Dress To Be Judged!

Below are excerpts taken from lawyer’s advise to their clients who are defendants about the importance of how they dress influences the juries that will try them.
Even though we know these factors it is amazing how the world recognizes these points when someone is being “judged” and yet everyday appearance is not worthy of appraisal.
Maybe some of these points will be useful for illustrations?
From Lawyers – Advice to Defendants
First Example:
You never have a second chance to make a first impression, and your courtroom attire says a lot about your attitude and respect for the court and the judge. I always tell my clients to dress as if they were going to church, to a funeral, or on an important job interview. Personally, I do not care whether you are a professional or not, this is the most important thing going on in your life right now, and I want you to take every opportunity to gain the upper hand. I know that I try at all times to be the best dressed lawyer in the courtroom. It is my goal that no DA is ever been better dressed, more appropriately dressed, or more expensively dressed than I, especially when I am in trial, and this helps to give me confidence. There is no reason that you should not be the second best dressed person in the courtroom. (This always annoys the DA.)
If you happen to wear suits to work, wear them to court. If you do not, you should be prepared to invest in one. You do not need to buy an entire wardrobe, even if you are going to be in a prolonged trial.
Obviously, one must also make sure he or she is well groomed, alert, and in the right frame of mind. (This obviously applies to in custody defendants as well.) Haircuts are mandatory, as is good grooming. No visible tattoos, and no facial jewelry of any kind for men. The formality of dress clothes and good grooming results in added confidence, intimidation of the prosecutor, and recognition by the judge that you are showing respect for the court. But it is the jury who will decide your fate, and if they come into court for the first time, they should not be able to tell who is the attorney, and who is the criminal defendant. If you see them looking around for the defendant, then you know that they will be impressed with how seriously we take our case.
Second Example:
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.
Avoid wearing loud colors.
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.
Wear only functional jewelry (e.g., wedding ring and wrist watch).
Large bracelets, rings, cufflinks, tie tacks and earrings are distracting to the jury.
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 juror.
Dress to fit the expectations of your audience; jurors expect you to look like a professional.
Remember that even a small flaw in your appearance will be noticed by someone on the jury and it may hurt your credibility.
Third Example:
The Effect of Defendant’s Courtroom Attire on Jurors’ Verdicts
The present study examines whether a defendant depicted in a prison jumpsuit is seen as guiltier than a defendant in dress attire.
In recent decades, physical appearance has been a widely researched topic in psychology, especially in criminal court proceedings. While many studies on defendant appearance have found that appearance can influence verdicts.
Fourth Example:
That all persons accused of crimes are entitled to a fair and impartial trial is the most basic premise of Anglo-American criminal law. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by due process of law. To be effective, however, the presumption of innocence requires the garb of innocence, and regardless of the ultimate outcome, or of the evidence awaiting presentation, every defendant is entitled to be brought before the court with the appearance, dignity, and self-respect of a free and innocent man, except as the necessary safety and decorum of the court may otherwise require.’
“Garb of innocence” refers to the right of the defendant to appear in court free from those factors which might tend to portray him as a criminal before his guilt is proved. This “garb” includes three general rights: (1) The right to stand trial free of physical restraints; (2) the right to appear in civilian rather than prison clothes; and (3) the right to have the court- room itself free from an unduly heavy guard.
Fifth Example:
Defendants in Municipal Court should dress accordingly to the dignity and respect of the Court.* Inappropriate attire will not be tolerated in the Courtroom.* No clothing displaying offensive or vulgar words or pictures will be permitted (the Court retains the exclusive right to define “offensive” and “vulgar” on an individual basis).* No mini skirts, shorts, tank tops, halter tops, exposed midriffs, baggy jeans that fall below the hips, hats (except for those worn for religious purposes), or flip flops will be allowed in the Courtroom.
Sixth Example:
Courtroom Attire
Attorneys almost always advise their clients on how to dress for court appearances. Without such advice, defendants should simply plan on dressing as if they are going to an interview for a professional job. This usually means suits or conservative business attire.*
Most courts have dress codes, too. To start, these codes usually prohibit hats (except for religious purposes), shorts, tank tops, and bare feet.*In general, it’s better to overdress than underdress. If nothing else, the jury and judge may perceive the defendant’s effort to look nice as respect for the system.
The same is true for family and friends of the defendant. Seeing appropriately dressed family and friends out in numbers to support the defendant may have a conscious or subconscious impact on the jury, judge, or prosecutor (for purposes like plea bargaining).
Seventh Example:
You want to dress well to make a good impression and you want to be comfortable.
In general, “business casual” is the best choice. It is better to be*overdressed than underdressed, so a suit may not be necessary, but it is better to wear a suit than to wear clothes that are too casual. Remember, how you dress in court will affect how your words are heard and may affect a judge’s or jury’s decision.
A jury has to sit all day in the courtroom and they notice everything. A run in your stocking, an odd tattoo, a rip in your clothing, the jury will see it and that may not be*good for you. The judge and jury will use your appearance to assess your character. Does your outfit make you look guilty? Does what you wear make you look trustworthy?
Court is a place of serious business and you appearance should be serious and business-like. You are not dressing for a wedding, a nightclub or a casual gathering with friends. You never want to provoke the reaction, “Are you kidding me?” Consider these mistakes that have actually happened:
• The woman seeking an increase in alimony did not help her case as she arrived in court looking like a million dollars bedecked in jewels, with extravagant nails and flashy clothing.
• The teenager appearing for a speeding ticket only made the judge angry by wearing sandals, sunglasses and a t-shirt extolling his ability to drink.
• I had a client show up wearing a t-shirt with spaghetti straps (a.k.a. a “wife beater”) and had to send him down the street to buy a shirt.
• A woman showed up wearing a skirt so short and tight that the jury didn’t hear a word see said (and that was not a good thing).
Most people dress fine for court, but sometimes I look a poor clothing decision and wonder, “Didn’t your parents teach you how to dress?”
I offer some specific guidelines, but here are a few questions to ask yourself as you prepare to go to court?
• Does this outfit make me look trustworthy?
• Does this outfit make look respectable?
• Does this outfit make me look guilty?
Eighth Example:
The Right Clothing Choices for a Man Who Must Appear in Court
For a man, you can never go wrong wearing a suit, though it is generally not necessary. You can wear nice slacks and a long-sleeved, collared shirt. You might want to wear a sport coat.* Do not wear jeans; khakis or dress slacks are fine.* Do not even think of wearing shorts and make sure you wear a belt or suspenders. Dress shoes are a good choice; avoid sneakers, sandals or anything too casual. Please comb or brush your hair and trim your beard. *Keep the cologne and jewelry to a minimum and you want to remove any piercings before showing up court. While more and more people have tattoos, you would be best served to keep them covered while in court. Unless you need to wear headwear for religious purposes, leave the hats at home. Do not wear anything too tight or too baggy and yes, pull up your pants.
The Right Clothing Choices for a Woman Who Must Appear in Court
For a woman, wear flat shoes or ones with a very small heel. Avoid sandals or any open-toed shoes. A suit would be fine, though you can wear a dress or skirt and blouse. Skirts and dresses should be*modest; nice slacks and a blouse are fine. The courtroom is not the time to feature cleavage and keep the amount of visible skin to a minimum. If you wear a dress or skirt, then you need pantyhose. No spaghetti straps, off-the-shoulder wear or sundresses. Keep your hairstyling reasonable and do not wear clothing or a style that will call undue attention to you. Make-up is okay, but keep it to a minimum. *Make sure your nails are neat and polished, though you do not want any attention grabbing nail polish design that would have the jury staring at your fingers.
The keywords that should guide your fashion decisions are conservative and serious. If you pick something up that would be labeled sexy, slinky or provocative, put it back down.
What Not to Wear to Court?
Part of making a good impression means not making a bad impression. That simple idea does not occur to some people I have see*in court. It may seem crazy, but I have seen people wearing torn clothing, dirty clothing and t-shirts with suggestive sayings. I have seen women in skirts so tight and short that a newspaper could not print their picture. I have seen men with enough piercings to set off metal detectors and women teetering on heels as high and spiked as daggers. I have seen men with shirts open to the navel and stinking of foul cologne. I have seen women with rings on each finger and make-up I was afraid would melt in the court. Some have dressed so slovenly that judges have made them change their clothes and juries have stared with their mouths open. What were they thinking? Why would they want to dress that way?
Here are some other suggestions on what not to wear:
• Save the sweatsuits for the gym.
• Outlandish dress á la Lady Gaga is fine for the stage, but not the courtroom.
• Leave the sandals, sunglasses, flowered shirts and shorts on the beach.
• Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, slippers and the like are fine for hanging out with friends, but not for court.
• Madonna can show off her underwear, you should keep yours under your clothes in court.
• You may have a body worth of the Jersey Shore, but please keep it covered in court. No bare*bellies, no sleeveless shirts, no bare shoulders, no cleavage and no bare legs.
Remember, your appearance will set a tone for how the jury and judge will hear your words. *Dress to impress and to establish your credibility as a good citizen.
Here are some final questions to consider as you look in the mirror before leaving for court:
• Does this outfit make me look guilty?
• Will this outfit help people trust me?
• Would this outfit make my mother proud?
Ninth Example:
Earlier this year, two international researchers published the results of a study suggesting that men with beards may appear more threatening than clean-shaven men when making an angry face. Bearded men were viewed this way by women and by other men.
Researchers conducted the study by showing pictures of bearded men to study participants, as well as pictures of those same men while clean-shaven. The beards did not add to perceptions of sexual attractiveness, but they did make a man appear more threatening when he also wore an angry look on his face.
One of the study’s authors explained: “Bearded men with angry facial expressions received significantly higher scores for aggressiveness compared with clean-shaven faces … This suggests that the beard plays an important role in intermale signaling of threat and aggression.”
Previous studies have also shown that the beard effect may have significant implications in criminal law. A 2004 study in New Jersey asked hundreds of participants to “sketch the face of a criminal offender. Eighty-two percent of the sketches contained some form of facial hair.”
In studies where “jurors” in fictitious sex-crime cases were shown pictures of male defendants, the bearded ones were more likely to be perceived as guilty.

Leave a Reply