DON’T LET YOUR ATTIRE GET YOU KILLED IN THE STREETS.
The gun forums are full of internet experts going back and forth as to how one particular handgun, holster, ammunition, etc. makes the user unacceptably prepared to defend his or her life against the violent criminal actions of others. There is probably a grain of truth in some of these assertions. A handgun that is unreliable or simply overly complex or non-ergonomic will always be a poor choice, holsters that have little retention qualities or are poorly positioned on the body are definitely to be avoided, and ammunition that does not always go bang or has a reputation for shallow penetration can contribute to an ineffective use of self-defense. But what about the manner in which a concealed carrier might dress?
The old saying that “clothes make the man” can be interpreted in a number of ways, including the implication that the manner in which a person dresses can influence others’ perception of his or her societal status, politics, character, group association, economic status, and even self-image. It could also mean that the clothes that person chose to wear is functional; that is, it keeps the person cool or warm if need be, and/or is suitable for the type of work or play in which the same person intends to engage.
Keeping these two factors in mind, how does choice of attire affect the concealed carrier? Let’s begin with the perceptions of others. I rather like the term “Gray Man”. The Gray Man does not stand out in a crowd. He or she typically avoids dressing as if they were about to deploy overseas to work as a private security contractor, which might take the form of multi-pocketed cargo pants, flat dark earth light hikers, untucked black polo shirts and “tactical” camp shirts, and low-profile weathered caps. The black folding knife in a front pocket does not help. Before someone finds a picture of me from years ago and accuses me of hypocrisy, please be advised that I have “evolved”. I am not dismissing the possibility that this look may have some deterrent effect in some instances, but when this trend first started many of the people that dressed this way were very capable of walking the walk.
As “tactical shooting” became far more mainstream, more and more people started dressing this way. Our local Academy Store now has a portion of the clothing department featuring many of the items I discussed above. I do not like to attract attention from people whether good or bad. If a violent criminal offender selected me as a target while I was dressed in this manner, I think the chances are good that he or she would more carefully make the stalk and close the distance, reducing my opportunity to pick up on it in enough time to safely disengage or mount an effective defense.
On the flip side, if my appearance suggests that I was prepared for battle and looking for trouble and I am forced to use force to defend my life, I have possibly just made it more difficult for CCW Safe to defend me. Instead, consider wearing clothing (to the extent that you can when you can) like that commonly purchased from outdoor clothing businesses used for non-shooting related outdoor activities. I now wear mostly Kuhl shirts and pants and reserve my old “contractor chic” pants for shooting matches and classes.
Possibly even more important is function. How far can you run while wearing flip-flop sandals in a Wal-Mart parking lot on an August afternoon in Houston, Texas? I love my leather flip-flop sandals, but I can’t run in them. My wife wears some killer high-hill shoes on occasion, but neither can she. So, much as it pains me, I bypass my much-loved beach sandals regardless of where I am going and instead don something in which I can make a short dash if necessary. Fortunately, Keen makes some rafting sandals which firmly strap to my feet and are quite comfortable, so all is not lost.
My wife does continue to wear heels on certain occasions and sandals even more so, which is just fine. For me, life is too short to not bend certain rules from time to time. However, the more time that I spend wearing sub-optimal shoes the greater the chances are some someday that I might regret my choices. In regard to clothing, I want pants that allow me to carry OC, a tourniquet, and a small package of QuikClot gauze. That is another reason I prefer the outdoor pants often used for outdoor activities, as they typically feature suitable pockets. I find that I can carry these items without drawing the attention of others.
Oh yes, did I mention avoiding photographer-type vests? Those were indeed very stylish back in the day, as were top hats, bell-bottom jeans, and parachute pants. However, those days are probably gone.
Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (www.ptgtrainingllc.com).