What Not To Wear To Court In Louisville

Thomas McAdam

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Sooner or later, almost everyone you know will walk through the doors of the Jefferson Hall of Justice, located at the corner of Sixth and Jefferson Streets in Louisville.  Whether going to traffic court, testifying in an accident case, getting a divorce, probating an estate, or merely being called for jury duty, adults living in Jefferson County will eventually have occasion to visit this vibrant monument to mayhem and misconduct.

To the careful observer, the throngs converging on the Hall of Justice every weekday present a pretty accurate cross-section of Louisville and its cultural milieu.  It is highly reminiscent of Charles Darwin’s waiting room.  And the junk people wear when they go to court is positively breathtaking.

We’re not trying to be snippy here.  Custom dictates that folks who are professionally involved in the dispensing of justice should dress appropriate to the task.  Judges wear sober black robes, and attorneys generally dress like the ladies and gentlemen they are.  Most of the clerks and ancillary personnel dress conservatively, and even the cleaning crew wears smart uniforms.  The cops are always snappily attired; whether in uniform or in mufti. 

But the crowd of litigants and their retinues seem to believe that dressing like the Saturday afternoon customers at the Leitchfield Wal-Mart is the culturally correct thing to do.  Folks intending to plead for mercy or justice (depending on which side they are on) apparently think that judges and jurors will not pay the least attention to slovenly dress, gangster tattoos, and shower flip-flops.  In this belief they are mistaken.

Judges have long ago given up the idea that gentle suggestions concerning appropriate courtroom attire will have any salutary effect upon the flotsam and jetsam appearing before them.  But, hope springing eternal, we herewith offer some suggestions to keep in mind the next time you find yourself heading to court:

T-shirts.  These items of clothing are correctly defined as underwear.  If one finds oneself in a venue where medical personnel are not actually in the process of examining one, the wearing of a t-shirt is only a short step away from nakedness.  T-shirts with writing on them—especially with the logos of the wearer’s favorite alcoholic beverage or illegal controlled substance—are particularly to be avoided.  We have actually seen defendants in criminal court wearing t-shirts with clever obscenities printed on them.  Judges are notoriously humorless.

Stiletto heels.  These items of footwear are entirely appropriate for nightclub pole-dancing and the odd S&M party, but are totally out of place in a courthouse.  Meant to convey the message that the wearer will gladly endure any amount of pain and podiatric disfigurement to appeal to the opposite sex, they do not so much indicate the virtues of honesty or integrity on the part of the wearer, who is doubtless in the courthouse to fake those very virtues in the first place.

Flip-flops.  Rubber shower sandals are designed to keep a naked person from slipping while bathing.  Worn at any other location on the planet evinces a poverty of cultural awareness that beggars description.  And hirsute Hobbit-toed gentlemen should eschew any footwear not requiring thick sox.

Caps.  A gentleman should never wear a cap unless actively participating in an outdoor sporting event at that very moment.  The bill of this article of headwear, designed to deflect sunlight from the wearer’s eyes, should always point to the front, perpendicular to those eyes.  Long-haired men who let their locks extend out the back of their cap, above that little one-size-fits-all plastic thingy, should understand that they look like the posterior of a horse.  Court bailiffs, on a daily basis, are forced to remind visitors that the wearing of headgear in courtrooms is verboten.

Athletic shoes.  Back in the day, kids used to wear “tennis shoes,” when they played outdoors, but most schools required their students to wear oxfords or pumps while attending instruction.  All of that, of course, has changed, and now even grown-ups wear “athletic” shoes.  The Brits call them “trainers.”  Again, they are completely appropriate footwear when one is actively participating in athletic activity at that very moment.  In all other places, a typically obese American looks as ridiculous wearing them as a non-yacht-owner looks cruising the mall in Sperry Topsiders.  Unless one is contemplating the need to flee dramatically from the police, they are totally inappropriate in the courthouse.

Five hundred years from now, when Louisville is being excavated by 26th Century archeologists, skeletons will be unearthed, having been buried in Nikes and Reeboks.  Since the flab and corpulence will have been neatly removed from these folks by parasites, scientists will be forced to conclude that our civilization was one populated by sportsmen and athletes.  They will be at a loss, of course, to explain all the plastic 6-pack retainer rings.

Generally speaking, ladies who feel they are at their attractive best when clothed in skimpy “sports attire” will discover that sober middle-class juries will seldom consider them worthy of serious consideration.  The wearing of hair-curlers or do-rags conveys the notion that a woman is contemplating going some place really important after appearing in court.

Why can’t Louisvillians dress for court the way they dress for church?

(Scratch that last question.  It demonstrates a naïveté unworthy of a writer for such an au courant publication as iLocalNews.)


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