Fargo & Moorhead Legal Team

The Do’s and Don’ts of Court Room Dress Codes

Having to go to court for any reason can be extremely stressful. No one ever actually wants to go to court, but if you find yourself heading there, make sure you know the basics of court room etiquette. A large component of that includes how you present yourself. Whether it’s a custody hearing, civil matter, or you have criminal charges against you, making a good impression is imperative. You should always come to court fully prepared and use every tool available in your arsenal. While there is no court dress code per se, coming to court looking like a slob won’t help your case. Below are a few suggestions that will help you decide if you’re look is appropriate for the courtroom.

  1. The most important rule to follow is to always come to court in clean, pressed clothes. Nothing looks worse than clothes that are wrinkled, stained, torn, or otherwise soiled. If something has a stain on it, don’t wear it to court. If your jeans have holes in them, don’t wear them to court. If you wore something out to the bar the previous night, don’t wear it to court. (Probably don’t go to the bar the night before anyway, but that’s a separate issue.) If your clothes are wrinkled, iron them. If you don’t have an iron, throw them in the dryer for a few minutes. Basically, if you look like a mess, the judge or jury will get the impression that you are a mess. So clean up your act and your appearance!
  2. Along with wearing clean clothing, you should always aim to dress to impress. A good guideline for what you should wear to court is an outfit you would wear to a job interview or even a funeral. You always want to look as polished and put together as possible. If you don’t like to dress up or don’t really have any dress clothes, it’s not as difficult to put something together as you think. For men, a simple suggestion is a pair of khakis and a button up shirt. You don’t have to wear a suit if you don’t have one or hate wearing suits, although I personally think suits are best. If you don’t have those particular items of clothing, you should. If you are on a tight budget, there are plenty of inexpensive options at the mall or second hand stores. And as far as shoes go, don’t wear tennis shoes or sandals and make sure they are clean. If you don’t have any dress shoes and don’t want to pay much, go to some place like Payless. As for women, there are many more options as far as dress clothes go. Most women should be able to piece together something out of their closet. If you like wear dresses, wear a dress or skirt with a blazer or cardigan. If you like wearing pants, you might choose a pair of dress pants and a button up shirt. Don’t wear anything too low cut or tight and don’t wear dresses or skirts that are too short. Tights or nylons make you look more modest, but a lot of people hate wearing them, so that’s more of a personal choice. Also, don’t wear any heels that are too high or flashy. You want to appear professional, not sexy.
  3. Now that you have the basics down for what you should and should not wear, we need to talk about tattoos and piercings. Court is not the place for personal expression, so if you express yourself through body art, you should probably cover it up. No one is impressed by a huge tattoo on your neck. If you have tattoos that can’t be covered up by clothing, you should put a little concealer on them to cover them up. As far as piercings go, modest piercings are okay. If you have a little stud in your nose, fine. But if you have a huge ring through your nose, you might want it to take it out. Tattoos and piercings don’t scream professional or responsible, so if you want a positive outcome, tone it down a little bit.
  4. If you happen to be facing a jury trial, here’s an interesting tidbit of information for you. Studies have shown that juries tend to favor people who wear blue. So if you need all the help you can get, put on a blue shirt or tie to impress that jury!
  5. Another court room fashion faux pas is hats. Straight brimmed hats and beanies don’t exactly make a good impression to begin with, but the bailiff will always instruct you to take it off anyway. So unless you think matted down or messed up hair looks nice, leave your beanie at home.

If you follow this simple guideline of what to and what not to wear, you’ll be sure to make a good first impression in court. If you dress respectable, the judge and jury will take note.