Invisibility: How to Be a Gray Man

Four men standing

How to be a gray man describes a way of dressing and acting to not draw attention to oneself. The goal of the gray man is to go unnoticed by blending into the environment by being as average and inconspicuous as possible.

Why Be the Gray Man?

People will want to be the gray man for a variety of reasons.

In today’s world, being the gray man will help divert attention from you to others. By shifting the attention of bad guys, you have a better chance of avoiding a confrontation.

Think about it—if a bad guy wants to rob someone, will he focus on the plain Jane person or the person with expensive-looking jewelry and designer clothes? If you wear a “Kill ‘em All” t-shirt, a bad guy looking to steal guns could target you.

And in today’s political climate, advertising who you voted for or what political cause you support with your t-shirt or baseball cap is just asking for trouble.  At best, you’ll end up getting dirty looks. That might escalate to something verbal. Next thing you know, you could be the target of an angry mob.

Does the Gray Man Concept Only Apply to People?

No, the gray man concept applies to things as well as people.

Driving your car with little stickers of each family member on the rear window is likewise not a good idea. Sure, it’s cute, and you’re proud of your family. Unfortunately, it also tells the bad guys how many people and pets are in your house. Why make it easier for the criminals? The same things as above apply concerning political bumper stickers or anything that could cause troublemakers to peg you as “the enemy.”

Those cute welcome signs with the family’s last name and the name of all the family members can also be unwise. You don’t want a stranger to be able to make it seem like they know your kid because they got his or her name off your door sign.

How to be a gray man is not just visual. If you are cooking when others are starving in a grid-down scenario, you are asking for trouble. Starving people may be able to smell your cooking and could decide to show up looking for a meal or more.

How to be a Gray Man

If you want to know how to be a gray man, first, pay attention to your surroundings. In other words, engage your situational awareness. Look for what other regular people are wearing. What people wear in the city is often different than what people wear in rural areas.

Don’t just focus on clothes. Think about accessories and personal items. Do people in the area smoke? If most people don’t, you won’t want to either because doing so attracts attention.

How are they carrying themselves? Do they walk aggressively or nervously? What do they do, and how do they act when they talk with others? Do they shake hands and introduce themselves when meeting?

Concentrate on not doing things that make you stick out. Again, you have to pay attention to notice what to do and what not to do.

How to Be a Gray Man Changes

What it takes to be the gray man changes with the environment. Are you going to a rougher part of town or to an area you don’t usually go to? If so, what do the people wear there? You don’t want to be in a suit where everyone else is wearing a t-shirt and basketball shorts.

It can also change situationally.

If a significant event is happening and you decide to bug out, how can you tone yourself down and blend in with everyone else? If they are running around panicking, striding through the area confidently with your molle bag is a sure way to draw undesired attention. Alternatively, if no one else realizes the situation is going sideways, you don’t want to start a panic and be stuck in the midst of a frantic crowd. Walk briskly and get yourself to safety.

If you choose to bug in, what should you do to look less appealing to the bad guys? Keeping your curtains closed and making it seem like nobody’s home can be a good choice in many situations. In other conditions, keeping your place well-lit and looking occupied is safer. It all depends on what the other homes are doing – you don’t want your place to look unusual.

The Bottom Line on How to Be a Gray Man

How to be a gray man is something that should be thought about and planned for. When you do, you lower the chances of becoming a victim.

So, talk about it with your family and your trusted circle. Play a game with it. See who can become the most unassuming gray man out of the group. Please test it out. Evaluate yourself. Adjust your actions and try it again.


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Brian Duff

Brian's preparedness career began at sixteen and included professional roles as a lifeguard, firefighter, paramedic, Special Operations team leader with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, Diplomatic Protection Specialist, and international security director. He's managed medical clinics in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, provided high-threat diplomatic protection in Iraq and Pakistan, advised a rebel army in Africa, oversaw U.S. embassy security in Baghdad, and directed a premiere tactical medicine training facility. Brian is an expert in Security, Crisis Management, and Preparedness Mindset and hosts the Mind4Survival podcast. He holds a bachelor's degree in Security Management and an MBA in Information Technology Management.

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