Why “Gray” Is the New Black: Assessing Baseline and Blending In

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Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

In the fashion world (which I’m assuredly not a part of), every year there’s a color or pattern that is deemed “the new black.” That means it’s a new basic, works well in just about any setting, and in any wardrobe.

The world I am a part of is the survival and preparedness world, and in our little corner of it, “gray” is the new black. Yep, I’m talking about the gray man principle of just blending into the background regardless of where you happen to be. With all the violent divisiveness, the uptick in crime, and the “cancel” craze, hiding in plain sight can be your best bet to avoid trouble.

You may find this article seems geared more toward women but that’s just because I used personal examples. Whether you’re male or female, being able to assess the baseline and blend in is a valuable skill.

Being “gray” means blending in with the baseline.

There’s a book called Left of Bang – some folks hate it and some folks love it. I fall into the “love it” category. My biggest takeaway from the book was the concept of “baseline.”  This is also something that Selco and Toby talked about at length when I attended their Urban Survival course for women in Croatia a couple of years ago.

Let’s talk about what “baseline” is. It’s most simply defined as “normal for your setting.”  So if you’re in a busy marketplace where everyone is smiling and having a good time and some person there looks grim and angry, that person is outside of the baseline. If it’s the middle of summer and people are wearing shorts and flip-flops and you see a dude in a parka, he’s outside of baseline.

But it’s not just about how a person might look out of place. It can also be about a feeling.

If you’re traveling and you notice a dramatic shift in behavior among the locals, you might be witnessing a change in baseline. If vendors begin rolling down their window covers or shoppers start quickly leaving the area, they may be recognizing a threat that you do not, because you’re not familiar with the local threats.

So a “gray” appearance is different in different places.

Baseline can also change in other ways. If you’re traveling and you’re amidst a bunch of tourists, by all means, look like a tourist if you want to blend in. But if you’re in a place where the locals congregate, you might want to tuck away the maps and cameras and shopping bags and tone things down a little. Even the expression on your face can cause you to stand out to someone who is really paying attention.

An outfit that looks just right in New York City would probably look quite out of place in Los Angeles, and vice versa. Something that is the norm in a business district would make you stick out like a sore thumb at the feed store. But wearing your Carhartt gear in a neighborhood full of office buildings will cause people to look twice. If you’re going to a music festival in the park, you’ll be dressed entirely differently than you would be if you were going to church.

If you want to be relatively unnoticed your goal is to blend with the baseline. Because of this, gray doesn’t necessarily mean bland and boring. Bland and boring might draw even more attention, just like looking too “tactical” can also draw the wrong kind of attention.

Try to dress similarly to those around you if you want to be under the radar. This may mean (as a woman) a sundress, business attire, jeans and a t-shirt, or sweatpants and a hoodie. Men have their own variations. It doesn’t mean you have to forego common sense – you should still have weather-appropriate gear (umbrellas, raincoats, gloves) and practical footwear.

Making a quick change

Sometimes blending in requires a quick change. If I was in an area with both tourists and locals, in some cases, I’d be better off if I looked more like a local. In the photos below, one is “happy tourist” and the other is “bored local.”

Interestingly, the switch from tourist to local took a quick dip into the bathroom and about one minute. I took a cardigan out of my purse, buttoned it up over the pink shirt, tucked away the scarf in my purse, peeled my hair back in a bun, changed sunglasses, and turned my purse around the opposite direction where the silver buckles and zippers didn’t stand out. And of course, I put a bored look on my face instead of an excited smile. Now, I’m not trying to suggest you can’t tell I’m the same person but depending on the situation, one of those looks will draw more attention than the other.

Think about simple ways you can quickly change your appearance to blend in with the folks in your area. It could be as simple as switching jackets and throwing on a baseball cap – it all depends on what baseline looks like in your vicinity at the moment.

Why do you want to blend in?

I’ve written recently about how OpSec is now more important than ever. You can be publicly crucified for your opinions or pilloried for a Tweet you composed a decade ago. You can lose your entire livelihood because you don’t measure up to the ever-changing standards of the Woke Folk.

The United States of America is a tinderbox just waiting for a spark. If that turns into an inferno, looking like one of a hundred other people makes it easier for you to GTFO and get to safety.

And it’s not just political.

If you happen to find yourself in an active shooter situation, do you want to be the person that looks the most likely to shoot back or the one who looks least likely to stab the guy in the neck at the first opportunity? Who do you think has a better chance of getting close enough without looking like a threat? Tactical Tom or the soccer mom who just happens to be packing a Glock 19 and 2 extra magazines under her flowy hippie shirt. Your look and your demeanor can cause you to be underestimated and that can be a tremendous advantage.

Do you want to look richer or more important than those around you? That makes you a much juicier target for property crime or a ransom kidnapping. Do you want to look like you’ve got enough gear in your Molle-webbing covered backpack to re-enact Red Dawn? (The first one, not the second.) If so then you’re going to be the most interesting looking person around in a sudden SHTF event when everyone is desperate for survival gear.

Just because you might look like everyone else outwardly doesn’t mean that you don’t have a purse or pockets full of gear, that you’re unarmed, or that you don’t have mad skills. I might be wearing a sundress, sandals, and carrying a purse with flowers on it, but I’ve probably got no fewer than 3 weapons on me that I’ve been trained how to use. One of the people I’d feel safest with during an SHTF scenario walks around in flip-flops and cargo shorts 90% of the time but to underestimate his skills would be a deadly mistake.

Some things to avoid

In this day and age when even the slightest things can cause affront, I tend to avoid wearing anything with political slogans, philosophies, or potentially “offensive” topics. I’m not going to go out in a t-shirt that is either pro-cop or anti-cop. I’m not going to wear black on the outskirts of an Antifa “protest,” (However if I found myself somehow swept up in the middle of one, I might zip up my black jacket in an effort to blend in until I can extricate myself.)

Depending on the political climate where you are, the most ordinary things can draw negative attention. I never thought we’d see a day when wearing a US flag t-shirt in the United States of America could make a person a potential target of violence, but if you happen to be in downtown Portland or Seattle, may the odds be ever in your favor if you want to wear that.

Your work uniform can also involve you in unwanted interactions. If you’re a police officer, a soldier, a member of the National Guard, or even a healthcare worker, there are people who are, quite literally, gunning for you. At the same time, never forget that when all hell is breaking loose, sometimes the uniform of a paramedic or police officer can get you into places unnoticed because – well, you blend.

To be clear, I find all of the above deeply disturbing and wrong. But I’m also capable of comprehending our current reality.

You may not want to be gray.

I know, I know. The comments are going to be filled with people who see this as cowardly advice. That happens a lot when I write about survival topics along these lines, like when I pointed out that survival is just about surviving. You may think that avoiding a fight is a weakness instead of a strategically wise choice to fight that battled at a time when you have the advantages.

Feel free to take this advice in the spirit that it’s meant – as a way to allow you to move around without attracting unwanted attention – or not. This advice is closely related to my advice about not putting political bumper stickers on my Jeep or yard signs suggestion for whom my neighbors should vote. I prefer to keep a low profile and keep my interactions friendly whenever possible.

If wearing your MAGA t-shirt to an Antifa event is the hill you choose to die on – maybe literally – you’re entirely within your rights to do so.

The fact remains, for me, I prefer to avoid conflict, particularly physical conflict. I’m not personally prepared to get my ass beat for a t-shirt or a baseball cap. There are all sorts of ways to fight the system, but making yourself a target for potential violence seems the least effective.

What’s “gray” for your area?

Where you spend your time, what is the baseline look? How different is your workday attire from your recreational-time attire? How does everyone dress to go out to dinner? Are there any particular items of clothing that would draw especially negative attention in your area?

Have you made any changes recently to how you dress or behave in public? What are your thoughts on blending in? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She publishes content about current events, preparedness, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. On her new website, The Frugalite, she shares thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • This is the beauty of living in a pro 2A preparedness minded state.
    Even in that I don’t live, work, go to, or partake in areas and activities that don’t approve nor appreciate my lifestyle.
    My hardware store sells Mt House cans. Our Academy sells bucket food and IFAK style med equipment. Our farm supply sells guns n stuff.
    We all have guns here. We all understand preparedness at least to a degree with tornadoes and such.
    The ones who stand out are the progressive generation and transplants who think molle is a party pill.
    Why should I hide it because of your feelings? I ain’t doing nothing wrong and I don’t bother nobody. I don’t normally wear open carry or wear camo but it’s no big deal when I do. I hide it because there are 3 elements to a successful attack.
    Some folks don’t need to go Grey they just need to go. And I mean that both ways. You live where you ain’t wanted then move.

  • Well stated, my philosophy exactly. I’m the guy in flip flops and cargo shorts 90% of the time and I remain grey in my environment. I realized long ago the best fight is the one you’re not involved in, if you’re the nail that sticks up there is always a hammer around, often the most dangerous person in the room is the one you overlook.

    • Maybe ditch the flip flops for sneakers. Keep everything else the same. It’ll still be grey, but you will be able to move much faster if needed. Even in a beach town sneakers won’t look out of place. Just a thought.

  • When we get into tricky spots while traveling, I’ve told my wife on a few occasions to look like we belong there, which is perhaps the most understated part of being the grey man.

    Not just in the third world: I (fortunately alone) once made a wrong turn in London and wandered onto a Council Estate, where I clearly did not fit the local milieu, and the only way out was to simply walk past a group of potential threats as if being there was an everyday thing for me trying to get from A to B. Breaking stride or turning might have flagged me as a target.

  • I’ve heard it called “role camouflage” since back in the late 1960s. Look like the people around you and you won’t be easily noticed / singled out. Lack of language skills in the local language can be a tip off too. Just smile a lot unless you are moderately fluent and don’t have a tell-tale accent.

    True story: We have a weekend place / BOL in WV. Local general store where I’d buy gas and some small items on my way to “the farm”. I’d just left work, still dressed in a 3 piece suit. Stuck out like a sore thumb with everyone else in blaze orange – it was deer season. The owner of the store didn’t greet me by name. The next day I went into the store for some other item, dressed in jeans (with blood stains) and a blaze orange vest. “Hi Marc, how is the hunting going?” asked the owner.

    Look like you fit in, and you are almost invisible.

  • One thing I always advise women is to wear a crossbody purse. That way no one can grab your purse off your shoulder and run with it.
    And stop, just stop, putting your purse in the shopping cart.
    A well designed crossbody purse can hold all your essentials.
    No reasons to carry more junk than what you absolutely need.
    …and don’t buy/wear an expensive designer label either.

      • Interesting.Cross-body purses scream tourist where I live. ( south florida ).

        Locals, wear jackets in 60 degree temps, complain about the cold. Those from up north complain about the heat. Except the Canadians, they never complain about anything

        Slow and steady, shorts and flip-flops and you’ll fit right in

    • Dear Kathleen, but you dhoul ask what is more waluable, your purse or your health, or your life in the worst case.
      Because if I would realy want to get your purse I’ ll get it….

  • Gray all the way baby! I’m too young to die and too old to take a whupping, and the entire country has gone nuts. Data is being mined at a stunning pace and even writing my legislators isn’t the safest anymore. Tacti-cool is for idiots.

  • We dress, drive, and act like Southern Christian Red Necks, because we are. We fit into our sleepy little town and love the culture/people/food here.

    Once and awhile we will see a Mercedes/Lexus in town, and they always have New York plates on them. TALK ABOUT NOT BEING GRAY!

    By the way, we loved your pic’s Miss Daisy.

  • Learned the hard way. I was wearing my correctional uniform at has station. A rough group hanging around stared at me the whole time. They’re attitude screamed ex con at me. I began breathing normally again after I left. Do not wear uniforms out anywhere,if your LEO or something resembling such. Thank you Daisy,for a great post

    • On the flip side, ain’t nobody greyer than a fast food worker. Used uniform hats and shirts show up all the time at thrift stores and yard sales. Try to avoid promotion gear because the promotions change all the time and customers will pick up on that. If it’s a really cool design, you can claim it’s a fashion statement if it’s not too worn, but try to stick to basic everyday designs.
      Be sure to wear the right color pants and shoes to really pass as a worker. Watch too expensive accessories.
      Where I live, there are lots of service workers. A black waiter’s apron and white shirt will fake out most people. Maids and housekeeping staff are all over the place.
      In this melieu, overstuffed big purses or backpacks are common for locals going between jobs with extra uniforms and food. Tiny cross body purses or worse, fanny packs, scream tourist.

  • Daisy,
    There’s not an article I couldn’t agree more with than this one. I’d even argue that the “Gray Philosophy” is an Essential in our world today. In light of the political crisis we’re facing in the US, and it is a crisis whichever side of the aisle you’re on, being “Gray” is vital to survival. I’ll be the first to say, I’m terrible at it, but I’m working on improving (my wife would laugh her butt off at that). I’ve always been outspoken on my views and opinions, but now is not the time to stand out.
    As a student of history, I believe we in the US, are as divided now, as the country was in 1860, on the eve of our Civil War. Instead of Slavery and State’s Rights, Political Correctness, Cancel Culture, Extremism Left and Right, and attacks by Left and Right on Civil Liberties and Rights (with some of these attacks coming from within our government), we’re on the brink of a collapse. The Pandemic didn’t help matters a whole lot either.
    Censoring, Political/Ideological Indoctrination with Enforced Acceptance, Attacks upon the 2nd Amendment, and Actual Infringement of that Right at the Local, State and Federal levels, these are exactly the actions that National Socialists used in the 1930’s to overthrow the Weimar Republic and turn Germans into Nazis. Hitler and his fun loving group of sociopaths used these very tactics we’re experiencing/witnessing right now. It scares the bejaysus out of me to watch this going on in our country. Common Ground and Common Good doesn’t exist anymore in the Halls of our Government. Racial Division is higher now than it has ever been. Agreeing to Disagree doesn’t exist, as My Way or the Highway has taken place.
    Right now, this very minute, and for the unforceeable future, not standing out, will determine survival of what’s coming down the pike.

  • People get caught up in this gray man thing.
    Ego plays a big part – not everyone is interested in you.
    But if you are concerned, then understand that baseline can change very quickly, so you must be able to adapt.
    Your ACTIONS speak a lot louder than the clothes you wear.
    Your VERBALS – which includes tone and tenor – will have you stand out in a crowd.
    Keep things simple, act accordingly, and most times you’ll be a blip on the radar.

  • This brings some common sense to being ” gray’, which is much needed in some circles.
    I would only add to be careful about trying to hard to be gray.

    In Daisy’s examples for instance, I would tend to ignore the “happy” tourist and would spend more time observing the “bored” local. Assuming the tourist was acting like a tourist, they don’t seem as much of a threat.
    But in many places that “bored” local, just might be a terrorist waiting for the go ahead to do an attack. Which would attract the attention of security personnel.
    Or maybe just scouting out places for an attack. Especially if you were later on, seen taking photos various places.

    Switching out clothing, to change your look, while out and about, is also a questionable act. It leads to all kinds of questions.
    The terrorist might think you are an undercover agent or a spy, trying to catch them.
    Security might think you are a terrorist trying to avoid detection.
    In both situations , you just got identified as a potential threat.

    So just because you think you are being “gray”, you may not be.
    It depends upon who is observing you. Whether you know it or not, you are under observation by lots of other people., from time to time.
    Everything from Law Enforcement and security personnel, to concealed carry holders, and other survivalist types, to various pickpockets and thieves as well as various others for all kinds of reasons, all depending upon your location.

    So you can dress like those who are around you, but be yourself for the most part.
    It is what is ” fake” about you, the trying to hard to being “gray”, that attracts the most attention of those who you really did not want to notice you in the first place.
    Most everyone else is to concerned with their own stuff to notice you.

    • The point of not looking like a tourist is sometimes tourists look like easy targets. It all depends on the situation which can change rapidly.

    • The reason to not look like a “happy tourist” is that it increases your risk of being robbed.

  • Someone below mentioned “vehicle” and they couldn’t ne more correct.
    Likely 75% of your time out of the house will be spent in your vehicle, and with tensions so high, especially if you live anywhere near a metropolitan city, it pays to look like a Joe Schmoe… Working class mutt with little to nothing of value, just another of the struggling masses.
    I have a 1996 GMC Savana conversion van that i keep in top shape. Heat, AC, everything works. Clean and comfortable inside. Can fit the whole family plus pets and a shitload of gear and equipment if ever called upon to do so.
    But… The paint is getting a little haggard looking. Perfect for blending into rural, semi-rural or working class areas! And i’be been dying to paint it! Make it beautiful again!
    The morning i was going to take it in to get the final estimate and start date, i decided to use that lump of cash to buy a solar generator instead. We have a 10,000 watt genny already with a lot of rotated stored gasoline for it to run the friges, freezers and window AC units, but we really needed sonething to run the everyday, lower power demand stuff like the coffee machine, computers, cellphones, tv”s and DVD player, possibly CPAP and oxygen machines and nebulizer units sometime in the future.
    It was wiser i think? To leave the old girl haggard looking thru the remainder of this current crisis to get around in, and divest the money to a more vital renewable power investment. Both will serve well.
    With an upcoming, almost ASSURED summer of violence and riots approaching, with folks being accosted at stop signs and stoplights and such, it was smarter to look like a ” “grey working class mutt,” that didn’t draw too much attention or scrutiny.

    • Absolutely AK Johnny, profiling vehicles works very well, that’s why the cops use it.
      Bumper stickers of a political nature or to do with guns are a bad idea these days.

      As someone else alluded to: we may feel ( Lord knows I like to vent) a need to express our views. However, we need to assess the risk-reward of that these days.
      Most people that need to hear the truth today are not going to hear it no matter how it’s presented; everyone else knows it by now anyway.

  • I typically choose to live flamboyantly. To be differently dressed, and differently groomed. I lived as the perfect grey man for decades. It was as dreary as the name implies, and I can’t tell that I gained anything from it. I’m much happier dressing as an artist. I don’t treat my clothing as part of my personality. I am comfortable wearing any clothing, and it’s just a piece of cloth. People treat me much better as the village eccentric than they ever did as the grey man.

  • Daisy-

    Thank you for brining up the relevancy of tourists in a crowd. Every year, I have to take a PITA boring CBT on Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection. Having been in the service for almost 20 years, the training hasn’t changed since 2010. That being said, one of the biggest points is if you travel, blend. Don’t walk around in your American Flag t-shirt and sub-urban dad sneakers in the Middle East (or anywhere for that matter). There are several salient points we reinforce in training each year, and each year new soldiers still do stupid stuff.

    We also have regs about uniform wear off-station. Typically its a huge NO- you don’t go to the market after shift in your uniform (not even PTs). Base commanders can make it more restrictive than the regs if the situation calls for it, and generally there is a no-go list for areas service members are prohibited from, even in civilian attire. The only place we wear our uniform for errands is on post- BX/PX, Commissary, etc.

    That being said, when I was deployed to Afghanistan, we didn’t have a decent barber and hair dye at the exchange was hit or miss. As a female, you are already a minority on post, but I was expected to travel around country- alone. I went from having short, brown hair to long blonde hair (unnatural, maintained -> natural, unmaintained) because facilities were not great. I knew my hair alone pegged me as foreign (not to mention the pants, boots, and other obvious kit) but the issue wasn’t really about being in Afghanistan. It was about traveling back to the US on mid-tour leave and going through the Dubai airport. I had a friend on text the entire time I traveled until I hit home. He had a running log of time last heard, movement, details, etc, just in case. I also had my brother on a separate text line to play catch when I got back. To this day, every time I travel 1-2 people know every move I make from leaving home to destination and reverse.

    Some of you on here may ask why I didn’t cover my hair- Dubai is fairly friendly and open to Westerners. In Afghanistan, I did cover my hair if I was meeting with the locals. As far as apparel, limited functional options were practical when not in uniform. I’m not going to haul around a rifle in a burka.

    It’s also important to me to note that sometimes *you* can set the tone in your local environment. Funny story from the other day: my partner and I were chatting with some friends about winter gear clean outs, and I mentioned this great Carhart my mother had given me. Its pink- I hate pink, but its warm and sturdy and stands out when I’m clearing our drive (we are on a main road). I ALWAYS wear black. ALWAYS. My entire wardrobe, including leisure, PT, and work wear is BLACK. EVERYONE in our neighborhood and on my work team- hell, the whole damn office building- knows I only wear BLACK. Well, the male half of this couple had noticed I was in a pink coat that day- and it was so shocking he told his wife first thing! During our chat she brought it up- she could not believe I own or would wear anything PINK! The point is that in my local environment, me not in black literally was the talk of the town for about a week. I changed the tone with one small action- and I think once we understand that, grey and survival becomes all the more possible for us.

    • GhostViking – Thank you for your service. I’ve had good friends (some female) deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. Specialty items like hair care products and chapped skin treatment (Bag Balm) were at the top of the list for the “care packages” I sent to the ladies. Various flavored teas, chewing gum, non-perishable snacks, and items like protein bars, Slim Jims, jerky, and dried fruit were always welcome. Glad to say that all my friends returned home safely. If anyone knows someone serving overseas (esp ladies), please send them a note asking what items they want/need and cannot get locally. A familiar refrain I heard was “I cannot get X haircare item here”. A quick trip to the local grocery or Wal Mart and then the post office do a world of good for them.

      • Marc M,

        It has been my pleasure to serve. You are 100% on asking what we need instead of assuming. There are so many orgs that send things with the best of intentions that aren’t practical or usefull. Best is toiletries or sanitary products. Next best is anything for trade. My father has alwas sent small batch venison jerky. The things you get done with deer! I appreciate your thoughtful reply.

  • In a political climate where Caucasians are being demonized and under constant attack for their skin color, it can be a challenge to go “gray” and blend in some areas of the U.S.? As a Caucasian woman with blonde hair who lives in California, I avoid parts of some cities and areas of the state entirely. However if that is not possible, I cover my hair with a scarf, hoodie, or some other hair covering, I wear conservative clothing that is not revealing in anyway, and I don’t carry a purse. I never imagined growing up that California and much of the U.S. would have devolved like it has?

    • “I never imagined growing up that California and much of the U.S. would have devolved like it has?”

      “a republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

    • Agree about ditching the purse. Keys in one pocket and phone in the other. While I do have CCW, I’m guilty of leaving it at home most of the time. That’s changing right. Being in Arizona, I’m concluding that an increase in violence is about to happen. Husband is ordering better quality cargo shorts. I’m looking for a sturdy cross body gun purse.

  • Often, dressing a little lower than the people surrounding you is an advantage. Panhandlers and the homeless are not noticed, and specifically avoided, allowing the gray individual to pass unnoticed. As you said, even gestures and eye contact can tune people in. I live in the South, and a wave, or a nod of the head acknowledgement in passing is almost a social requirement. In major metro areas, not so much, and in other countries, could be considered offensive if there is no previous acquaintance, or relationship.

  • Ironically enough, I traded in my car on Saturday. Ironic because it was a very attention grabbing electric blue sport model BMW. It did draw attention quite often. My attraction to it had faded, and I knew that it would be a smart move now to be less conspicuous. Got a sedate dark blue suv. My daughter is furious! But, I can now haul a lot more people or stuff & nobody will even look my way.

    • Ironically, I used to get a lot of attention for my 1990 white Estate wagon with “woody” siding. We even had a car dealership call us with a buyer! Even classic vintage can be too much though the price is good! A 15 year old vehicle is about right.

      Wouldn’t the real “give away” be the fear sensed by those who might take issue with your presence? Everyone knows there are all kinds of people in the world. It makes sense to me to be comfortable in whatever it is you’re wearing that day and go about your business as if being where you happen to be is a normal thing for you. The deal is not to appear as a threat or a target.

  • “baseline”

    this misunderstands the situation. they don’t hate you for your behavior – baseline or not – rather they hate you for what you are. “gray man” or otherwise, you’re always the target.

    “when even the slightest things can cause affront”

    this misunderstands the situation. it’s not that they’re affronted and you can avoid their affront by being “gray”, it’s that they’re looking for any person who will stand against them so they can hammer that person down into “gray” submission.

  • I think I am just getting old. All this stuff we are talking about was beaten into me over 20+ years. Too many patrols! Last deployment I came home from I almost counter drove in the opposite lane to go to the bank and my wife made the mistake of taking me to WalMart!. Not exactly “Gray” that day!

    I am just thankful I literally live in the boonies with like minded people and community.

  • I am reminded of a scene in “Police Academy,” in which one of the police recruits caught in the middle of a riot got rid of his riot gear and blended in with a tacky hat and sports jacket–which made him not a target. If you don’t blend in, you’re a target.

  • Early in the pandemic I experienced this myself and honestly, it shook me. I’d heard nurses and other hospital staff talk about having snide comments said to them and then that nurse was killed at the gas station. I really thought it was nothing that would happen where I lived. After work one night I go to a grocery store in a high end neighborhood. Not my neighborhood, but where I shop after work. In the store a person near me in the aisle comments that she can’t believe I’d bring the infection to the grocery store. I was stunned and a bit anxious. It was my last trip to the store after work for several weeks.

    Later I went in wearing a jacket to cover my scrub tops and a woman thanked me for my service as she passed me. I appreciated her comment, but realized my royal blue pants screamed underneath the red fleece jacket.

    I truly appreciate your advice in these ever trying times.

  • I have a beautiful t shirt with a soaring eagle against an American flag and mountain backdrop that I used to wear every summer for July 4th. I don’t wear it anymore, but I’m keeping it because I hope I’m going to be able to wear it again someday without worrying about it making me a target for violence.
    You used to be able to wear something patriotic and show off your pride in your country. Where I live, patriotic pride, unless it’s sponsored by the local powers, like a July 4 celebration, is discouraged by disapproving glares at least. At the worst, people have gotten beat up or had their vehicle or home vandalized for showing the flag or supporting the “wrong” political candidate.
    I was with a friend and we saw a car with a Trump bumper sticker…my friend said she would love to smash the windows of said vehicle. I acted like she was making a joke (Oh, where do you keep the extra bail money? Ha,ha.) but I could tell she was serious and it made me feel sick.
    We’ve come to a sad state of affairs in this country.????

  • Thanks Daisy – as always, very timely. Here in Portland (yes, the off-the-rails west coast Portland) there seems to be a no-win scenario. If you can turn around and leave the situation, it is good to do so. The rioters seem to only be picking fights with those wearing anything that they disagree with or, anyone not chanting what they are… sounds familiar, right? I have I have received many cold stares for my Carhartt hat.
    I remember years ago while in Chicago, I was exploring the town and wandered straight into Cabrini-Green. About a block in, I started to feel the stares. Two blocks in and I saw the expression on a UPS drivers face as he was unloading packages. His non-verbal COMM was “I don’t want to be here and you probably don’t want to be either.” As The Alarmist below points out, it wasn’t in my best interest to run, but rather turn around and head for the exit.
    Things I did wrong: didn’t do my research, assume that I was welcome everywhere.
    Things I did right: heed the surroundings, didn’t play the tourist, didn’t assume it would all be OK, knew my exit, kept my wits/stayed calm.

    Lets just say that I got lucky that day. The lesson has served me well here in Portland. If you can’t blend in, it’s time to leave the vicinity.

  • Being a chameleon has its upside. If folks thrust their arms out and go, “Sieg Heil!” we’d best do it too. But going gray, though it may necessary in a 1984 world in which we’re powerless and at risk, has its downside. There may be others who are going gray who could be our allies, but we’d never know it and they might not know it either as we stay isolated from each other.

    And then there’s the risk that some people are perceptive and may, for all our effort at camouflage, suss us out, and then it might be worse for us as they certainly wouldn’t respect us. In fact, we might become targets for the sake of our unsuccessful attempt at deception. And, internally, we’d have our hypocrisy to rationalize and that could be a tough psychological sell.

    It’s a hard choice with trade offs both ways.

  • I have a rare condition (<2% of pop.) that I literally cannot be in the sun. 40 years ago while sitting cross-legged on the grass watching high school sports got a sunburned ankle. Put me in bed for two days.
    So have to wear long pants, long sleeved shirts (men's as I can get cooler cotten).
    While driving I keep the Sunday Afternoon hat on sideways to shade left side of face.
    Also must wear white cotton cosmetic gloves because steering wheel is in sun.
    Eyes protected by light sun glasses unless in house, Even in stores with full glare florescent lights.
    This is on overcast days too.
    I'm always seeking shade if the sun is full out. My dear children say I'm a bat.
    So being gray has been a challenge.
    Now that I'm nudging 80 I'm hoping others will just think I'm just a nutty old lady.

    • I’ve read a book about this condition. It must be a lot of work to manage! I would suggest that going out in the evening after dark for errands might be an easier way to stay gray, but I’m not sure if your skin is affected by fluorescent lighting or just your eyes.

  • Great article. About 2 years ago I had to go to the San Francisco Bay Area & used BART – the rail system & got on at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland where 90% of Everybody was wearing Black, Jeans &/or Leather. I was in Khaki Shorts, Polo Shirt & Flip Flops & a Middle Aged White Man – I stuck out like a Sore Thumb. But it also showed how the Majority of Those people are Look Alike Sheep. Great point.

  • How one carries oneself is more important than the clothing one wears, or even ethnicity. I can give an example:

    I lived in Germany for awhile. There was a Canadian who lived in the same apartment complex, and we went out together sometimes. He was “Volksdeutscher”, his parents were German and he grew up speaking German at home. While living in Germany, he tried to blend in, buying German clothes and copying their looks. I didn’t bother with any of that. I was just my American self. Once when we were together, we asked for directions. He asked in German. The German woman answered him in English, then turned to me and spoke German. It helps to speak the local language. I spoke German with a slight southern accent, southern Germany that is. But the biggest factor I think was that I wasn’t uptight trying to be someone I wasn’t, so most of the time I was taken for a German. Attitude.

    As for trying to avoid conflict, that’s only smart. The highest scoring fighter pilot ace of world war II would have agreed with you. Though he was a skilled pilot, he got most of his victories by avoiding a fight, rather then by surprising the enemy who had let his guard down. The carry over I see in this example is that it’s not cowardly to avoid a fight, rather in our case a better possibility to survive. In a violent situation, such as a riot, when one is seen trying to avoid a fight, those who want a fight usually lose interest in those trying to avoid the fight. The best advice is just don’t be there.

  • Wearing a t-shirt, hoodie, or cap from the local University can make you look grey and even blend in very quickly. Wearing old style military clothes or backpack can get your screamed at as a “Homeless person”

  • Hello Miss Daisy and other readers,

    I need your help in a question. HOW can I help an associate or a loved one who is TALLER THAN THE AVERAGE HEIGHT of the crowd or SHORTHER THAN THE AVERAGE HEIGHT of the crowd?

    Thank you for your help.

    Charles Zheng.

    • There’s not a lot you can do about things like height and weight. (Well, weight over a period of time can change but we’re talking about in the moment.). A shorter person can wear heels or lifts in the shoes but if you’re tall, you’re tall. I’m currently in Mexico and at 5’8″ I’m quite tall for a woman and the same height or taller than a lot of the men. There’s simply nothing I can do about that aside from NOT wearing heels and making myself taller still.

  • So baseline is like common sense, as if I had a survival instinct. Very interesting. Trust can be a stumbling block, though. Do I believe that the bipeds around me are reacting correctly towards a situation? Sometimes they really aren’t and running in the opposite direction is wiser.

  • my advice pertains to those minutes & hours directly after the SHTF fan has spread it far & wide >>

    along with keeping that decked out military rifle under wraps – save the military clothing & gear until it’s really the correct moment & situation >>> especially so if you’re going to be bugging out – hitting some LEO checkpoint looking like a SOF centerfold isn’t going to help things ….

    in regard to “uniforms” – early on in a SHTF – a uniform of almost any kind could be helpful – recognition can help ally some fears >>> wouldn’t be trying any BS disguises and especially posing as law enforcement or emergency worker >> ACTUALLY SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY !!!

  • The guy who wears flip flops 90% of the time may have attitude and mad skills to be reckoned with. But he seriously needs to reconsider his choice of footwear. I can think of several everyday scenarios where those are a terrible choice.

    Otherwise a very good article.

  • In the workplace it is challenging to strike the right balance. People highly placed in hierarchies sometimes signal their high position by flamboyant dress. Being too grey in a work situation can invite predatory behaviour : it can telegraph fear and a low position in the social/professional hierarchy . Also, there seem to be different rules for different people . Personally, I find it all hard to predict.

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