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    What To Wear To Court – How To Dress For a Court Hearing

    A day in court is always a serious affair, and it’s not uncommon to feel nervous, afraid, or uncertain about how things will play out as you prepare for your appearance. However, there are many aspects of this situation that remain within your control. And that includes your attitude, your manner of speech, and the clothes that you choose to wear. This last part, attire, is significant, so much so that many psychologists and attorneys have urged their clients not to slack off when it comes to their dress code. This is because they have found that appearance has a profound effect on the way judges and juries view those involved in courtroom situations. As the old saying goes, you’ll never get another chance to make a good first impression!

     What You Wear To Court Does Matter?

    The fact that you’re appearing in court adds extra weight to your first impression. In fact, researchers have identified clothing as one means of communicating an unspoken code, which demonstrates that the wearer of the clothes knows and understands why what they’ve chosen to wear is important to all involved. If you’re able to meet this challenge and learn how to dress for court, it will send the message that you are taking this situation very seriously and wish to perform as well and as responsible as possible. Both the judge and the jury are likely to appreciate this unspoken word.

    The jury will also be observing you and making subtle determinations about your character based upon many different criteria. One of the most important ones is the clothing that you choose to wear. Any slipups in the appearance department could spell trouble when trying to win a favorable impression with them. Therefore, you’re going to want to take extra care to come up with a courtroom attire that is clean, conservative, professional, and projects an image of responsibility. Your strategy will need to work for both the judge and the jury as you approach your wardrobe before your initial court appearance. With this in mind, let’s go ahead and take a look at which clothing will serve you best in making the strongest impression you can!

    What to Wear to Court

    Many seasoned legal professionals have advised that it is important to wear court attire that projects a professional demeanor, without excessive personality so that a certain anonymity is also preserved. They advise that it is best for the judge to see you just the same as anyone else in the room, which is why dressing professionally, yet conservatively is the general rule of thumb to go by. You don’t want the judge to see you as a complicated, problematic character. So look no further to find what you need to know as you put together your strategy of attire for your impending court date. In this next section, we’ll break down exactly what kinds of clothes you should seek out, from footwear to accessories. The image you want to project in court is a complete package, from the way you speak to your attitude, and your clothes.


    Take this advice to heart, and you may find yourself in good favor among those who matter the most, as you navigate this, at times, complicated affair. Fortunately, dress codes are often posted through official channels for you to review. Check with your local court to see if they have specific posted guidelines on court attire. Nothing helps more than to follow official protocols, exactly as they are written. The court is the house of the law, after all.


    For both men and women, it is important always to wear close-toed shoes. This doesn’t mean you should be channeling the lumberjack spirit and wear hiking boots or even tennis shoes. Instead, you’ll want to look for professional business shoes, such as standard dress shoes or oxfords for men. These shoes should be clean, and even polished, for the best results. Always ensure to take good care of your footwear and buff out any scuffs before you make your appearance. The small details matter, as it should always be assumed that the jury will see everything. For women, flats, or dress heels are appropriate.

    You don’t want to wear anything too flashy or something that will attract undue attention. That is what not to wear to court. So you’ll want to avoid high heels and sandals. Stockings and socks are always important as well. It is simply inappropriate to go without them in the courtroom. Some say that your shoes are the first thing people notice about you, so it’s essential to address them as well.


    The courtroom isn’t exactly the ideal place for you to be expressing your individuality. When it comes to hair, you’re going to want to lean towards conservative as well. This means that a more controlled and less flamboyant approach should be your goal. If your hair is long, you may want to schedule a haircut shortly before your appearance. And for women, try to avoid combs, rollers, and hairnets. Something like a ponytail or simple bun would be appropriate. For men, the same general rules apply: neat, simple, and conservative. You’ll want to avoid anything audacious, like a mohawk or spikes. If you can, decide on something neutral and visit a hairstylist before your scheduled appearance. Make sure that your hair is neatly trimmed and lined up properly. Few things are worse than a sloppy hairstyle.


    Hygiene is a fundamental and crucial aspect of your approach to your courtroom appearance. It’s the most basic aspect of any strong first impression. Things such as bad breath or body odor can seriously impact the way people view you, and not in a good way. Good habits are your best bet for establishing and preserving good hygiene. It’s best to get started as soon as possible if you need to make some improvements in this department. Trim your nails, brush and floss your teeth, use mouth wash, bathe regularly, get a good night’s sleep, and use deodorant regularly. The last thing you want is for a judge or jury to pick up on your poor hygiene and make a negative judgment on your character.

    In fact, this is the first thing most people will notice about you, and the last thing they’ll forget. Studies have shown that our sense of smell is directly linked to our memories. You don’t want the jury to be thinking of you in a bad light as they deliberate the outcome of your case.

    Tattoos & Piercings

    The priority when it comes to tattoos and piercings is to cover up or remove them wherever possible. These can be so influential on a jury; in fact, a judge in 2009 ordered a defendant to cover his political tattoos up so as not to sway their decision-making process. For tattoos on your arms and legs, the best choice would be to wear long clothing that will cover all of them in their entirety. And if you have tattoos on your neck, face, wrists, or other visible areas, the best thing to do is to cover them up with makeup. If your piercings can be removed, it is best to do so. Such things can serve as an unwanted distraction and may be viewed unfavorably. You’ll need to do everything you can to help your chances. This includes removing your piercings; no matter how much you spent on them or how much you may love them.

    What Not To Wear to Court

    Generally speaking, it is best practice to avoid all forms of excessively eccentric wardrobe choices. Despite the ever-changing fashion trends of modern times, the court is a very old institution. It would be wise to dress in a way that respects the long-standing place it has in our society. This means that attire meant for lounging around and playing video games or for going out for a night at the clubs should never be worn before an honorable judge. This is not the time for a fashion show or to be performative with your clothing. Instead, this is the time to be wise, calculated, and conservative with your choices.

    In the past, some people have attempted to appear wearing a leather mask, an Irish kilt, pajamas, or T-shirts with untoward images printed on it. These are all simply unacceptable. No matter how tempting it may be to use a court appearance to flex your personality or make a political statement, such behavior is never advised.  If you are looking to have a good day in court, it is best to avoid theatrics. You will need to focus instead on making the judge and jury feel comfortable with you. Demonstrating to them that you respect the authority of the court system by physically representing yourself respectably and appropriately will serve you best.

    Below is a short guide for both men and women.


    What to Wear to Court?

    For men, you always want to select a professional, nice button-down shirt. A suit jacket is a good choice in creating an image of professionalism, and with this, a tie is recommended. You want to show the judge that you’re taking this seriously, and you don’t want to be too casual. Your geographic location is important to consider, as well. If you find yourself in traffic court in a rural area, you might want to consider “dressing down” to a sports jacket and slip-on shoes without a tie.

    What Shouldn’t I Wear?

    In general, you want to make sure your outfit gives the impression of respectability. Any sleeveless or sports T-shirts are not encouraged in court. Jeans are also not a choice. You want to stay away from hats or excessive outfits. Sports shoes or flip flaps are also not recommended.


    What to Wear to Court?

    Unfortunately, women are often sexualized more for their clothing choices than men. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that women should make clothing choices that will not be distracting. This means that if you are going to wear a dress or a skirt, it should come down at least as far as just above the knees. Your hair should be simple and conservative; a bun or a ponytail would hit this note perfectly. Your heels should not be taller than two inches, and you should always wear darker pantyhose. It’s also important to make sure that your cleavage, back, and midriff are covered up as much as possible. A modest dress or slacks with a dress shirt would give appropriate coverage.

    What Shouldn’t I Wear?

    For women, the list of things you cannot wear in court is typically longer. Anything that is considered too sexy, like short skirts and tight tops is strictly forbidden. Sundresses or strapless dresses are also a no-no. No shorts or cut-off pants are allowed. As far as shoes, open-toed pieces are not encouraged.


    When it comes to jewelry, the general rule of thumb is to avoid anything that is flashy or makes noise. You don’t want to attract any undue attention, so be sure not to wear long columns of bracelets or keep loose change in your pockets. Overall, less is more, so you should consider not wearing any jewelry beyond a wedding ring and a watch if you wish to wear these. Simple earrings, perhaps a bracelet, and a ring is acceptable. But it is best not to overdo it with eccentric jewelry like gauged earrings, or massive gemstone necklaces.


    The same general rules apply to nails as well: be sure not to get too flashy, and to maintain a conservative aesthetic. You want to make sure that your nails are not too long or painted in eccentric colors.


    When it comes to accessories, modesty is the golden rule for proper attire for court. Men may want to include cuff links, a watch, or a pocket square. And all of this is acceptable, however, be sure to keep the accessories understated. The same is a proper guideline for women as well when it comes to jewelry. Generally speaking, sunglasses and hats are not allowed into a courtroom. If there is a medical need for sunglasses, be sure to present that to the court officials before entering the room. Also, if you have a religious justification for wearing a head covering, this is allowed as long as it does not cover your face.

    The same approach should be taken for choosing accessories as with the rest of your outfit; be sure to minimize flashiness, dress conservatively, and be both neutral and professional. It’s best not to wear accessories that are beyond the essentials. So as far as jewelry is concerned, stick to something simple like a watch or a wedding ring if you have one. You don’t want to look like you are trying to be cast as an extra in a film or music video about the marvelous excess of the prolific fashion accessories industry.

    Best Colors

    There’s a distinct science of psychology when it comes to deciding on the best colors to wear when presenting yourself before a judge. In keeping in line with what we’ve discussed on the formality of court and the importance of maintaining a degree of anonymity, it is best to avoid bright, showy colors. Instead, you’ll want to dress in darker, neutral shades. Projecting a seriousness of character is invaluable in court proceedings, whether it be in traffic court or criminal defense. However, you may want to avoid all black, as this can be misinterpreted as being representative of authority, and you want to imbue some modesty before the court.

    The best choice to go with, then, is navy blue or grey. If you’re a man, make sure to pick up a suit that matches this neutral, modest scheme. The same applies to women; however, a color such as white would also be appropriate. If you choose to appear in court donning clothes that look more appropriate for a beach vacation or a night at the dance club, it is likely that those deciding your case may think you’re not taking the situation seriously. This could hurt your chances of coming out on top.

    Does it Matter What Type of Court I am Going to?

    You may want to consider a different strategy based upon the significance of the court that you are attending. For example, you might find a traffic court, family court, and criminal court to be three distinct categories, and you would be right. Each of these different types of courts administers cases that vary in severity, and your dress code should adjust to accommodate. You don’t want to be seen as too flashy for traffic court by wearing a $3,000 suit. You also don’t want to be seen as arrogant and too casual in criminal court by wearing slip-ons with a sports jacket.

    What to Wear to Traffic Court?

    For minor traffic violations, it is acceptable to dress a little more casually. But this does not mean it’s okay to take that liberty too far and wear sweatpants or athletic shoes. For men this could be khaki slacks with a nice button-down shirt. A tie is not always necessary, but could certainly help. You’ll want to hit the right balance, so take care not to get excessive and make an appearance in traffic court wearing something like a full three-piece suit. Preserving your anonymity is crucial in making sure the traffic court sessions proceed smoothly.

    What to Wear to Family Court?

    When it comes to family court situations, it is advisable to dress a little more seriously. Another unique factor in these cases is the emphasis on dressing to show that you have financial security. This could play out well before a judge in a situation involving child custody, as they will need to know that you are able to provide for those under your care. Your general approach should be to dress very professionally, but also not too flashy. You want to strike that delicate balance between exuding maturity and financial security, without taking it so far as to show wanton spendthrift behavior. In cases like these, for men, it is advisable to wear a suit jacket as well as a tie. And for women, it is important to show financial security when possible through your accessory choices.

    What to Wear to Criminal Court?

    For the criminal court, your appearance should be regarded with the utmost earnestness. For men, this means that a suit is a must-have. If you can, it would also help to visit a tailor to ensure properly fitted clothes. Cleanliness and proper grooming are vital as well. Make sure your clothes have been recently dry-cleaned. Keep your hair well-trimmed, and shoes tidy. For women, it is advisable to wear neutral colors and dress conservatively for criminal court. This would be best accomplished by choosing a business dress or a professional pantsuit. Always be sure to minimize cleavage and avoid bare shoulders, back or midriff. Proper attire for court is a necessity for any appearance in criminal court.

    What to Wear to a Court Hearing?

    No matter where your preferences fall on the fashion spectrum when it comes to court, it’s always important to put your personal preferences aside. It is more essential to know how to dress for court, and your  impression on the judge or possibly the jury at this time. Time and time again, those who present themselves in court with flashy and controversial attire find themselves in undesirable situations very quickly. Take these guidelines and put together an airtight strategy for your attire, and you will put your best foot forward in the courtroom. By the time you make your appearance in court, you’ll want to ensure you have done everything within your control to have a favorable outcome.







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