I can tell from experience that yes, it definitely does matter what you wear to court. The judge, jury and everyone else in the courtroom will take notice of how you choose to present yourself to the court. You want to show that (a) you respect the courtroom and (b) that you are taking the matter seriously. Whether it is as simple as a contested traffic ticket or more complicated like a medical malpractice case, it is important to dress appropriately for court.
That doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit and tie. Nonetheless, there is definitely a difference between a pair of slacks with a button-up shirt compared to flip-flops, shorts and tank tops. You want to present the best image you can to the court. This will help your lawyer in his or her representation on your behalf. This is pertinent advice not only for New York litigants – USA today reported recently that inappropriate dress is occurring in courts all across the country.
What NOT to wear to court:
- Sleeveless or muscle shirt.
- Exercise outfit.
- Anything sexy or too dressy – tight tops, short skirts, sequins, slinky tops, revealing tops. Don’t wear anything you’d wear out on a Saturday night!
- Sundress or strapless dress.
- Crop tops. Cover your belly button!
- Any top with spaghetti straps.
- T-shirts (especially ones with beer, drug or sexual references).
- Anything you’d wear to the zoo or to do yard work.
- Athletic attire, especially baseball caps.
- Jeans, unless they are the only long pants you own.
- Clothing that is too small or too large.
- Clothing that reveals your underwear.
- Shorts or cut-offs.
(Most Courts will NOT allow you to enter the courtroom if you are wearing shorts.)
- Flip-flop sandals.
- Athletic shoes.
- High-heel spikes.
- Open-toed shoes.
- Anything you’d wear at the beach.
- Lots of jewelry, especially if it makes noise when you move.
- Sunglasses, unless medically prescribed.
- Wet and messy.
- Unnatural dye job.
- Hairnet and/or curlers.
- Weird or unusual haircut.
- Look dirty or unshaven.
- Cologne and perfume. Use very little. Too much and everyone will wonder what you are trying to cover up!
- Smelling like cigarette smoke.
- Smelling like pot. That’s a totally different problem!
- Smelling of alcohol. Again that’s a totally different problem!
- Nails – extremely long nails on both men and women, neon or bright nail polish.
Tattoos & Piercings:
- Hide the tattoos.
- Remove the jewelry BEFORE entering the courtroom.
- Bare legs or shoulders showing.
Ideas of what you should to the courthouse:
- Conservative dress – something you would wear to church, work or a nice social function. (If you wear a uniform to work, it is usually OK to wear it to court unless you wear shorts to work.)
- Wear clothes that fit. If you have gained or lost a lot of weight, please buy something new for your courtroom appearance.
- Suit with tie.
- Sports coat.
- Long-sleeve button-down shirt with a collar and long pants.
- Wear a belt or suspenders to keep up your pants.
- A nice dress or woman’s business suit.
- A conservative pants suit.
- Conservative top and long slacks.
- Less is more. Remove all piercings.
- If you claim you have no money, then wearing lots of jewelry is unwise.
- Make sure nails are neat and clean.
- Wear neutral nail polish.
- Wear closed-toe shoes.
- Wear conservative shoes.
- Schedule a haircut two weeks before the court appearance.
- Look neatly groomed. If your hair is long, tie it back. No hairnets, rollers or combs.
- Brush your teeth and use mouthwash.
- Men, shave before court and trim your mustache/beard.
- Women, wear very conservative make-up.
- Use soap and water liberally before coming to court.
- Deodorant. You will be nervous, so be prepared.
- If you perspire a lot, bring a handkerchief or whatever to look cool and confident.
- Cover tattoos.
For questions about this article, Feel free to contact me directly or 516.358.6900.