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.
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 Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.