On Wednesday morning, Canadians got their first glimpse of former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi as he appeared at a downtown Toronto courthouse, charged with five criminal offences, including sexual assault and choking.
His sombre exit appearance before the throng of cameras and reporters—black suit, crisp white shirt and subtly patterned dark tie—was in stark contrast to his signature behind-the-scenes rock-guy style. Absent were the leather jackets, chunky accessories and designer denim. Ghomeshi’s ubiquitous five o’clock shadow was turfed in favour of a close shave, and his adolescent mop top looked like it had been trimmed.
The former Q host looked like a man who was taking this particular moment in his life very seriously, says Diane Craig, a Toronto-based image consultant who often advises lawyers on how to style their clients for court (though she has had no involvement with the Ghomeshi case). “He’s done everything to look as appropriate as possible,” she says. “He didn’t want to chance it by showing up casual because maybe it would mean that he’s taking this casually. By dressing this way, he’s saying, This is business. I’m taking this seriously.”
Jag Virk, a criminal defence lawyer based in Toronto—who has no connection to Ghomeshi’s defence—says it’s standard practice for lawyers to give their clients tips on how to present at court. The rule of thumb, he notes, is not to let your appearance detract from what you have to say. This means opting for neutral colours that send a message of respect. Virk advises clients to wear business attire at court but with the caveat of not overdoing it. A trucker needn’t wear a tie, but a professional like Ghomeshi should—particularly so given the seriousness of the charges.
However, it appears that Ghomeshi arrived at the courthouse without a tie, and also addressed the court without one. This was likely intentional, not a slip-up, says Craig: “He’s more casual and he’s trying to enhance his likability factor by being friendlier. When you’re not wearing a tie you’re more open, you’re not as protected.”
Virk says he wouldn’t have advised Ghomeshi to lose the tie for the simple fact that the seriousness of the charge merits one. But he adds that every lawyer is different when it comes to how they perceive a client’s appearance in court—or what wardrobe alterations will affect their reception.
Craig says she wouldn’t change much about Ghomeshi’s court look, which she calls “corporate.” But she says that the host’s fashion-forward bent is implied in his choice of a black suit. “In business, wearing a black or navy-blue suit usually has a more fashion-forward connotation. Those who wear a black suit in the day are usually the trendier ones.”
Virk isn’t so keen on Ghomeshi’s look, though. He tells clients to wear grey, to avoid darker shades and never to wear black: “It’s associated with the bad guy.”