Do you have a court hearing coming up? Maybe it’s a custody hearing or criminal court. Have you asked yourself: “What should I wear to court?” I hope so. It’s important to look your best. Don’t embarrass yourself with poor courtroom attire. Keep reading to find out what to wear to court.
Importance of Proper Courtroom Attire
There are two main reasons to look your best in court. The first is respect for the institution. The reason dressed up for weddings, funerals, job interviews, and church is to make an outward display of respect for the event. Court is no different. Proceedings in court are bedrock of our legal systems. A major reason that our society is successful is that we respect the rule of law. Part of that is respect for judges and their courtrooms. When you show up to court looking sloppy, you are disrespecting the entire judicial system.
Second, you can hurt your case if you dress poorly. Judges are people, not robots. They cannot help but be influenced subconsciously by what they see. Imagine you’re involved in a disputed custody case where there’s no clear cut winner. The judge has a very difficult decision to make. Now imagine that you showed up wearing a ratty T-shirt and ripped jeans. The judge might not even realize that your clothing was a factor, but it could be!
#1 Rule for Courtroom Attire
Dress like you’re going to church. It’s easy. If you would wear it church (or temple/mosque/etc.), then don’t wear it to court.
Also, remember to check the website for the courthouse you’re going to for specific rules. All judges are different and each has the right to set the rules for their courtroom. The information below is just a general guideline.
Courtroom Attire for Men
Many guides will tell you to wear a jacket and tie and only dress shoes. Lawyers should wear jackets and ties, but a regular litigant can get a away with a freshly ironed shirt that’s tucked into pants. I don’t think 100% necessary to wear dress shoes either. As long as your sneakers or boots are a single color (black, brown, or maybe white if everything else is really on point), you’re fine. Frankly, the judge will probably have a tough time noticing you shoes unless you’re walking in font of the counsels’ tables.
That’s not to say that you can’t dress up in a full suit if you like. Let’s put it this way: no one ever harmed their case by dressing up too nicely for court. (caveat: don’t wear a purple tuxedo like Vinny)
It goes without saying that everything you wear should be clear and wrinkle-free.
Court Attire for Women
Deciding what to wear to court is more difficult for women. There are just way more options. There are quite a few things that could be dressy enough for court, e.g., blouses, sweaters, suits, skirts, etc.
But if they’re too tight or show too much skin, then they wouldn’t be appropriate. The best approach is to err on the side of caution. Court is probably only going to take up half your day. There’s plenty of time to dress the way you’d like.
Court Attire for a Witness
I think witnesses should follow the same guidelines as I’ve stated above for men and women who are litigants. Even though it’s not technically your case, as a witness you will be a central focus of the proceeding. Essentially, everyone in the courtroom will have their eyes on you for as long as you’re on the stand. Respect for the proceeding dictates that you should dress properly. Additionally, if you’re testifying on behalf of a family member or friend, the jury will like you much more than if you’re dressed like a slob.
Courtroom Attire for Observers
If you’re going to court as an observer or spectator, then you don’t need to be as careful as if you’re a plaintiff, defendant, or witness. Instead of dressing like you’re going to church, you can probably dress like you’re going to business casual event. For men, short sleeve polo shirts are probably okay.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you wear jeans to court?
No. Jeans are too informal. Exception: clean and wrinkle-free black jeans so long as your shirt is tucked in and you wear a belt. But, if they’re faded, don’t wear them. They should still be black. And, no sagging!
Can you wear shorts to court?
100% no. Zero exceptions. You must wear pants.
Can you wear sandals to court?
No. That goes for men and women. It doesn’t matter how fancy they are or how much they cost. You should always wear closed-toed shoes to court.
What should teens wear to court?
Teens should probably dress like adults at court. There’s really no reason not to.
What should children wear to court?
Children get more leeway than teens. For small children, it’s probably more important to be well-behaved than well dressed. That means that if you child is going to make noise, you shouldn’t bring him or her into the courtroom.