I just read a fantastic article and wanted to share it here. It’s all about lawyer shoes.

It seems that there is an attorney in Florida, Michael Robb, who wears an old pair of black shoes whenever he has to try a case. His shoes are unpolished and look to be the wrong size. More than that, he typically stands at sidebar with one foot raised off the floor so that jurors can get a good look at the soles of his shoes, which have holes in them!

Why does he do this?

lawyer shoes with holes

Fig. 1. Lawyer shoes

Aren’t lawyers supposed to look sharp? Don’t clients and colleagues rank them higher in the overall scheme of things if they wear natty pinstripe suits and polished shoes?

You would think so.

But in this case, the lawyer had a reason. At least that is what his opponent alleged in a lawsuit against this man! Yes, this guy was sued by his opponent who claimed that the lawyer wore the musty old shoes with the holes in the soles for the express purpose of getting the jurors to sympathize with him. In a “Motion to Compel Defense Counsel To Wear Appropriate Shoes,” the plaintiff claimed that Robb was trying to gain an unfair advantage over him by appearing to be poor, so poor that he could not afford to polish his shoes or repair the soles.

Lawyers will get a kick out of this. The complaint alleges, in part, that “It is well known in the legal community that Michael Robb, Esquire, wears shoes with holes in the soles when he is in trial.” It goes on to state, “Upon reasonable belief, Plaintiff believes that Mr. Robb wears these shoes as a ruse to impress the jury and make them believe that Mr. Robb is humble and simple without sophistication.”

The plaintiff further states, “Part of this strategy is to present Mr. Robb and his client as modest individuals who are so frugal that Mr. Robb has to wear shoes with holes in the soles. Mr. Robb is known to stand at sidebar with one foot crossed casually beside the other so that the holes in his shoes are readily apparent to the jury.

Adlai Stevenson with a hole in his shoe

Fig. 2. Adlai Stevenson with a hole in his shoe

“Then, during argument and throughout the case Mr. Robb throws out statements like, ‘I’m just a simple lawyer,’ with the obvious suggestion that Plaintiff’s counsel and the Plaintiff are not as sincere and down to earth as Mr. Robb.”

Seeking relief, the plaintiff begged the court to compel Mr. Robb to change his shoes! “Mr. Robb should be required to wear shoes without holes in the soles at trial to avoid the unfair prejudice suggested by this conduct.”

The judge, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele, denied the motion. Plaintiff’s lawyer, Bill Bone, then offered to buy Robb a new pair of shoes.

Robb refused the offer.

“I’ve been practicing law for twenty-one years,” he said, “and Mr. Bone thinks he’s finally cracked the key to my success?” He laughed at the idea, sarcastically comparing himself to Michael Jordan. He said he was going to stop using the shoes in court, but that plaintiff’s motion convinced him to keep using them.

Upon doing a little research it turns out that this is not the first instance of an attorney or a politician using this tactic. Adlai Stevenson was notorious for wearing shoes with holes in them (Fig. 2). Even President Obama has been photographed with holes in the soles of his shoes.

All this goes to show that you have to be careful when you’re a political or image consultant. You can’t just assume that looking good, or new, or spiffy, will translate into success. You need to dig a little deeper and think a little harder than the next guy.

This is precisely what we do at Manhattan Makeovers. We take nothing on face value. We look beneath the surface and sometimes recommend that attorneys and witnesses wear something that may not be perfectly new or neat.

The next time you’re wondering what to wear to court, or to a political convention, give us a call and we’ll be glad to share some of our other findings about what is effective for the professional.