Judges typically wear business casual or business attire when not in court, and official court dress including a long black robe when in a court session. Most courts have a conservative judicial dress code that lists approved and unapproved items of dress. A dress shirt, tie, and sport coat combo usually makes the cut, but items such as sundresses, t-shirts, sneakers, or sweatpants do not.

Besides wearing conservative business attire, judges also maintain a neat and presentable appearance. Looking respectable is a way judges inspire trust in the legal system. This trustworthy appearance matters when a judge may literally have someone's life in his or her hands.  

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Business Attire Vs Business Casual

judges wear business style

Most courts have an official judicial dress code that mandates either formal business or business casual style for judges and other court employees. A formal business dress code for judges includes outfits like a suit and tie for men and a pantsuit or skirt and blouse for women. 

These days, many courts have slightly more relaxed standards that allow business casual clothing such as a polo shirt and slacks, a blouse and slacks, or a dress with a blazer. If you need help understanding the levels of formality between business and business casual styles, take a look at the definitive list of 34 types of dress codes for work.

Neat and Respectable Appearance

judges neat appearance

Whether judges wear a formal suit and tie or a slightly more casual sweater and pair of slacks, they always present a neat, professional appearance. This means no wrinkled clothing or obvious stains on apparel. It also means sporting a neat hairstyle and a minimal, conservative makeup style in most cases.

Generally speaking, judges also do not show off tons of bling or name-brand items at work, either. They stick to simple and professional attire that grants them a somber and respectful appearance.

One easy way to maintain this careful appearance is to take care of your clothing. You can learn how to do laundry properly here.

Court Dress

judges wear robes

When you think of a judge, you probably picture someone wearing a long, voluminous black robe. This is because judges in the United States, England, South Korea, and many other parts of the world have worn judicial robes or court dress for centuries. The exact style of the robe varies from one location to another, but many judges don this sober black garment before every court session--whether they are about to adjudicate traffic tickets, a divorce, or a murder trial.

The history of these robes has its roots in the long robes originally worn by monks and scholars way back in the Middle Ages. These days, the robes give an impression of wisdom and solemnity.

In some parts of the world, court dress includes other items as well, such as a wig or various colorful sashes. You can learn more about why judges wear robes in this article from Smithsonian Magazine.

Dress Shirt and Tie

judges wear shirt tie

The most common outfit male judges wear beneath their robes is a button-up shirt and tie paired with slacks or khakis. This professional outfit is simple, comfortable under a long robe, and respectable enough that the judge can easily walk through the offices and non-public areas of the court without looking odd.

You can find the 15 best ethical button-up shirts for a dressy look here.

Blouse and Slacks

judges wear blouse

The outfit most female judges wear beneath their court dress is a simple blouse and slacks, often paired with pumps or heels. Because of the serious nature of the work they do, most female judges tend to dress in a conservative style, with blouses that do not fit too tightly or show cleavage. 

Take a look at the 15 best affordable and sustainable blouses to try here.

Dress Shoes or Pumps

judges wear dress shoes

Judicial dress codes often spell out what kind of footwear a judge can and cannot wear. Some courts allow sandals or open-toed shoes for women, but many do not. Instead, many female judges wear pumps, heels, or flats along with business clothing and official court robes.

Men typically wear either dress shoes or loafers, and never something as informal as sneakers! You can find the 15 best affordable and ethical dress shoes for men here.

Sport Coat and Slacks

judges wear sport coat

When not dressed up in a full matching suit, male judges often don either a blazer and slacks or a sport coat and a button shirt. This business-casual style can feel more comfortable for a judge working long hours. Plus, the judge will remove the jacket before donning his court robes, anyway.

You can find the 20 best ethical and sustainable blazers that you’ll love here.

Dress and Blazer

judges wear blazer

Female judges may style a business-casual fashion of a dress paired with a blazer, too. This slightly more casual approach allows the judge to remove the blazer and don her robes over a cool, sleeveless dress comfortably.

You can find the 12 best recycled blazers for an elegant outfit here.

Sweater and Slacks

judges wear sweater

In chillier seasons, both male and female judges sometimes dress down a little with a business-casual style like a sweater paired with slacks. This helps the judge keep warm beneath the formal court robes during long court sessions. 

Even when dressing down slightly, judges will typically wear conservatively styled sweaters, that do not cling too tightly or have low-cut necklines. Of course, as you search for sweaters to add to your collection, you want to make sure the cozy knitwear comes from an ethical source! You can find the 10 best affordable, ethical, and vegan sweater brands to check out here.

Casual Clothing

judges wear casual clothing

While most judicial dress codes do not approve casual clothing like t-shirts, insiders report that some judges still wear these casual garments beneath their all-encompassing black robes! Judges sometimes get away with wearing anything from a t-shirt and shorts to jeans and a sports jersey under their official robes for a court session, especially in the summer.

If you feel like mimicking this unapproved but comfortable style, you may want to consider the 20 best affordable hemp shirts tees, and tops.

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About the Author: Hannah Cobb

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