On the Grid

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By Pa­trick McCarthy

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.

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