Do Juries like Blue Jeans or Slacks? The Answer May Bring You Freedom—or Jail Time.

You’re facing twelve strangers, chosen to determine your fate in a court of law. You’ve prepared for weeks, months, and maybe years. Mountains of evidence, a good lawyer, and truth is on your side. Yet all of that preparation (and money) can amount to nothing if one seemingly insignificant detail is overlooked . . . what you’re wearing.

Let me reveal to you the most surprising fact that most people don’t realize about going to court:

85% of the jury decides the verdict within the first 15 minutes of seeing the defendant.

Jaw-dropping, I know. After all the complexities of our legal system, can a verdict really come down to how you dress that day? Yes, it absolutely can.

Even though a person is presumed innocent by our system, a jury, from the very beginning, generally assumes the defendant is guilty. How do I know this? After a trial, most jurors love to stay and talk about why they reached their verdict. So I take advantage of this time to ask them questions, and it’s amazing how often people bring up clothes.

Jurors have told me that they absolutely cared how the defendant dressed: they looked at his hair, shoes, belt, etc. One juror told me they noticed the defendant had a slightly ripped sports jacket, and that the jurors discussed that during the deliberations. There is also abundant scientific and psychological evidence about how our appearance alters people’s perceptions of us.

So then . . . how do you dress for court? The answer: it depends.

I always tell jurors about my client’s upbringing and where he’s from—so the clothes have to match. Let’s imagine my client is an uneducated minority. How would he dress to be sympathetic to a jury? Jurors can see right through someone if their dress is not appropriate to who they are, so if my client comes from a background where he’s never worn a sports coat or pair of slacks in his life, but wears them to court, then the jurors will interpret that as evidence of his dishonesty, and thus guilt.

Now let’s imagine my client is a rich white man who looks like a spoiled jerk. How do you tailor his attire and demeanor so that he’s not off-putting? It depends on the perception of the defendant’s financial status. If it’s a financial crime:

Don’t wear blue jeans, but wear slacks and a sports coat– 95-100% of the time.

In this case, you don’t want the jury to think he’s a Wealthy-Rolex-Wearing-High Roller, but you also don’t want him wearing blue jeans because then he seems apathetic.

Besides how you dress, jurors place a lot of importance on how people look, act, and sound in court—even just how you’re sitting at the table!

Let’s say it’s a murder case involving DNA. The jury will look at the defendant at the precise moment the expert witness discusses DNA on the murder weapon. I must prepare the client that this moment is coming and how to act when it happens. If he hangs his head down, it will indicate shame, and thus jurors will think he’s guilty. Instead, it would be far better for him to maintain eye contact and take notes to indicate he is invested in the proceedings.

Bottom line: be mindful of how to dress for court and how you act. It can make all of the difference between wearing those clothes back home—or to jail.

If you or someone you know needs a lawyer who will present them in the best possible light, don’t hesitate to contact me at 714 543-2266 or bob@hartmannlawfirm.net.

Chase Geiser