Whether you’re headed to a formal court hearing or a courthouse wedding, dressing appropriately is essential. It’s important to look professional and respectful of the judicial system when you appear in court. A neat and clean appearance can also help inspire confidence in those who are involved. Here is what to wear for a variety of scenarios, from the witness stand to your own wedding.
Rule #1: Dress Elegantly
Rule #1: Dress Elegantly
What you wear to court tells everyone in the room how you feel about your case. If you’re not taking your case seriously, why should the judge or jury? When it comes to deciding what to wear, err on the side of elegance and formality. Wear nice clothes that make a good impression, even if they’re not as comfortable as a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. The courtroom is not the place for casual attire; instead, dress as though you are going to a formal event or attending an interview for an important job. Be sure to avoid ripped or frayed clothing and refrain from wearing anything overly revealing—it’s best to choose something more conservative.
Rule #2: Take off your hat
> Do not put your hat on the bench.
> Do not put your hat on the floor, or in the aisle, or anywhere else it will impede traffic.
> Do not place your hat on the table or chair next to you.
> Do not place your hat on the witness stand if you are testifying.
Rule #3: Remove your sunglasses
Remove your sunglasses.
Just… don’t wear sunglasses in court, whatever you do.
It’s the same principle as the baseball hat: if you wear your shades in front of a judge or jury, they will think you are hiding something – probably your eyes, to avoid eye contact and look shifty.
Again, never assume that the people listening to or reading what you’re saying know what they need to know; assume instead that they have no idea why you shouldn’t be wearing sunglasses in court (or why you shouldn’t ever wear a hat), and tell them. As far as we’re concerned, it’s better to say too much than not enough when writing for an audience; this is especially true when dealing with unfamiliar topics.
Rule #4: Be on time
As soon as you give the court your name and address, they’ll quickly put you on their list of people to call. They won’t care if you can’t spell your own name, or how long it takes you to figure out how to pronounce it in a way that doesn’t sound like English is your third language. This isn’t a spelling bee or a talent show.
If you’re late, you wait outside with everyone else who wasn’t punctual enough for court. You should also know that being chronically late might get you charged with contempt of court, which is not the same as contempt of cop—you can still assert your Fifth Amendment rights by saying “I plead the fifth” (or just “the fifth” or “plead the fifth” if that’s easier). But I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless there are crumbs on your shirt from eating Popeye’s on the ride over, because judges tend not to like being referred to as police officers.
Rule #5: Display respect toward everyone
- Do not chew gum, eat or drink anything.
- Do not make any noise, such as rattling your keys, humming or whispering.
- Do not wear sunglasses.
- Do not get up from your seat without permission and do not lean on the witness stand if you are called to testify.
Rules for women
For women, the rules of what to wear in court are as follows:
- No mini-skirts or shorts, regardless of how long they are.
- No spaghetti straps.
- No T-shirts with inappropriate messages.
- Avoid a low-cut dress or top.
- Avoid flip-flops and sneakers. If you have to wear something casual, try ballet flats or loafers.
- Avoid a baseball cap, especially if it is worn backward. It may seem like harmless fun, but this is not the time for your sassiness to shine through.
Rules for men
Men should wear a suit to court, plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean you can just throw on whatever suit is the cleanest and call it a day. Your suit should be tailored for your body type and in dark colors, such as navy blue or charcoal gray. Add a solid-color tie in a complementary shade if you want, but it’s not necessary.
Invest in dress shoes with laces—no sneakers, no flip-flops, no sandals!—and keep them polished before your appearance. If you’re wearing socks, they should match the color of your pants.
That’s really all there is to it: wear a suit, wear dress shoes that aren’t sneakers or sandals, and don’t wear inappropriate clothing like ripped jeans or shorts. If you need more guidance than that for dressing for court proceedings as a man, we do not know how to help you! Ahh!
What not to wear in court?
No matter what the occasion, there are certain items of clothing that are rarely appropriate. Court is no different: not only will your attire reflect on you, but it also can affect how others perceive you. When attending court, you should avoid the following:
- Sunglasses or other eyewear (unless for medical reasons)
- Hats and caps (except for religious headgear)
- Flip-flops and other revealing shoes
Mini skirts or dresses with hemlines above mid-thigh. If you wear a skirt in court, choose a length that’s knee-length or longer. Jeans and tank tops T-shirts Sleeveless tops and dresses Any top or dress that’s revealing in any way
How to dress for court?
An important first step to dressing for court is to wear clothes that fit. You should be comfortable in whatever you choose, but the most appropriate clothes are those that fit well.
For women, your dress should not be too short, too tight, or have a plunging neckline. For men, your clothing should not be too tight or short (don’t wear shorts). A suit is usually appropriate for both men and women. Dark suits are preferred by some attorneys because they look more professional than colored suits and light-colored suits can show dirt quite easily. Some judges may prefer a lighter-colored suit because it shows respect for the judicial system by not wearing black to court like you would for a funeral. In either case, make sure your clothes are clean and pressed and you look neat and tidy.
No matter how long it takes you to get ready on the day of court, it will probably seem like less time than actually passes. Before leaving home on the day of your case, take an extra few minutes to make sure all visible body parts are clean (especially under fingernails) and you’re well groomed (hair brushed/combed/shaved).
You should behave respectfully, or it will be worse for you.
Just be respectful. I know this is a lot to ask of you, but the courtroom really isn’t the ideal place for your most confrontational self to thrive. It’s important that you treat everyone in the room—the judge, court staff, and other people there—with the decency they deserve. The judge will appreciate it if you choose to wear clothes that are appropriate enough not to offend them or distract them while they’re doing their job (i.e., pants).
Speaking of clothing, let’s tackle that right now.
The tips included above should help you be prepared for your day in court. However, don’t forget the following:
- Be sure that you know exactly where you are going.
- Make sure that you arrive on time.
- Dress neatly and appropriately.
- Be respectful and courteous to everyone.
- Listen carefully to everything that is said.
As long as you take note of these tips, your day in court should go smoothly, whether it’s for a traffic citation or for something as serious as a DUI charge.