As a trial lawyer and criminal defense attorney, one of the most frequent discussions that I have with my clients is they should prepare for appearing in court. It is a fact that people do judge us at least temporarily by our initial appearance. Judges do their best to resist this temptation but they are still human. So, bearing this in mind, dressing appropriately when appearing in a courtroom is an important opportunity to make a helpful and constructive statement about you.
The first thing to appreciate about clothing and general grooming are that they create interpretive clues from which strangers can deduce aspects of character and viewpoints. Importantly, our outward appearance can even suggest aspects of character. So, even without testifying, a jury or judge can begin drawing conclusions about an individual even before that person takes the stand and gives sworn testimony. Dressing and grooming in a specified and determined way is not “gaming the system”, it is rather a relatively easy way to tell strangers what you value and who you are as an individual.
Often, for reasons purely of strategy, a client facing criminal charges may elect to exercise his Constitutional right not to testify in his own defense. There are multiple reasons for reaching this decision that may well have little to do with questions of guilt or innocence. While a fuller discussion is beyond this scope of this article, the important point is that in a situation where an individual is not going to testify, the way in which he presents himself in court takes on a far more important role.