Have you ever glanced at someone and not given them a second thought? Did you notice anything particular about them other than they were just there? Did you even look again as they walked on by?
That person (being a man or woman) is a “Grey Man.” Unremarkable and blended in with the surroundings are trademarks of a Grey Man. While some people are naturally the Grey Man, learning how to be one when needed is a necessary urban survival skill. During times of civil unrest or natural disasters (i.e.: LA Riots, Hurricane Katrina, Acts of Terrorism, etc.) being able to blend in and not bring attention to yourself is a skill that can allow you to avoid conflict and get you home safe.
To become the Grey Man, you have to plan ahead. We all like to be noticed and each of us has a sense of personal style, well most of us, that defines us from others. What has to be accomplished is to lose all the traits that sets us apart from everyone else, essentially…what gets us noticed.
Grey Man techniques are not new; they have been around for centuries in clandestine forms, used primarily by spies, moles and intelligence operatives. The skills of the Grey Man may not seem much like developed skills until you try them. Have you ever gone a day without talking or making eye contact with anyone? Ever tried not to get noticed? Have you chosen what to wear based on how you won’t stand out in a crowd? These are unconventional skills for most people and take development.
The equipment of the Grey Man is simple and plain. Here are a few ideas to help you better understand what you need.
Clothing: Being “Grey” is about not bringing attention to yourself. Dull colored, baggy clothing, without brands, flashy designs or wording is the key. Wear nothing that sets you apart or is out of the ordinary. The key is to keep someone from remembering you. Wearing an earth tone, grey, or black baggy sweatshirt, hoodie, or t-shirt keeps you from drawing attention to yourself. Regular fit blue jeans, plain with no brands or decorations, are recommended for this kind of skill. Jeans are durable enough to protect you from scrapes and bruises, but will also allow you mobility when you need it. Both your top and jeans need to be able to conceal your on body gear, such as a firearm or knife. Avoid Tactical Clothing, as today it is easily recognized, brings attention, and makes you the “Hey! Shoot me first!” person. Ladies, form fitting clothing is not what you want here. Look for the opposite in baggy, frumpy clothing.
Shoes: Hiking boots or tennis shoes are good choices. Stay away from bright colors and flashy brand names. Chances are that if you can not make it home in your vehicle, you will be on foot. Be prepared to walk distances to get to your safe location. Do not choose military or tactical looking footwear.
Head Wear: Baseball caps and beanies (when its cold) are good to have to allow you to better conceal your identifiable features. Protection from the elements is also a necessary part of survival so staying warm or blocking the sun is important. Again, when choosing something to wear, avoid bright colors and wording or logos that attract attention. Don’t wear Tactical Caps with patches and Velcro everywhere. Although it may be part of your daily wear, it is a sure way to draw the wrong kind of attention in these situations.
Bags: What we carry with us will determine how prepared we are to get ourselves out of trouble. Although we will go into detail about Bug out Bags in a future post, what you carry your equipment in is important. Your bag needs to be plain, not tactical, and without bright colors or logos. Be sure to choose one that you can get access to quickly but is comfortable for a long hike.
Pocket Knives: Remember that looking “tactical” or having equipment hanging off of you MAKES you a target. Remove clip knives and drop them in your pocket. Take belt knife and multi-tool holsters off and put them away.
Makeup and Jewelry: Ladies, and maybe some men, like to look pretty. Makeup, hair, and jewelry are important daily preparations that set you apart and make you who you are. Carry disposable makeup remover cloths and Ziplock bags to remove makeup and put away your accessories. Its important to look unattractive in these situations. You do not want to have attention drawn to you or look attractive. Just like the baggy, frumpy, clothing noted above, this avoids the dangers of being singled out.
Now we move on from what gear you need to skills. Grey Man skills are simple in concept but hard for many to effectively pull off. Remember that we are wired as social creatures who need interaction from others. As a society we actively work to stand out and not be part of the crowd. Skills have to be practiced and the good part of the Grey Man concept is that you don’t have to go anywhere special to try your hand at it. Here are a few skills to think about:
Blending: Most of us have a natural way that we go through life. Its our self independence and personality that forms how we interact with others. The concept is to appear to have no personality, no memorable traits and be neutral. Walk at a casual speed, casually look around (to scan your surroundings), don’t make eye contact and make sure you do nothing to draw attention to yourself. Keeping a neutral attitude, blending in and staying alert is part of urban survival during times of crisis.
Traveling: Routes that take you away from people or through known areas have both advantages and disadvantages. You want to avoid gangs of people, but also the lone individual looking to monopolize on the lack of civil order. Keep yourself clear of areas where large groups of people congregate, as these can be as dangerous as being remote and alone. Always keep moving and try to avoid talking or discussions. Avoid helping anyone as this creates delays and opportunity for incident. Even avoid the authorities, as we found during Hurricane Katrina, bad cops are worse cops during disasters and can be as dangerous as any thug. Remember your goal here is to get home or get out of the situation without any incident. This is a time where your goals are more important than anyone else’s.
Re-Blending: This sounds weird since we have just covered ways to make yourself blend, so why would you need to “re-blend”? Take this example: You are inevitably confronted by an individual that sees you as opportunity, its just dumb coincidence, and they become aggressive. You react to protect yourself and then run to get away. In another case you cause attention to be directed at you. You quickly move on but you are startled. Once clear of either of these situations, you need to catch your breath, try to focus and blend back in to the surroundings. This skill is more about letting what happened go quickly, calming down and focusing on getting yourself to your destination.
All of the gear and concept skills are simply part of an overall skill set that can protect you in times of crisis. We have all been around to see civil unrest on TV, some have experienced it firsthand. The idea is to develop and prepare for unforeseen events that may happen. Today, the world has become more and more unpredictable. Society has learned that when they can not get what they want, they can throw a fit like a child, riot, loot, and attack civil order from a mob mentality to get the attention they crave and the results desire. It is inevitable that those who do not prepare will attempt to take what anyone else has to take care of themselves. It truly is a “you against the world” situation, so blend in and get home safe.