Most people have very limited experience inside of courtrooms. They may have watched Law and Order or other shows and movies that depict courtroom scenes on T.V., but for a significant percentage of the population, a courtroom is a place they have never been.

If you are headed to court for the first time, either as a plaintiff in a bad faith insurance case or witness testifying in a car accident lawsuit, it is natural to wonder what you should wear. Of course, a good place to start is by asking your lawyer what type of attire is acceptable in a courtroom, and the answer might vary depending on why you are going.

Generally speaking, the courtroom is a solemn, even sacred place. The halls of justice are not made for flamboyant attire, piercings, tattoos, or other attention-grabbing clothes and accessories. In fact, one study even showed that some people stereotype and stigmatize others who have tattoos or body piercings. Whether that is right or not, some of those people could be sitting on your jury. 

Judges too, are to be respected, which often means wearing professional clothing. If you show up looking like a slob on your day in court, the judge might be offended and think you are not taking the matter seriously.

To help you figure out what you should (and shouldn’t) wear to court, here several other things to keep in mind.

What Not to Wear (to Court)

It might be helpful to first consider what not to wear to court. Generally speaking, you want to avoid clothing, footwear, and accessories that make you look unprofessional or disinterested. A day in court is not the same as a day at the beach. For that reason you should probably not wear:

  • Shorts, jeans, sweatpants, or any other pants that are overtly casual 
  • Tennis shoes, flip flops, crocs, hiking boots, or sandals
  • Clothing that reveals your midriff, large tattoos, or shows too much skin
  • Piercings in your nose, lips, eyebrows, or more than one in either ear
  • Your hair should not be done in a mohawk or colored blue, pink, or any other “unusual” color

Wearing any of the above could leave your appearance open to a negative interpretation by the judge and or jury. Whether you like it or not, your appearance is an integral part of your case and can affect your verdict. 

A rule you can keep in mind is this, if you wouldn’t want your lawyer to wear something or look a certain way when they were representing you, it might not be a good idea to wear that particular item either. You probably wouldn’t hire a blue-haired lawyer with a nose ring. And for good reason.

Dress Like You are Going to Job Interview

In a sense, a court appearance is like a job interview. You are being interviewed and analyzed by the judge and jury and your appearance can matter almost as much as the facts of your case. 

A good test, then, is to ask yourself if you would wear a particular piece of clothing to a job interview. If the answer is yes, then it would probably work in court too. This can include:

  • Suit and tie for men and any type of suit and dress shirt for women
  • Dress shoes, loafers, or shoes with a very low heel
  • Hair that is styled in a way that looks presentable but not overdone
  • A watch, necklace, or earrings that are tasteful

If you show up on your day in court dressed like a professional you will communicate to the judge and jury that you are taking the matter seriously. It might even create sympathy for you and your case, especially if the other side has chosen not to dress in a professional manner.

Modesty is a virtue when it comes to dressing for court. And so is humility. If you feel you are unsure of what to wear, don’t hesitate to ask your lawyer.

Check Your Local Court’s Rules

Thanks to technology, it’s fairly easy to access information that might be able to help you make a decision about what to wear to court. For instance, if you have a hearing before a judge at the Eastern District of Oklahoma, you can find information about the court’s dress code online. A simple web search will let you know that “business casual attire is acceptable” and that certain things – like sweatpants and hats – aren’t okay. Today, most courts have this kind of information online.