On the Grid
When Going Gray is a Red Flag
Irecently had a discussion with someone who claimed that the gray man concept — the art of blending into your surroundings so your preparedness goes unnoticed — is ridiculous. He explained that when you know what to look for, the gray man sticks out like a sore thumb in a crowd. This is an interesting statement to unpack.
On one hand, it’s true that a watchful eye can often identify someone who’s trying to blend in. An individual might match the environment at first glance, but his sunglasses, footwear, or the knife clip visible on his pocket hem might be less discreet. Beyond gear, physical attributes like haircut, build, and tattoos (or lack thereof) may not fit the surroundings. Even body language and speech patterns can be obvious tells. Knowing that flawless discretion in every one of these categories is a nearly impossible feat, even for deep-cover professionals, there’s truth behind the assertion that one who knows what to look for will be likely to spot a gray man.
On the other hand, if you look like you’re trying to be a gray man, you’re not trying hard enough. This is the catch-22 of going gray. In some cases, wearing purpose-built gray-man gear — that is, tactical gear designed to look less tactical — will accomplish the exact opposite of its intended purpose. Your discreet-style gear will probably go unnoticed by the average Joe, but anyone who has shopped for and used this gear before will spot it in an instant. While most of those perceptive individuals will be friendlies who won’t be looking to call you out, some may be malicious individuals who could use these tells to target you. Only a fool would assume that bad guys don’t know what to look for or take threat identification seriously.
So, while I don’t agree with the claim that the gray man concept is ridiculous, it’s hard to deny that approaching it incorrectly will make you stand out. If you wish to go gray, it’s all about matching your surroundings and being forgettable. Going to the gun range? Wearing overtly tactical gear is a great way to blend in. Meeting a friend at a trendy coffee shop downtown? Even if you hate wearing them, skinny jeans and a V-neck might be the best way to stay unnoticed. Going gray is an arms race, and while you won’t fool everyone, minimizing your signature requires tailoring every part of your appearance and behavior to your environment. What are your thoughts on the gray man concept? How does it factor into your emergency preparedness strategy? Let me know by emailing me at pmccarthyoff[email protected] com. You can also follow my latest projects on Instagram at @pmccarthy10.