A gray man blends in with his surroundings, becoming forgettable—another face in the crowd. Clothing can either help you disappear, or make you stand out. Let’s take a look at why clothing is so important, how to determine the right clothing to wear, and how to be intentional about the gear you carry.
Be sure to check out our entire series on being a gray man:
- Part 1: What is a gray man?
- Part 2: Practicing situational awareness
- Part 3: Gray man clothing and gear (current article)
- Part 4: Traveling as a gray man
- Part 5: The communication style of a gray man
We’ll be introducing the different aspects of a gray man, how to approach day-to-day situations as a gray man, exploring a strong Mental EDC, and making recommendations on gear and tools.
In Part 1 we talked about how being a gray man is carrying yourself in a state of vagueness, or in a condition that draws little to no attention. We then defined in Part 2 what situational awareness is and why it's a key component of being gray. Now, let's get more tactful and look at how a gray man approaches the clothing he wears and the gear he carries.
Why clothing matters to a gray man
If you had to describe a person, the characteristics you’re most likely to remember are gender, race, hair color/style, build and what they’re wearing. It’d go something like this:
“He was a white male about average build, six-feet tall with short brown hair. He was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans.”
Clothing is a differentiator when describing people. It allows our minds to quickly categorize an individual as “good” or “bad.” Our subconscious evaluates people we interact with, asking, “Am I safe or not?” As we talked about in our overview of situational awareness, we take into consideration people’s demeanor, who they are with, what they are doing and what they look like.
Let’s say you are out of your car, pumping gas at a gas station. It’s a comfortable evening, about 65 degrees. Let’s compare these two situations:
- A 35-year-old man with an older pickup truck pulls up. He’s wearing light-colored work pants and a blue t-shirt. He pulls up and casually gets out of his truck, only 10 feet from you. He has a wallet in his hands and his eyes are focused on the gas pump next to his truck
- A 20-year-old man appears from behind the convenience store. He’s wearing jeans and a dark, oversized jacket. He is walking briskly towards you, glancing around as he picks up speed. His hands are under his jacket and all of a sudden you find him less than 10 feet away
In both of these situations, your situational awareness should allow you to recognize and evaluate each man’s characteristics, clothing, gear, and demeanor, and decide one is an Average Joe, filling up his truck with gas, and for the other you need to be ready if the situation escalates. Why? You evaluated the situation and made decisions based on:
- Your location … You’re at a gas station and expect people to either be working there, getting gas, using the restroom or buying something from the convenience store
- The weather … It’s a warm evening, so you expect to see people dressed accordingly
- What the person is doing … Socializing at a gas station is not normal (unless you live in a smaller town), so you expect to see people focused on the task of getting gas/buying food/using the bathroom
This is why clothing is such a critical component of being a gray man. You want to be the Average Joe. When someone subconsciously evaluates you, you want them to make a quick decision that you are not a threat, you are supposed to be there, and have them turn away, getting back to their business.
The clothing you are wearing will either contribute to you being able to blend in or, it will make you stick out and be memorable.
So, how do you decide what to wear?
Clothing consists of anything visible to another person, such as footwear, pants, shorts, shirts, hats, belts, watches, jewelry, and even items like purses, backpacks, messenger bags, etc. Anything visible should be evaluated with intent.
When deciding what to wear, you have to take into consideration:
- The weather
- Where you are going
- What you’ll be doing
- How long you’ll be gone
- The tools and gear you are carrying, including a concealed firearm
- What others do at your destination
- Societal norms for clothing
Let’s hit on some examples to make this come to life.
Some will argue against clothing with markings, and in general, this is good advice. But, if your hometown baseball team is on the verge of winning the World Series, it would probably be common to see someone wearing a shirt bearing the home team’s logo. On the other hand, if you are wearing logoed apparel in a city that isn’t very friendly towards your team, you could possibly draw unnecessary attention.
Stay away from sensitive subjects: Keep in mind, there are a lot of VERY sensitive people on both sides of the spectrum. Wearing a PETA hat in a sporting goods store on opening weekend or a NRA hoodie around a liberal arts college campus may unnecessarily piss people off.
In general, avoid flashy, bright or clothing that could otherwise standout unnecessarily. Neutral colors are best, but any “normal” color should suffice in most “normal” situations. Keep things as discreet as possible.
Dress for the season
Nothing can make you do a double-take faster than someone wearing a heavy canvas or fleece vest in the Texas heat when it is 95 degrees outside. It screams “I’ve got a gun.” When it is hot outside, be sure to dress like the locals in the area you are in. This means you will have to adapt and find a way to carry the gear and equipment you need with less options for coverage.
We all know it’s easy to conceal and carry all types of stuff under the multiple layers typically worn during the winter. However, you add the stifling heat in combination with limited clothing options and you really have to get creative in how you carry. This is when it is important to carry items that serve multiple functions.
Every country, city and neighborhood has different standards of what is acceptable. Wearing flip flops into a small country church isn’t going to be very accepting, just as wearing khakis and a button down on a summer day on the Chicago beach-front will look odd.
Even in the most accepting areas, try to stay within the standard of normal.
A lot of tactical-looking clothing is popular among those in the circles a gray man might be involved in. However, we need to fight the urge to wear range pants and a molle covered back pack everywhere we go. This gear has it's place--we own a lot of it--but headed to the mall with your family is likely not the place.
A gray man does not want to bring attention to himself or let those around them know they are more prepared than the person next to them. It makes you a target in a threatening situation.
Look like everyone else
It seems common sense, but if it’s cold, dress for it. If you are going to an event or specific destination, dress like others will there. Don’t wear inappropriate clothing for what you’re doing. If you are wearing something that sticks out as odd, you will be much more memorable.
When you are out and about, pay attention to those around you and what they are wearing. What stands out, is it their shoes, shirt, handbag, hairstyle, etc.? Be cognizant of what draws your attention. Make a mental note and be sure to avoid those triggers if you are trying to avoid unnecessary attention. We all have physical attributes we cannot change and may draw the attention of certain people. Don’t stress, there is nothing you can do about that. However, your clothing is something you have total control over. We cannot say it enough, be intentional and put thought into everything you do.
Be conscious and smart in what you wear and you will be fine. The gray man’s appearance can change from neighborhood to neighborhood, town to town, state to state, or country to country. Again, you need to have options to deal with the change.
We talk over and over again how important quality, reliable gear is. It's vital to being prepared for both the mundane and unexpected events that can happen in life. Your everyday carry, or EDC, allows you to adapt to and manipulate your environment when needed. You must think about how you carry the gear you take with you on a day-to-day basis.
To break out your EDC and make it easier to organize, prioritize and build out, we’ve created three tiers of EDC, which you can read more about here. In summary, we have:
Tier 1: Primary EDC
Your Primary EDC is gear that fits in your pockets or is on your person. It's readily accessible and mostly or entirely concealed.
A good Primary EDC setup is critical for a gray man as it is concealed and doesn't draw any undue attention. An example of a Primary EDC is:
Tier 2: Secondary EDC
Your Secondary EDC is gear that is carried in a separate bag or container, but is still with you as you go about day-to-day life. It can be carried in a back pack, brief case, or purse.
Gear for your Secondary EDC is either difficult to carry on your person, a duplicate of what you have in your Primary EDC or is not for day-to-day use, but more "just in case." An example of a Secondary EDC is:
- Larger Notebook
- High-lumen flashlight
- Extended medical gear
- Fire Starter
- Fixed-blade knife
Tier 3: Extended EDC
Your Extended EDC is sometimes called an operational bag, get home bag, 72 hour bag or 3-day bag, but can also be what you store in your car or at even at home. Your Extended EDC encompasses any additional gear you own, regardless of where it's stored.
There is no way to list everything that an Extended EDC can entail, but it can entail:
- Survival gear/get-home gear in your car (even jumper cables can be classified as your Extended EDC)
- Emergency food and drink
- Items kept at work in your office, desk or work area
- Gun safe
- Items kept near your bed, ready for a night intruder
The point of having a gray man approach to the gear you carry is you need to be intentional about what you carry and how you carry it.
There are millions of combinations when it comes to EDC items. Pick the tools you will need for the day based on what you will be doing and try to forecast any unforeseen situations. The problem is you will never be able to carry the gear needed to mitigate every single situation you will ever encounter. Be practical and be intentional with what you carry and how you carry it.