How do I dress for Court?

by Steve Harton

If you have never been to Court before, you may very well ask yourself,  “How do I dress for Court?”

You may have heard people say that you should  dress like you would for church.  However, that is not all that helpful if you don’t go to church.   If, on the other hand, you do go to church on occasion, then it is pretty good advice (unless you are a Catholic going to church in the summer in Florida, or any time of year in Hawaii).*

Basically, you should think of a court proceeding as a serious, dignified event.  This means that your dress should show that you respect the Court, and that you take your court appearance seriously.

You do not need to dress formally, but you should be neat and clean.  Your court clothes should also match your career, or the work that you do.

In other words, if you are a truck driver, and you show up in a  three piece pinstriped suit, you will look silly.  However, if you show up in a tidy, pressed pair of jeans and a nice, single color ironed shirt, you will look great.

If you are a stockbroker or accountant,  you should avoid jeans, and you should probably wear a tie, and least a sport coat, if not a suit.

Just remember, show that you respect the Court and that you take your court appearance seriously.  That said, here are few more suggestions for dressing for Court:

  • Dress conservatively and wear good quality clothing in good condition.  Do not come in clothes with holes in them, or clothes that are dirty.
  • Do not wear shorts, ever.
  • Do not wear loud colors, and do not wear all black (unless you are Johnny Cash, reincarnated).
  • Ladies should not wear short skirts, low cut  blouses, or anything sleeveless.
  • Men should not wear anything sleeveless either.
  • Do not wear flip flops or tall high heels.
  • Do not wear sunglasses, or tinted glasses, even if you have them on the top of your head.
  • Do not wear a hat, ever.
  • Wear only functional, discreet jewelry (e.g., wedding ring or wrist watch).
  • Do not wear team jerseys or athletic appearel – going to Court is not a game.
  • Never wear clothing with vulgar language, or swear words on it.
  • Avoid clothing that promotes alcohol or drugs, as the Judge will not find it cool or amusing.
  • Try to conceal any visible tattoos, unless you are in the Navy or a Marine (I know just about everyone gets tattoos nowdays, but the Judge is probably old school, and still thinks only Sailors, Marines, and former prison inmates have tattoos).

Just remember that most people, including Judges, will judge people (and books) by their cover.  Dress repectfully in the courtroom, follow the suggestions listed above, and you should make a good impression on the Judge.

* I myself am a Catholic.  I grew up in Florida, where we often wore shorts to church in the summer.  I have also been to mass at St. Augustine church on Waikikii beach in Hawaii, and I was definitely not the only man there wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.  However, such an outfit would raise many an eyebrow, and draw some disapproving glances, at my parish in Wyoming.