For those of us who are not lawyers or bailiffs or judges, going to court is not a normal part of our daily lives. Whether we are called into court as the defendant, a witness, or a member of the jury, it is important to know how you are expected to dress when you go to court for your first court appearance.
One question we get a lot is: “Can you wear jeans to court?”
Appearances are Important
The short answer is no. The long answer takes a bit more explaining.
To begin with, your appearance is very important in court. It is the first thing those in the courtroom see about you, and their first impressions are based almost entirely on what you look like and how you carry yourself (see our blog How Should I Behave in Court). What you are wearing should show the judge that you are taking the court process seriously, and that you are showing him or her and the proceedings respect. Dressing in sloppy sweatpants or a comfortable pair of shorts is fine for lounging around the house, but not for going to court. The severity of the case does not affect how you dress. Just because a case is simple does not mean the guidelines for dressing is loosened. Whether you are heading to court to contest a speeding ticket or to defend yourself on fraud charges, dress up!
Tips for Men
Men should wear a suit and tie, if possible. Dressing conservatively and respectably shows the judge that you are an adult who is willing to take responsibility for his actions, and who is aware of the importance of the court proceedings (see our blog How to Talk to a Judge).
Other tips to keep in mind: wear a belt, wear a pair of nice shoes, and definitely wear a collared shirt. Any clothing that can be seen as casual or relaxed should be avoided (even if you don’t see it that way!).
For shoes, remember to keep them clean. Don’t wear boots, sandals, or sneakers. They should be professional.
Tips for Women
Women should dress conservatively, and dress modestly as well. This means you should wear a nice dress, a pantsuit, or long slacks and a conservative top. Make sure the dress is not too revealing or showy, because although you might like to wear that kind of outfit when you dress up, such clothing is viewed unfavorably in court.
The colors of your clothing also matter. Bright colors or crazy fashions can cause a judge to think that you do not take the process seriously. Try to stick with drab or basic colors and avoid showy patterns or colors (see our blog on What Color to Wear to Court).
Excessive makeup or jewelry is frowned upon as well, so try to use both sparingly. Less of these really is more in court.
As far as shoes go, they should be clean and professional. Do not wear sneakers, sandals, flip flops, or Uggs. Your shoes should match your outfit – they should be formal.
But What if I’m Coming from Work?
If there is absolutely no way to avoid this, and you are coming to court directly from work, then it is permissible to come to court dressed as you would for work (including, but not limited to: jeans, scrubs, and the like).
This is probably the only situation in which wearing jeans to court is acceptable. If you had to come to court directly from work and you did not have time to dress as well as you would have liked, it would be worth mentioning that to the judge. He or she will definitely understand.
See the Courtroom Etiquette series on our blog for more information on how to dress for court.
If you would like to discuss courtroom protocol or have an attorney help answer your questions about your court appearance, contact our office now.