Going to court? One thing you can be certain of – you’ll be judged on your appearance. Court has to be one of the most important places to make a good first impression. Whether you’re in the dock, on the witness stand, addressing the jury, or attending the public gallery, it’s vital to project the right image.
Admittedly if you’re a barrister or the judge, all you need is your cape and wig. For everyone else we’re laying down the law: here’s what to wear to court.
Dress to impress – wear a suit
Whatever your role in proceedings, it’s important to look smart. Should you be unfortunate enough to be standing trial, you must look sober and respectable so the jury will find you credible; a man of integrity.
Your best bet is to dress as you would for a business meeting, or perhaps church. Wear a suit and tie – it’s never a good idea to tempt the judge to imagine you’re holding the court in contempt – they can get a little upset about that.
Pitch it right
There are many different courts, each with its own particular procedures, and each requiring subtle variations in sartorial standard.
Antonio Centeno of Real Men Real Style recommends listening to lawyers’ recommendations on what to wear. He says:
“Dressing down to seem innocent or dressing up to disassociate yourself from negativity could contribute to what the judge or jury think about you.”
If you’re facing criminal proceedings, you need to look plausible. Equally, if you’re pleading a divorce case, looking a little less than your full net worth isn’t a bad idea – leave the Rolex and silk shirt at home.
Patty Hearst, the US newspaper magnate’s daughter, turned domestic terrorist, famously wore oversized clothes to her trial to make herself look more vulnerable. As a man, pulling the same move will only make you look scruffy.
But you can still get the sympathy vote by avoiding power dressing, and looking meek by wearing a pair of glasses, even if you don’t need them – research shows wearers of specs are more likely to gain the jury’s trust.
Pick a colour
Again, conservative is key. You want to look respectable and respectful, rather than ready to drive from the dock to drinks.
Go for a dark suit, as it has more gravitas than a beige, brown, or dove grey number; either navy blue or charcoal is your best bet. Avoid black because it’s too harsh and may make you appear overbearing.
The same rules apply to shirts – stick with simple, humble colours like whites and blues to reflect humility, innocence and trustworthiness, rather than passionate reds.
For your tie, go with a sober colour that complements your suit. Dark reds, and blues work well.
That said, if you’re due to spend several days in the judge’s eye, you may benefit from softening your appearance in the middle of the trial with some pastel shades – but it’s always best to check with your lawyer if in doubt.
Pick an accessory
There’s one accessory that’s practically made for court – your briefcase. A sophisticated yet plain number in brown or black leather is perfect for taking along any documents you may require, and leaves you looking smart in every sense.
But generally, less is more when it comes to courtroom accessories; remember, the more you’re carrying, the more fuss when you have to go through the metal detector.
Again, the main aim is to look well presented without overdoing it, so leave the pocket squares and the wing-tip brogues at home. All you really need to wear is shirt, suit and tie and smart black shoes.
If the weather outside is cold or the sun’s particularly bright, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a hat, but you must take it off as soon as you get inside.
Have you ever had cause to visit the criminal or civil courts? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your sartorial hints over on our Facebook page.