How to Dress for Court

Clothes Maketh the Man (or Woman)

Telling clients how to dress for court is part of my job as a workers’ comp attorney. You see, I am at hearings in MD and the District of Columbia on a daily basis, and I’ve seen attire in the courtrooms that is simply unbelievable.  Please, trust me, when I say that what you wear and how you present yourself to the court, matters. And it matters regardless if it’s a workers’ compensation hearing, a contested parking ticket, a small claims matter or anything else. Regardless of your reason for appearing in court, I cannot stress the importance of dressing appropriately.

There’s a Time and Place for Everything

Let me give you a few examples of some of the things I’ve seen in my 26 years of going to court:

  • Coming to court with pants that have rips in them. This is not a good idea. I’m always surprised when I see someone in court wearing them.
  • Wearing shirts that have logos (maybe a team mascot or corporation’s name). It is my recommendation to avoid wearing these, especially in combination with ripped jeans.
  • Bedroom attire. I’ve seen it and it doesn’t sit well with the judge. So leave your slippers, pajamas, and robes at home.
  • Gaudy jewelry. Yes, it may be nice and it may be wonderful to wear to work or on vacation, but too much jewelry is distracting and unwise.

There are so many bad clothing and hair and hygiene options to go over that perhaps it will be easier (and shorter) to go over what is appropriate for court.

  • If you’re a man or woman, wear a nice pair of professional pants and shirt. Think “business casual”.
  • Professional-like shoes, such as flats for women and dress shoes or casual shoes for men. Think of it this way, avoid sneakers, sandals or flip flops, slippers and Crocs.

More than Meets the Eye

What you wear gives off a first impression to the judge. And remember, the judge isn’t just listening to you; he or she is also looking at you.  The same goes for the jurors (if applicable), and all courtroom personnel.

The way you dress for court tells everyone you’re serious. Also, it tells them whether or not the way you’re dressed is appropriate to the injuries you’re alleging. For example, women should not wear 3-inch high heels if they are alleging they’re suffering from back or knee pain.

Remember, when it comes to how to dress for court the best practice is to keep it thoughtful and tasteful. For quick reference, download our infographic guide or watch our 2-Minute Tuesday Briefing.