Style Basics

What should lawyers wear? [4 easy tips to balance professionalism with style]

By on April 15th, 2018

As a lawyer, how you present yourself can certainly have an impact on whether a new client chooses to hire you. And one of the easiest ways to make a good first impression is to simply dress well. Wearing a nicely fitted suit or a pressed dress shirt can help to reinforce your trustworthiness and reliability. But perhaps most importantly, dressing well shows respect to those around us. I like to remind my clients to shake off that notion of “dress to impress” and instead, “dress to respect.” So, what should lawyers wear to dress sharp?

Dress for your client

Consider dressing just a little bit better than your client or audience. This is not only respectful, but helps to reinforce your credibility and attention to detail. If you’re looking to argue a case or win over a new client, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Stick to traditional suit cloths like a dark navy, grey, or charcoal. Unless you’re intentionally looking to make a statement, avoid the louder plaids and windowpanes. And perhaps to your dismay, I must advise against denim. Not even in your casual office.

Regarding your dress shirt, a white dress shirt is definitely the gold standard, but if you want to try something a little different, just make sure that whatever shirt color you end up wearing, that it’s quite a bit lighter in color than your jacket. The aim here is to create a little bit of contrast.

And dress for the office

If your office is a bit more casual, it’s fine to dress down a bit, but do keep a blazer or sport coat handy for any client meetings or courthouse visits that may come up unexpectedly.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to keep an “emergency wardrobe change” somewhere in your office. It might be as simple as a pressed white dress shirt or maybe a full suit and tie. This way you can keep things casual and still be prepared should things change.

Then add some details

Finally, add a few details here or there to reinforce your professionalism or just to have some fun with what you’re wearing. While I’m a huge advocate for wearing a pocket square to the office, I remain empathetic to the fact that it might be too much for many of your workplaces. But don’t worry, as there are a handful of other details that you can leverage to show a little personal style.

For instance, start with some fun cuff links if you wear French cuffs on your dress shirts. Then maybe add a tie bar for some mid-century appeal. Or, if you want to set yourself apart in a very traditional way, consider wearing a collar bar. It works to keep your shirt collar points in place and also props up your neck tie knot just a little. The resulting look is very unique and a nod to the early twentieth century; a subtle way of saying that you have your act together.

And if you want to have some fun with color or pattern, it might be best to keep it on the inside of your suit. Paisley jacket linings can be a lot of fun. Go conservative or go bold!

A paisley suit lining

Finally, make sure that it all fits

Regardless of what you end up wearing, fit is the most important thing. As I’ve seen over and over again with my clients, when their clothes fit them as they should, they feel comfortable and confident wearing them.

Whether you’re shopping off-the-rack or custom, make sure that whoever is helping you knows what he/she is doing, because a great fit is the easiest way to look your best.

Wrap up: what should lawyers wear?

Remember, these are just my suggestions for the law community. Each office and company culture (and client base) is unique. The whole idea here is to help you find that relative balance between what makes you feel comfortable and confident in your clothes and what’s appropriate for the workplace.