Most court dress codes are strict, intending to keep order and protect the safety of attendees. They are also designed to match the level of respect one should grant the justice system. And, because judges are the arbiters of that respect, they also have the right to enforce the dress code–with fines and jail time.
Make yourself look as attractive as possible (without violating the dress code)!
A recent study from researchers at Cornell Universityfound that more attractive defendants were more likely than their less pretty counterparts to get light sentences: the less attractive criminals earned, on average, “22 months longer in prison.” One could easily see that a criminal defendant, or anyone involved in a court proceeding, might be considered more attractive to those involved in the process (prosecutor, judge, jury) if what they wear to court shows they have respect for what is going on around them.
When choosing what to wear to court, ask yourself this question: How do I want to portray myself?
Generally, in a criminal case, the goal is to look as young and innocent as possible.
Colors are important! Do not wear brown clothes in court.
DO NOT WEAR:
hat (except those worn for religious purposes)
t-shirt or muscle shirt
clothing that exposes your midriff or underwear
baggy pants that fall below your hips
clothing with an emblem or wording that promotes illegal or inappropriate activity
clothing that depicts or promotes violence, sex acts, illegal drug use or profanity
extremely expensive outfits
flashy jewelry, i.e. “bling”
sandals or open-toe shoes
large rings, cufflinks, tie tacks and earrings
red or pink clothing
all black clothing
more than one ring
Example of what NOT to wear in court:
Remove all visible piercings. This specifically includes tongue piercings and nose rings.
Cover all visible tattoos.
Wear a belt if your pants have belt loops.
Tuck in your shirt.
Wear closed toe shoes
Wear glasses if you normally wear glasses.
Wear your hair and nails trimmed and orderly.
Dress like a professional.
Dress conservatively and, when appropriate, wear good quality clothing.
If you have a choice, always dress as well as the other people who may appear in court.
Remember that the “good guys” never wear black.
Always be neat and clean.
Avoid putting anything on your hair that makes it shine or appear greasy.
Avoid wearing tinted or dark colored glasses in the courtroom (people will not believe you if they cannot see your eyes – this is true inside and outside the courtroom).
Wear only functional jewelry (e.g., wedding ring and wrist watch).
Avoid wearing items that may identify a personal association or belief. Political buttons, club pins, college rings, religious jewelry may trigger some prejudices against you in the mind of a judge or prosecutor.
Dress to fit the expectations of your audience; judges expect you to look like a professional.
Be clean. Nothing is more offensive than a bad body odor; it creates a negative aura around the person and conveys the image of someone with low self-esteem and lack of confidence. I cannot emphasize enough how important cleanliness is. Even if you cannot afford to buy soap, a quick shower with just water will do the job.
Remember that even a small flaw in your appearance will be noticed by the judge, jury, and/or prosecutor, and it may hurt your credibility.
If you are not dressed properly, you will be asked to leave the courtroom and return at a later time or date. This will delay your hearing or trial and could require you to appear in court more than once.
If you have any questions about your attire, you should consult with your lawyer BEFORE you step in the courtroom!