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What To Wear To Court As A Defendant

What To Wear To Court As A Defendant

Going to court can be intimidating, whether you are going to pay a traffic ticket, to sit on a jury, or to plead your case as a defendant. As a defendant, though, how you dress can be a big decision. A defendant is the center of attention, the reason everyone from the judge to the jury is there. All eyes will be on this person, and defendants are often subjected to intense visual scrutiny. That is why it is critical to carefully consider what to wear to court as a defendant. While clothing by itself will not determine the outcome of a case, the wrong clothing can negatively impact the impression a defendant makes. If you are going to court as a defendant and have questions about what to wear, or other questions about your personal injury, family, or criminal law case, you may want to consult with one of the experienced New Hampshire attorneys with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC by calling (603)707-4800 to learn more about your legal options.

Why Does What I Wear to Court Matter?

Even if all an individual is doing is paying a parking ticket, dressing appropriately for the courthouse is important. However, when you are the defendant, you are there to be judged by a judge and possibly a jury of your peers. The choices you make about what to wear to court as a defendant are going to impact the first impression you make. First impressions are formed within seconds of meeting and are very difficult to change once they have been formed because people do not like to admit they are wrong.

These first impressions are about more than just an individual’s appearance in that moment. The first impression a judge or jury member may be getting from an individual includes snap judgments about their appearance, fashion sense, intelligence, social status, friendliness, and honesty. Additionally, if the clothing choices make the individual look more like a law-abiding citizen who made a one-time mistake instead of a repeat offender, the prosecutor may offer a better plea deal. 

Should a Defendant Wear Black to Court?

No, a defendant should not wear black to court. While it may seem like the most professional, conservative color to wear, black tends to give an impression of power rather than humility. Black clothing often has negative connotations, being associated with fear, the unknown, evil, and mystery. Black also gives the person in black an air of superiority, according to Color Psychology. These are not the associations a defendant typically wishes to inspire, especially in a jury.

Individuals may try to go to the other extreme and want to wear white instead. White is associated with purity, wholesomeness, and innocence. White also shows stains very easily. Even if a defendant is not a messy person, someone else could bump into them and spill coffee, food, or even make a pen mark on their clothing. This could then give the impression that the defendant is sloppy, unkempt, or dirty. Wearing white may also make it appear as though the individual is trying too hard to look innocent.

What Should I Wear To Look Innocent in Court?

Blue is associated with serenity, thoughtfulness, authenticity, sympathy, warmth, communication, and compassion. Navy blue is an ideal choice for what to wear to court as a defendant. Dark gray is also a good option, as it denotes seriousness without the negativity of black. Individuals should stick with darker, more serious colors and avoid bright colors, intricate patterns, or any non-traditional fashion choices. While women and men may wear different clothing, both genders should conceal any visible tattoos and wear their hair in a trimmed, combed or styled fashion with a natural color. If you are concerned about your appearance in court, Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC may be able to help you determine how to make a good impression. 

Clothing Choices for Women

Women should wear a pantsuit, dress, or skirt and a nice top. Skirts or dresses should have a hem at or below the knee. Women should avoid any clothing that is tightly fitted or revealing. 

Women should also limit jewelry, particularly if it is expensive. Their makeup should be natural, and perfume should be limited. Shoes should be flats or low heels. Open-toe shoes should be avoided. 

Clothing Choices for Men

Men should wear a suit. If they do not own a suit, a long-sleeved dress shirt, paired with clean and pressed slacks, and a professional-looking blazer, can be a suitable second choice. Wearing a tie with a suit or the shirt and blazer is optional, but can help with a well-groomed appearance. Men should also ensure their clothing is neither tight nor otherwise revealing.

Men should remove all jewelry other than a wristwatch and wedding ring. Men should also shave or trim their facial hair, so that they are clean-shaven or that their beard, moustache, or goatee looks neat and carefully groomed. Shoes should be wingtips, oxfords, loafers, or a similar type. Men should also limit cologne.

What Not To Wear to Court?

Individuals should always start by looking at what the New Hampshire Judicial Branch states is acceptable or unacceptable attire in court. In addition to what the court system officially proscribes, other clothing that defendants should not wear to court may include: 

  • Anything casual, unserious, or unkempt
  • Jeans, shorts, short skirts, sundresses, t-shirts, sneakers, flip-flops, high heels, revealing clothing, tight clothes, hats, or sunglasses
  • Any dirty, disheveled, or ripped clothes
  • Any sexual, disrespectful, prejudiced, contemptuous, or sarcastic quotes, images, or clothing

If it can be worn on a beach, to a picnic, or to do yard work, it is likely not appropriate for court. 

What To Look for in Clothing for a Court Appearance

The overriding goal of selecting clothing for a court appearance is to create an impression of respectability. This impression can be especially helpful when the allegations involve areas of activity associated with significant social stigma, such as some drug-related crimes. When considering what to wear to court as a defendant, look for clothing that suggests words such as: 

  • Ordinary
  • Decent
  • Formal
  • Clean-cut
  • Wholesome
  • Business
  • Honest
  • Polite
  • Boring
  • Polished
  • Solid
  • Ready for church
  • Well-groomed
  • Trustworthy

Are You Worried About What To Wear to Court as a Defendant?

When an individual is going to court, what to wear may seem like an insignificant detail to worry about. But what to wear to court as a defendant can make a difference in how the person accused of a crime is perceived. How the jury and judge perceive the defendant can, in turn, make a significant difference in the outcome of a case. If you are concerned about what to wear to court in as a defendant in the New Hampshire court system, consider reaching out to the knowledgeable attorneys with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC by calling (603)707-4800 and scheduling an individual consultation to discuss your concerns. 


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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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