Becoming a “gray man” is an important concept for anyone who is formulating an emergency bug-out plan. For those unfamiliar with this phrase, it refers to remaining unnoticed and forgettable. On a practical level, this has a tendency to affect the gear we choose — the public perception of a $30 backpack from Wal-Mart will be drastically different from that of a $400 tactical pack with camo fabric and PALS webbing. However, this concept goes much deeper than gear alone. It also has to do with your surroundings, your physical appearance, and even your mannerisms.
While highly functional, a backpack like this 5.11 Rush pack will likely draw attention in an urban setting.
Last Man Projects recently published a post on its Facebook page on this topic, and it makes some excellent points. Here are some excerpts that really resonated with us:
“Being gray isn’t something you can just throw money at and achieve, nor is it as easy as not wearing “tactical” clothing all the time. … It takes the right mindset, planning, practice, and even then isn’t guaranteed because (and this is important) situations are fluid. Being gray is highly dependent on your ability to read the changing situation and adapt quickly and appropriately.”
Going gray isn’t about trying to be the blandest, most monotone person in the room, it’s about being forgettable. This isn’t done by trying to be Average Joe all the time; it’s done by understanding what other people expect to see in a given area at a given time, meeting those expectations, and the ability to mitigate any incongruities. In other words, looking basically like everyone else does, when everyone else does. Walk down the street in a chainmail thong and I’ll bet you’ll turn some heads; do it at the Burning Man event and no one will give two s**ts or look at you twice. In this case, the chainmail thong is an indicator that you aren’t, or maybe are, where you’re supposed to be at the time. Speaking of indicators…
Indicators are things that can stick out in a person’s mind, and can potentially help them notice and remember you. … An indicator, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. A bystander’s or witness’ own level of training, situational awareness, and even personality are just a few variables that will effect your “grayness” regardless of anything you choose to do.
Going gray isn’t just about how you look, it’s about how you act. This important truth seems to be left out a lot. As any actor would likely tell you, the devil’s in the details. Your mannerisms while trying to blend in can sometimes broadcast more about you than your appearance. … You may be wearing a conservative blue suit with all your EDC stuffed in a leather messenger bag, but carrying yourself like a tough guy when you’re trying to blend in with a group of white collar drones is going to get you noticed.
The point is you have to be flexible in your mannerisms. This is the most important and difficult part of going gray to master, and usually takes constant focus and lots of practice to be convincing at. You can buy all the “gray man gear” you want, but if you don’t take the time to really study how average people act during times of crisis and convincingly put that veneer of panic and uncertainty over your real personality, you will never be able to truly “go gray” when the SHTF.”
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