What to wear at court
First impressions count, as they say, and people going to court ought to try and wear clothes that hopefully will be respectful of the court, and at least won’t hinder their case.
Here are some clues about what to wear or not to wear at court:
What to wear
- Think modest and conservative.
- Imagine you are going to a job interview. You want to make a good impression. The same applies when you are going before a complete stranger who might be deciding the fate of your children’s lives, your safety, or how much money you get.
- A guide might be what you might wear at church.
- Men don’t have to wear a suit, but at least appear neat, and clean.
- Women don’t have to wear a dress. Pants and top are fine, as are skirts and tops, but think tasteful and conservative.
- Similarly with hairstyles: tasteful and conservative usually helps.
- If in doubt, ask your lawyer!
The easier list to write is:
What not to wear
- Bits of metal evidently protruding from your face or other body bits. An earring is OK, even for men, but lots of metal is a definite no-no.
- A hairstyle that screams “I am rebelling against society and all its norms”. Turn up a la skinhead, and you risk being treated appropriately by a judge. A woman who asserts, for example, that she is not a violent diesel dyke, but turns up with a platinum blonde buzz cut, with tattoos galore, and muscles bulging is not convincing. Tone down the hair.
- Visible tattoos. Wearing hair and beard a la outlaw motorcycle biker, with swastika tattoos to match, while asserting that you are a loving family man and doting husband is completely unconvincing. Cover up.
- Showing lots of skin. Whilst wearing very low cleavage may be a turn on, you aren’t seeking to turn the judge on. You are seeking to show to the judge that you respect the institution of the court and of the judge, and that you are trying to put your best foot forward and make a good impression. Wearing two tea towels disguised as a top and skirt is a good way to hurt your case before anyone has said anything. Similarly women who can demonstrate new uses and delights with dental floss (top and skirt). Men who decide, for example, that a Jackie Howe singlet is the right court dress may be excluded by some court officials from entry to the courtroom.
- Wearing anything obscene. I have been amazed over the years to see people turn up to court wearing obscenities on their clothing. If they are allowed into court, they are likely to cop a tongue lashing from the bench, and a much worse outcome than if they had turned up modestly dressed.
- Wearing anything that you think is funny. Mocking the court is never a good approach. Would you turn up at a job interview and mock your prospective employer?
- Pyjamas. Yes, I have seen people turn up to court in pyjamas. Why the need, I do not know.
- Garish makeup. Tone it down.
- Dressing looking like a prostitute.
- Showing your underwear. Yes your Calvin Kleins might be snug, but don’t show them at court. Pants up to cover up! Similarly the delight of seeing you wearing a Gstring will be completely lost on the judge.
- Ballgowns and black tie. While it may be fun to go to a ball, court is not that occasion! Wearing a dinner suit at your divorce might be amusing to you because you wore a dinner suit at your wedding, but may be very unhelpful in getting you what you want from the court!
- Shorts for men.
- Excess jewellery.
- Inappropriate footwear. It may sound amazing, but I have seen people turn to court barefoot. These aren’t people in custody! Or turn up wearing thongs. For blokes, trying to say that you are an upright citizen when wearing stubbies, thongs and Tshirts is always a bad look at court.
- Clothes advertising a product or a company. You may drink litres of Coke a day, but turning up to court as a walking billboard may see you refused entry to the courtroom.
- Clothes with slogans. It is particularly stupid, for example, to be telling the court that you have stopped taking drugs, but you are wearing a Tshirt “Weed my lips” decorated with a big green marijuana leaf.
- Clothes that yell “bad taste”. For example many years ago I appeared at court with a client whom I had advised to wear a suit to court. He had been charged with paedophilia offences. His case was hurt by what he wore: a brown safari suit, with a matching 1970’s WIDE brown and white checked tie! His clothes screamed: “PAEDOPHILE!” I could not have imagined that such hideous creations existed before I set eyes on them, by which time it was too late to send him home to wear something appropriate.
- Turning up evidently unclean. If your case is that, contrary to the allegations of your ex that you neglect the children, because you don’t; turning up with filthy fingernails, shirts with bits of food hanging off them and clearly oily unwashed hair is extremely unhelpful to your cause.
If you think the problem is isolated to Australia, think again. As seen in a recent American Bar Association Journal article, with lots of funny comments by lawyers, the problem exists there, too.