don’t wear slippers.
- Don’t wear those 6-inch stiletto heels you bought for going out on the town. A modest pair of high heels or flats is fine.
- Don’t wear neon colors. Laser lemon, blaze orange, and flamingo pink are distracting.
- Don’t wear tank tops. If you’re in court, your shirt should have sleeves, even if they are short sleeves.
- Do try to minimize the piercings you wear. If you can easily leave the lip ring, nose ring, eyebrow ring and tongue stud at home, do it.
Naturally, this list is just our opinion. If you are going to court, you should always ask your lawyer how they think you should dress for your case. The lawyers at JMW always counsel their clients on how to make the best impression in court, including how to dress and present themselves. We won’t tell you to buy new clothes, but we’ll help you make a good decision so that your appearance doesn’t work against you in court.
If you have more questions on what to do when you go to court, call one of our attorneys at (952) 445-2817.