Scott, hey, thank you for writing in.
I have to admit, when I saw this meeting on my calendar, I was afraid that the Fulton County court was beckoning. Now that I’m off the hook (at least for now,) this is an interesting challenge. I don’t want to be preachy about it, but jury duty is a serious thing to do. A civic duty. A civic privilege, really. With that in mind, I’d recommend dressing in a way that attracts minimal attention. Now is not the time for a lead singer in your outfit. It's basically the opposite of dressing for a tailgate, like we talked about last month. I think a good word for the vibe might be sober. The court’s official guidance is a helpful starting point:
Please wear business casual, professional, or modest clothing. You will be in a courtroom setting.
You may be required to walk or stand for extended periods of time. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and consider bringing a sweater or a light jacket because the venue is air conditioned.
Our office also recommends that you wear socks, given the fact you will have to take off your shoes when you go through the security screening.
Okay, so let’s start at the top: “Business casual, professional, or modest clothing.” Yes. Personally, I’d dress the way I do for work (and hope I’d be able to make it to the office afterward.) That means a suit or a sport jacket with a tie. Now, I’m most comfortable in a tie for settings that lean towards the serious, but if you don’t typically wear one, don’t sweat it. You want to feel comfortable, confident, and your best self… capable of making good (very important) decisions. This is a serious affair. And I would stick with a solid or striped tie. Maybe a small dot. A club tie’s too… clubby… and a knit tie feels too professorial. So the tie’s optional, but at minimum, you should wear a woven shirt with a collar – not a polo and not a t-shirt. I would also not wear blue jeans. Another color of 5-pockets could work — stone, mushroom, even navy — but indigo denim would be out for me. We kinda laughed at the idea of “modest clothing” — of course, no tank tops or short shorts, minimal skin — but it’s a good filter in the other sense of the word. Modest as in inconspicuous. Measured, restrained, understated. You do not want your clothes to be a lightning rod for anything. If I think about Twelve Angry Men, there’s a scene where Juror #3 tells another one of the jurors, the foreman, to ask Juror #4 for a job, noticing his expensive-looking, “custom-tailored suit” as evidence that “he’s rich!” That is not the kind of attention you want. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you want to look like you made an effort for everyone else in the room, which is why I’m steering you away from anything too casual. The jury of your peers.
They say that you may be walking or standing “for extended periods of time.” You may also be sitting for extended periods of time, so I would avoid anything that’ll get too rumpled, like linens or silks or lightweight materials. We’ve talked a lot about high-twist wool over the years, but it is really the best when it comes to resilience. You have to work pretty hard to wrinkle it, since the structure of the wool is twisted in such a way that it bounces back and keeps its shape. Natural fibers are your friend here, especially when you’re cooped up in a room full of strangers. We tend towards those anyway – wool jackets and trousers, cotton shirts and 5-pockets – but it bears repeating. Clothes you can sweat (or not) in. Who knows how cold that air conditioning will be?
Last up: comfortable shoes. I would stick with lace-ups or penny loafers here… tassels are a little much for this setting. Any adornment is going to invite some Juror #4-type attention, speculation, whatever. Not sneakers. Boots could work, too, but again, I'd stay away from anything that could even remotely communicate “fashion,” like Chelseas. And don’t let the security line keep you from wearing shoes with laces. You’re going to be there all day; you have time to re-tie your shoes. Speaking of security, I agree that socks are a good move – more for the gravity of the occasion than anything. While I often skip socks in my personal and professional life, I would wear them to the courthouse. I can just hear someone saying now: “that guy didn’t even have socks on.” Again: give them as little as possible to talk about. Your job here is to blend in – to be one of many. The everyman. With that, here are some pieces that came to mind as being good choices for jury duty. Pick a combination that makes you most comfortable and quietly confident. I dressed this morning with your question in mind and have on the grey suit and stripes – I like the little lift from the tie — but a sweater and quiet 5-pockets would fly as well if you’re most at ease on the casual side.
Suit: Navy or grey high-twist. Sharkskin could feel a little too Juror #4.
Jacket: In that same vein, navy high-twist. Solids are best here.
Shirt: Shades of blue, either solids or non-pattern patterns. Sky roxford would be great, as would a quiet stripe like the small Bengal or a graph check.
Tie: Solids (like a fino grenadine,) stripes that aren't too bold, maybe a small dot. No knits or clubs.
Pants: Grey or charcoal high-twist, khaki lightweight twill. For jeans, natural or Bedford cord.
Sweater: Navy or dark grey (are you sensing a theme here?)
Socks: Navy, navy, navy. Or grey.
Shoes: Penny loafers, either handsewn or Italian, preferably in leather rather than suede. Cap-toes would also be excellent.
Okay, Scott. I hope that helps. This guidance may seem overly conservative, but the courtroom feels like the right time and place to play it safe. Thank you for writing in with this one… it’s kinda gotten me in the mood to fulfill my own civic duty. I’ve gotten several jury summonses over the years, but they’ve always let me go before anything happened — I’ve gotten the night-before dismissal and the waiting room dismissal, but have never actually sat on one. Now I feel prepared. I hope you do, too.