neil gorsuch
by Douglas Hand
neil gorsuch
Judge Neil Gorsuch

While I may not agree with Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, on such issues as euthanasia or birth control, I cannot fault his sartorial choices. In fact, I am convinced that his choice of tailored clothing and muted ties, as well as his silver hair and athletic physique make him look every bit like a Supreme Court Justice to most of the United States – even if it is a Justice of the square-jawed, Super Friends/Justice League variety.

I’m certainly not trying to diminishing his Honor.  Candidly, it would be hard to do so.  Judge Gorsuch graduated from Columbia, Oxford and Harvard Law School, clerked for Supreme Court justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, was appointed by President George W. Bush to the federal appeals court for the 10th circuit and is now a Supreme Court nominee. This is the legal practitioner equivalent of being a certified, badass, megawatt, super-star.  What I am pointing out, facetious and trivial as it may seem, is that in addition to his stellar academic credentials, Gorsuch understands how to dress, how to comport himself.  And his nomination is – troublingly as it is to many people – enhanced as a result.

As Vanessa Freidman of the New York Times recently reported after the Gorsuch nomination was announced, “he stood beside the president on Tuesday, wearing a sober, well-tailored suit with a pure white shirt and a neutral black, white and blue plaid tie — no partisan red — Judge Gorsuch played his current role to perfection, casting his eyes upward as if in search of higher thoughts, and then down to acknowledge the humility he would later express in his acceptance speech.”

Now, as a practicing lawyer and a law professor, I take the law and the empty SCOTUS seat very seriously. So, naturally I am not drolly implying that Judge Gorsuch’s appearance is more important than his conservative judicial record or legal philosophy, which is best described as an “originalist” or “textualist,” much like the late Antonin Scalia.  But my point is that his style choices are similarly conservative and they are not without thought.

Indeed, I believe Gorsuch recognizes the power in clothing and appearances.  To wit, when writing on the appropriate role of a judge as minimalist, he indicates: “donning a robe doesn’t make me any smarter. But the robe does mean something… It serves… as a reminder of the relatively modest station we’re meant to occupy in a democratic society. In other places, judges wear scarlet and ermine. Here, we’re told to buy our own plain black robes.”

So while many people find a Gorsuch confirmation to be a harrowing prospect, many of us in the business world would be well served to take a cue from Gorsuch’s sartorial playbook.  In today’s business casual environment, where even professionals are not required to wear a suit and tie, it has become difficult for many men to both signal what their occupation is and to distinguish themselves above the fracas of mass-marketed casual menswear.  For the service professional, a sharp business suit should announce his station to the world.  For the creative classes, there is more room for personal expression, vintage pieces and artful dishevelment.  For academics, bookish tweeds and corduroy jackets with elbow patches still indicate professorial chops. No matter what your profession, communicating your elegance and capability through your appearance is just smart.  Elegant and capable is a devastating combination.  You don’t have to go to Oxford or Harvard Law School to understand that.

Douglas Hand is a founding member of the law firm Hand Baldachin Amburgey LLP (HBA) which specializes in the representation of fashion and lifestyle companies   He is a member of the Business Advisory Committee of the CFDA, on the Advisory Board of the CFDA’s Incubator and a member of the CFDA Fashion Awards Guild.  Mr. Hand is also an adjunct professor of Fashion Law at both NYU School of Law and Cardozo School of Law and is on the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Couture Council.