There is a place where first impressions are more crucially important than at a job interview, a first date, or meeting your future in-laws for the first time: inside the courtroom.
Lately I have been surprised and disappointed by the indiscretion of people's clothing choices inside the courtroom. Lawyers, jurors, and witnesses are also offenders. Some days I can't tell if I'm in court or a People of Walmart video shoot (no offense to Walmart).
I am not someone who judges others by their outward appearance or what they are wearing. Just last week I dropped my child off at school still in my pajamas, and picked her up in sweaty workout clothes. (I do that more than I should, and I practically live in yoga pants) I like to think I am open minded and free of bias, after all, I'm not a judge or juror. So I'm happy to argue that you are a great person or outstanding citizen regardless of how many visible tattoos and piercings you have. However, like I said earlier, I'm not a judge. I'm not the one who is going to be making a very important decision about your life based on very little information. Part of that information is your appearance in the courtroom. Keep in mind that your judge is going to be older and more conservative than you are. While you don’t think the diamond stud in your nose or the tattoo on your neck is a big deal, your judge might. In a perfect world, how you are dressed or what you look like shouldn’t matter. You should win or lose your case based on facts and the law. But, guess what? The world isn’t perfect, and neither is your judge.
So, with that in mind, here are my top ten suggestions on how to NOT dress when you have any type of court appearance in front of a judge:
1. There are no gyms or workout equipment in the courthouse!
You love to workout and you care about your health, good for you! You should not show up for court in workout attire. Ladies, leave the yoga pants at home. Leggings and spandex are not appropriate and do not belong in a courtroom. Men, no sweat pants or basketball shorts. Also, this isn't the gun show, you do not have the right to show your "guns" in court. Please do not wear shirts with the arms cut off. No sneakers or athletic shoes, ever!
2. You are not going to a sporting event!
Jerseys or any attire showcasing your favorite team are not appropriate for court. Your judge might be a longhorn fan, but he is not going to be a fan of you sporting your UT Longhorn football jersey in his courtroom. This includes baseball caps, leave them home with the jerseys.
3. It's not a pajama party!
You are not going to a sleepover. The judge will not be asking you for suggestions on face masks and night creams, there will be no braiding each other's hair. Do not show up at court looking like you just got out of bed. So no pajamas, no rollers in your hair, no lounge wear.
4. No, you can not wear jeans to court!
It doesn't matter how nice you think your rhinestone bedazzled jeans are. You are not attending a rodeo, you are going before a judge. Unless your courtroom appearance is in cowboy court in a rustic, backwoods, middle-of-nowhere courthouse, jeans are a no no.
5. You are not going out for a night at the club or a party!
You are going to court, not a singles bar. No low cut or crop tops. No sequins, no see through lace, no glitzy or flashy attire. Looking too flashy can hurt your credibility and judges do not like short skirts. Do not wear skirts and dresses so short that you need a Brazilian wax before wearing them. Do not wear too much jewelry or heavy cologne/perfume.
6. No one wants to see your toes!
Unless you are going to the beach or the pool, you should leave the flip flops at home! Open-toed shoes are not appropriate, nor are they allowed in a courtroom. This goes for open toe sandals as well.
7. You are not auditioning for Duck Dynasty or joining the lumberjack club!
Men, you don't have to be clean-shaven, but you should definitely 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, such as super-long beards and crazy mustaches.
8. Don't let your face set off the metal detector!
Ok, we live in Austin, I understand that piercings are your way of expressing who you are, but it's not going to kill you to take them out temporarily for a court appearance. One earring in each ear for women is fine. Men should NOT wear any earrings or other facial jewelry. So the nose ring, the lip ring, the eyebrow piercing – they all have to go. I have no advice for gauged ear piercings. Whether you leave them in or take them out, it’s going to look odd. Just try to style your hair so your ears don’t show, I guess.
9. Tattoos, cover them!!
This one should be a no-brainer right? However I'm constantly seeing neck and face tattoos that can easily be covered. If you have tattoos that are gang related, you definitely want them covered. Wear a scarf, use makeup, bridal shops sell flesh-colored patches to cover tattoos.
10. Court isn't a rock concert!
T-shirts, NO, just no! No band t-shirts, no tie dye, no t-shirts with writing on them! No solid color t-shirts, no t-shirts with pictures. I don't care if you ironed it and it's nice and crisp, it's a T-SHIRT!!
What you SHOULD WEAR to court:
• if you have a suit and tie, that is always preferable
• dress slacks
• blazer/sport coat (if you have one) and a tie
• a collared shirt, tucked in, with a belt
• make sure you are well-groomed
(If you have long hair, please pull it back)
• a dress or skirt with a conservative top
• dress pants or pantsuit
• light makeup
• modest jewelry
• make sure you are well-groomed
• please do not wear anything that reveals your bra straps
This list is just my opinion. If you are going to court you should ask your lawyer how he/she thinks you should dress. The lawyers at Dorothy Butler Law Firm counsel their clients on how to make the best impression in court, including how to dress and present themselves.