The other day I was at work, and I couldn’t decide if I was in court or a people of Wal-Mart video (no disrespect to Wal-Mart intended—I shop there too).
It always surprises me to see what people wear to court. Right or wrong, the way you look affects how people (Judges and Juries) perceive you. I thought I’d compile a list my ten things to do and don’t do when it comes to court apparel.
1) Sports Jerseys are Not for Court
The judge may be a huge Cowboys fan, but he’s not going to be a fan of your Romo jersey. Leave the jersey at home. Besides, the odds are pretty good that Coach Garrett isn’t going to let you play anyway.
2) There are No Exercise Machines at the Courthouse
This rule applies to both men and women. I’m glad you’ve taken an interest in your health, but give it a rest at the courthouse. Spandex or leggings are not appropriate courtroom attire—especially when they’re almost transparent. Men, please don’t wear your workout shirt with the arms cut off—the judge and jury isn’t interested in seeing your “guns.”
3) If You Are in The Military Wear Your Uniform.
You’ve worked hard and served our country—thanks for that by the way— and a military uniform commands respect and sets you apart from everyone else (in a good way). If you’re in the military I think it helps to wear your uniform to court dates. Don’t do it if you think your commanding officer would take issue, but if you can get away with it then do it.
4) No One Wants to See Your Toes
Personally, I think you should only wear flip-flops if you are on your way to or from the beach or a pool. But hey, I get it, I was in college too. Flip-flops are super easy to throw on in a hurry; it’s also pretty easy to go through a metal detector in flip-flops. Having said that, you should never wear flip-flops or any open-toed shoe when you are in a courtroom.
5) You’re Not at the Club
We know you look good. You know you look good. A jury won’t like you if you look too good. Make sure you don’t wear your club gear. Looking too flashy can hurt your credibility and judges don’t like short skirts. Don’t wear too much jewelry or heavy cologne/perfume (okay that last one is for me—it’s hard to explain to my wife that I only smell like vanilla because I shared an elevator with a client). A subdued but professional appearance is best.
6) Don’t Wear T-Shirts
I’m a big Bob Marley fan. “No Woman No Cry” is one of my favorite songs. I even have a few Bob Marley t-shirts that I like to wear on my boat. No matter how big a fan, it’s not a good idea to wear a Bob Marley t-shirt to court. For that matter, it’s not a good idea to wear any t-shirt with a picture or logo on it. I’ve seen some crazy t-shirts in court over the years. The Scarface t-shirts are my personal favorite—it’s a great movie but a t-shirt that glorifies a drug dealer is probably not the best choice for a criminal court appearance. I’d prefer you wear a button up shirt; if you insist on wearing a t-shirt make sure it’s a plain color. If you do wear your Bob Marley t-shirt to court date for possession of marijuana expect to be drug tested…
7) Don’t Wear Your ‘Club’ Colors
I was a prosecutor back in the day and a defendant came in swearing he wasn’t a member of the Crips. He was dressed in blue pants, a blue shirt, had a blue handkerchief, and wore a blue hat (FYI—Crips members generally wear blue). Needless to say, I didn’t believe him. His gang affiliation was pretty obvious just based on what he was wearing. It’s wrong to judge someone based on what their wearing, but people do. Don’t get off on the wrong foot by wearing your ‘club’ colors.
Men, you don’t have to be clean-shaven but you should definably look groomed. If you have a beard trim it up. You should avoid having stubble. It would probably also be best to avoid any extra-ordinary facial hair, e.g., super-long beards and crazy mustaches.
9) Lose Some of the Piercings
I live in Austin and understand that piercings are a way of expressing who you are, but it’s not going to kill you to take them out temporarily for a court-appearance. It’s okay to have a couple of ear piercings, but anything past that should probably be removed.
10) Try to Dress Conservatively
I understand that the way you dress is as reflection of yourself. When it comes to courtroom dress you can’t be too conservative. If you have a suit, wear it. Women should also dress conservative. I typically tell my clients to wear their Sunday best. There is no denying that people make judgments based on what you wear. If you’re a defendant in a jury trial a panel of people will be deciding whether you’re guilty—you need every edge you can get. Dressing conservatively can only help.
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