Believe it or not, one of the most common questions clients ask me is: “What do I wear to court?” Just like in any other setting, people want to make sure they are dressed appropriately without being “overdressed.”
In short, I usually recommend that my clients adhere to “business-casual” rules. For men, slacks and a button-down shirt are usually fine. It is not necessary to wear a full suit and tie, although there is nothing wrong with doing so.
The court you are attending likely has “local rules” that provide specific requirements. In Nashville-Davidson County, General Sessions Court rules can be found here, while Criminal Court rules can be found here. It is important to follow these rules, because some judges and court officers will not allow you to remain inside the courtroom with prohibited clothes.
As you can see, courts usually issue guidance in terms of what not to wear, such as shorts, non-religious headwear, torn clothing, clothing which exposes excessive skin or underwear, and offensive or inappropriate messages (such as a shirt with a pot leaf).
If you will be coming to or from work, it is usually acceptable to wear a work uniform as long as it does not violate any of the court’s rules.
The main principle is that you dress in a way that shows respect for the court. This is particularly true if you are a criminal defendant and hope for leniency from a judge or prosecutor. Although your attorney may be the one negotiating your substantive legal issues, it is unwise to stand out in a negative way that will make it harder for your attorney to convince a prosecutor that you deserve a break. Remember, your court date is not the right time or place to make a political statement or to look “cool.”
If you have any further questions about what to wear to court, always ask your attorney, who may have different thoughts on the matter.