Being Gray

What is Gray?

Many of us in the industry have heard how important it is to be the gray man in our daily lives. For those that have not heard the term, what it means is that you should:

  • Not stand out
  • Not be memorable
  • Not be seen as a potential threat
  • Blend into the crowd

There are several challenges to maintaining that gray status. We train. We gain confidence. We observe our surroundings. Just by being prepared, and aware, we are no longer gray.

The Basics

So, the conundrum is that it is hard to not stand out in some way when we are out in the daily world. The basics have always been pretty simple, and we should still remember those basics, such as:

  • Don’t wear tactical pants
  • Don’t wear gun or defense related shirts or hats
  • Make sure that our guns do not print when concealed
  • Make sure that our knives and flashlights are not readily visible
  • Don’t talk about your training and your preparation for the worst

Even the basics are easier said than done. I tend to violate the last one because I am a trainer and spend a good bit of my time writing about defense and helping others learn how to protect themselves and their families. However, I am far from a celebrity. Some in the industry know a little about me, but the number is pretty small. Some people have even seen my picture, but still don’t connect it to me.

The Challenges

There are some basic challenges that many of us can’t overcome, but some of them we can mask a bit, but others involve some major changes. For example:

Physical: I am a fairly large person. I stand out just because of that. I don’t shave my head, even though I have in the past. I have a very slight limp because of a torn up knee from some of my past “activities” in my prior life. Thankfully, it is almost not noticeable. There are others that hit the gym, and hit it hard every day. The large biceps and huge shoulders are very apparent and memorable. The short hair cuts and the perfectly trimmed facial hair or perfectly shaved face can also stand out. I am not saying that we should be sloppy looking, but damn, some of us are just too good looking to not be noticed. Smile

Clothing: I don’t wear jackets that are bright colors or have gun logos on them, and I don’t wear boots. However, my pants might be a bit too baggy in order to accommodate the stuff (get your minds out of the gutter) in my pants. I need room for my gun, a good knife, and some other stuff. Yeah, I know, I could do so much more, but that is the challenge. Too much effort to blend in can actually result in standing out.

The Crowd: The size and make up of the crowd will also impact whether you trigger awareness and are memorable. Small towns can be much more difficult than large cities with lots of people walking around. Of course, the financial districts of large cities will be better dressed, and to not match that dress style, can cause people to notice and remember you.

Presence and Mannerisms: This one is tough to define and explain, but the confidence and how we appear to others can stop us from passing, unnoticed. Have you ever noticed how the crowd will part around certain people and that same crowd will force others to move off to the side of it? Have you ever heard somebody talking as they walk by because they talk louder than everyone else around them.? Have you ever watched a young guy checking out a pretty young woman? You can see his eyes move and his focus change. It is clear what he is doing. The same challenge exists for many of us. It can be apparent that we are observing everything around us and that we are evaluating potential risks. Can others tell what we are doing and thus bring attention to ourselves?

Not Looking Vulnerable: This is part of that fine balance when it comes to presence. You don’t want to look so innocuous that you appear to be vulnerable, but you don’t want to look like you are ready to spring into action, either.


Sorry, there is no clear answer or solution to meeting the challenges of being gray. We need to be aware of how our being aware can make us more visible and memorable. Think about what you are doing and how you can do it better. I am going to start reviewing some of my scanning methods to see how I can still be aware of my surroundings without

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