How should you dress for a Court of Law?

I have been watching recently that the standard of dressing in courts has not been up to mark. Most of the errors are made unintentionally. Here are some tips …

[1] There is a story about the famous judge, Justice VC George.

A lawyer appeared before him. He was not attired properly and the judge said, ‘I cannot hear you.’

The lawyer then increased his volume. The judge repeated what he said. The volume was, again, increased.

The judge cautioned him the third time. The volume was increased.

Finally, the judge said, ‘you are not properly attired for open court and therefore I cannot hear you. You have to be properly robbed’.

The lawyer said, ‘what has sartorial taste (which tailor I go to) to do with justice.’

The answer is quite a bit.

[2] Many things maketh the man.

Courtesy for start, honesty second.

I think dressing is also very important.

Let me start with chamber dressing for men.

[3] You have to go to court and you have to be dressed either in black or in deep tense of blue or grey.

Lawyers have the habit of buttoning all their buttons. It is never done.

Why is that?

When you sit down you must undo the button. When you rise you must button, but only one button. If you have three buttons, you can do two.

Why is the last button left open?

Because by tradition the last button is only put on and closed on your funeral day. So, try never to close the button. There are other reasons.

[4] The second thing is to use pocket squares.

I do. It is my personal habit. I learned this in the armed forces when I was a soldier 35 years ago.

A pocket square was a required item in those days and because I was English trained everybody used a pocket square.

They would never use matching pocket squares.

The pocket square would be the same colour as the tie; but the pocket square would have a different texture to it or a colour or a design, so that there is some contrast.

So, that is a mark of the highest sartorial value.

The next thing is you don’t have to wear Brioni suits to impress the Court.

You only need to have a locally made suit that is clean.

Your sleeves cannot be out an inch. It must only be half an inch. When you put your hands down, only a little bit of your hands should be showing.

[5] The next thing that you do – it is always more elegant – is to use cuffs – whether French cuffs or trunk cuffs.

Where an external cuff is not used, a button is fine.

[6] How you wear your shirt

When you wear a shirt make sure that the collar is very clean.

Do not come to court where the back of the collar is dirty because the judge can only see this part of your shoulder and so this has got to be really clean.

Your shirt has to be properly ironed and it is not untidy.

Second, do not have cuffs which are very short. That is not class. You can wear a cheap shirt, but ensure it covers up to the joint of the last phalange of your little finger. When you put it on, it will go back a little bit.

[7] How you tie your tie?

Tying the tie is an art.

I have read some books on it. There are 72 different knots that can be made on a tie depending on the material of the tie, the time of the day for which you are going for a function, how stylistic you want to appear to be.

I use a quarter Windsor because it is very fast and it has a little knot.

You might develop your own style.

I have seen people turn up in court with a knot that is the size of a tennis ball. That is inelegant.

[8] How tight should your collar be?

It is two fingers tight; if you put two fingers into your collar it should still give you room to move. That is the correct tightness.

[9] The most important thing is your shoes

Your shoes, no matter how old they are, they must be properly brushed.

You must use an old toothbrush and ensure all the debris is taken out.

I use shoe trees (pieces of wood). I put them inside the shoes to keep it in shape.

Always keep your shoes clean and shining; at least brushed.

[10] The Belt

The belt should be black. It should not be discoloured. Use some kiwi and colour it

[11] What about facial hair?

If you have got a moustache like mine, make sure it is properly trimmed; all the edges are cut.

If you have a beard, make sure it is nicely combed.

[12] Your mouth must smell clean

When you speak, the judge can smell it over a distance of three feet and that will immediately stop the judge from paying attention to you.

[13] Cut your fingernails.

Keep your hands clean.

[14] Make sure your collars are nice and neat

To have a decent collar you can have a collar stiffener. It is either made of plastic or metal. I put them in the collar so that when I tie my tie and I pull my tie it looks nice and neat so you might want to do this.

[15] Ladies dressing

Dress in a modest way. Dress in a way that doesn’t draw attention to yourself because you are there to fight for your client.

The court should be concerned to hear what you said about your client; the court shouldn’t be distracted by the way you appear.

Some Indian ladies like to wear sarees on a Friday. That is fine as long as it complies with the colour that is approved by the court.

Always make sure that your jacket is brushed.

Do not turn up with dust on your shoulders. Button up your shirt if you’re wearing a skirt. Make sure it is of the appropriate length.

If you are wearing a pair of shoes don’t wear shoes that echo all the way down to the ground floor when you walk. Be mindful of that.

Do not walk into the court with red color hair. It is your right to have red color hair but the idea is if you’re a lawyer you’re meant to be non-distracting.

[16] Dressing in the superior courts

Ensure that your collar is stiffened. Do not turn up with your collar looking like a dead fish. You can have it nicely starched.      

Do not wear bands that  reach all the way down to your waist. A band is supposed to have a minimum thickness and it is supposed to be split at the ends.

Some people wear the band below the button. That is bad form. The band must be above the button and covering the button.

The wing collar must be stiff and the band must close the button. Do not wear a band below the button.

So, those are the little things that you might want to deal with.

[17] Finally I want to deal with the robe

Never enter a court in which a judge is sitting in an open court if you do not have your robe on unless it is a chambers matter.

Make sure you are robbed outside.

When you are sitting in court and the judge is walking in, do not dress within the court. That is bad. Get out, put on your rope and come back in.

When you put on your robe, ensure that the strip is pulled forward.

Secondly make sure, it is covering the front side of your body.

When you sit down your robe may get caught in the chair.

Before you sit down with your robe on, flip the robe.

I hope that you have found these little tips useful.

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