Survival Tactics: How to be a “Gray Man”

Gray Man

It’s certainly a lot more “fun” to practice with a tactical vest, 10 magazines and an AR-15 or AK-47 on the range, but general life even during a collapse may necessitate a more cautious approach. Unless you have the luxury of powerful, overwhelming force your defensive weapons, camouflaged clothing, and even your bearing and scent may give you away as a “survivalist” with supplies and goodies that can be taken by the desperate. In that case your best weapons won’t be rifles and handguns, but rather a style of dress and a way of interacting with people that causes them to dismiss you. Rather than standing out as a beacon of preparedness and readiness, you will want to look like any other panicked lost soul, plodding along with nothing of value and of no use to anyone. In short, you will be initiating a blackout on your person much like the blackout you put in place around your home to hide light.

Contrasting the Gray Man with the Obvious Target

Before we go into what makes a good Gray Man, it would be helpful for you to see what you’re trying to avoid looking like. Here is a basic concept for the Obvious Target:

There are very few situations where being decked out in tacticool gear will protect you from random thieves. Save them for home defense and try to blend in more instead.

There are very few situations where being decked out in tacticool gear will protect you from random thieves. Save the overt stuff for home defense and try to blend in more instead.

  • He wears tacticool or camouflaged clothing in situations where it makes him stand out. In some smaller communities with a large population of hunters you might be able to get away with wandering about casually in full camo. Otherwise, you will stick out like a sore thumb. This goes for tactical vests, gun related t-shirts and hoodies, and slogan shirts with phrases like “I don’t dial 911, I have 1911 on speed draw” or “Free body piercing by Smith and Wesson” as well. You don’t want to give the impression that you have weapons of any kind, even though you may be constantly armed with several concealed weapons at all times. Weapons are valuable, particularly for scum that will use them to commit more atrocities, and so advertising that you’re armed to the teeth isn’t going to be helpful to you.
  • His clothing is cleaned, his breath is minty fresh, his hair is neatly trimmed, and he doesn’t smell of body odor. Think of a guy walking past you on the street dressed in a tailored suit, expensive shoes, and a solid gold wristwatch. Rich, right? In a world where washing machines and showers are uncommon at best, walking around clean and primped says the exact same thing. If you washed yourself, you have water and probably some way to clean it and/or heat it up. If your breath is fresh you have toothpaste and probably enough food that you’re worried about tooth decay. No body odor means deodorant or a recent shower. All of these things add up to you being a very rich man by disaster standards, and make you a prime target for robbery or even sheer jealousy beatings.
  • He walks upright, stares people down, and is loud and boisterous. Weak men without any valuables might be kicked by a group of thugs. A strong man who carries himself readily is a threat to the power of those who rule by force and is a likely target for recruitment or elimination. This advice does vary, as a particularly imposing man might be able to scare people off and there are situations where being firm can drive away thugs, but in desperate times people might be more inclined to just shoot you and fix their problem at the source. Being loud usually indicates that you’re confident, stupid, or both. It also helps people to remember you as “that one dude who would not shut up” which isn’t good if the local strongarms decide to go looking for you.

The Gray Man

The simplest way to picture a Gray Man is to imagine a large crowd of people walking down a street. Who stands out to you? The guy with the mohawk, or the tattoes all over his face. The tall guy in a business suit who walks like he owns half the city. The woman with a brightly colored shirt. The random dude with his head down wearing a drab colored t-shirt and jeans is not going to be on your list. That is what you’re trying to do, imitate the most generic aspects of “normal” behavior so that you don’t stand out at all.

You can do this in many ways, including:

Notice how everyone blends in...except for the guy who decided against earth tones for the day.

Notice how everyone blends in…except for the guy who decided against earth tones for the day.

  • Wearing clothes that are common, fit reasonably well, and appropriate to the setting. I’ve picked on a big guy in a fancy suit, but imagine walking into a high class restaurant and looking for “that guy in the suit”. It’s not so much what you wear as it is what everyone else is wearing. If most of the locals have sweat stains and dirt on their shirts, so should you. If their hair is greasy and unkempt, yours should be as well. Taking it a step further, you also want to ensure that you’re not memorable in any way. Everyone may have filth on their shirts, but if your shirt is bright red you’ll still stand out to the human eye. Colors like grey, brown, and green tend to be ignored since they’re not bright but they’re also not the “Tacticool” black or desert tan that screams survivalist. In warm weather t-shirts are great for blending, and during cool temperatures a hoodie can keep you warm and hide your face. Indeed they are. Keep your vocabulary to a minimum with these two little words that will help make you invisible.Indeed they are. Keep your vocabulary to a minimum with these two little words that will help make you invisible.
  • Being warm and empathetic without being “nice”. Everyone remembers the guy who tipped them $120 for a $5 job or the guy who refused to tip, but nobody remembers that 10th guy who handed you a 5 dollar bill. Most people tend to remember particularly kind folks and any kind of unpleasant, arrogant, or annoying people. The most generic person is the one that smiles, says a friendly hello, thank you, and good bye without leaving much of an impression beyond that. The key is to let people run on “autopilot” without having to think because you entered into their life.
  • Having the appearance of being poor. In many ways the homeless and poor are almost invisible to most people. They have no real value to most of us, we don’t know them, they don’t know us, and they’re not really that interesting to speak with. That is who you want to be. Obviously don’t act like the doomsayer who wants to be heard, but a little extra wear and tear on your clothing can go a long way to convincing people that you have very little.
  • Be a man of few words. Speaking up, being loud, or even just continuing a conversation for longer than is expected sets off tags in the mind to store information about you as an individual. If you don’t speak up you don’t rise up in a person’s mind as someone with value, so you’re rapidly forgotten and overlooked.
  • He is able to drop his hiding persona and interact naturally when the need arises. This probably requires more skill than the hiding part does for most people. Once you’ve developed the habit, it can be hard to open up to potential allies, helpful locals etc that may be put off by your bland “Gray Man” persona.

Hiding comes naturally to some people, but for others it is a challenge. Regardless, when a collapse situation arises it may be necessary to blend in with the crowd, and so working on your inner Gray Man now may just save your life.


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