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Gray Man Theory: Practical Tips for “Fitting In” When SHTF

What is the Gray Man Theory?

Wouldn’t it be great to hide in plain sight or blend into the background? This is the goal of the Gray Man’s Survival Theory. Although it’s a lofty concept, it’s in direct contradiction to all the other cool stuff that comes with prepping.

Daily life is filled with challenges that we want and need to be prepared for. That being said, without a grey man’s strategy, you can become a target. Normally, this can lead to mocking and comparing oneself to those crazed “Doomsday Preppers”. In an SHTF scenario, the presence of gear or a survival mindset can make you a target.

Being grey hides your preparations through the veil of everyday life. The grey man concept builds a wall of normalcy around your appearance, material preparations, and actions. The clothes you wear, the way you carry your gear, the tools in your EDC, and even the way you carry yourself should all build a facade of a normal person.

Gray Man’s Survival Strategy

Why do we remember people? What makes a person stand out? Is it action or possession?

Our brain is extremely good at filtering out the noise in our lives. There are very few experiences these days that reach the level of importance. The hundreds of people or cars we pass on our journey, mostly smell and sights, simply don’t matter to our survival. In fact, processing every sight, sound and smell would be debilitating.

It is the rare person, place or thing that stands out at a level of importance that we notice. But when we do, we pay attention. Something that our “lizard brain”, the most primordial part of us that is only responsible for keeping us alive, wants us to pay attention to, is worth focusing on.

It may be a car going a bit too fast to stop at an intersection. Or a person walking against the crowd with an overly determined look on their face. These events hold our attention. This is what we avoid by deploying a grey man survival strategy.

Specifically, the grey man’s strategy affects many aspects of your life. These include how you dress, how and what gear you wear, and how you present yourself to the rest of the world.

The good news is that the pattern of being grey and blending in is all around you. In fact, chances are you’ve already spent a lot of time is normal. You just need to duplicate that now that you have a little more weight on your shoulders.

The strategy is to be careful as you compare and contrast yourself with everyone else. How do your clothes compare to those around you? How does your bug-out bag compare to the bags others are carrying?

Your grey man survival strategy takes you from a target to a place below the noise. Let’s take every aspect into consideration.

Clothing to integrate

One of the easiest grey man theory layers to adjust to is your clothes. I love my brand-name tactical pants, shirts and tees. I even call it my tactical tuxedo. 

From a grey point of view, I also call them my “shoot me first” clothes.

Predators aren’t stupid. They do what they do, for whatever reason, and they get good at it. Their skills include success in the victim selection process.

Clothes are heavy in there.

If you chose to use violent force to rob a store, who do you hit first? Grandma or the well-built man in the tactical pants and ”  Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em” T-shirt? They tackle the threat first while they have the element of surprise.

To a lesser extent, we all do. We associate tactical equipment with strength, means and survival skills. 

Going grey will have you swapping your beloved 5.11 pants for jeans. Better yet, select professional pants that still carry what you need without the look that screams MILITARY!

For the rest of your wardrobe, be selective. Leave Magpul, Tap Out and Black Rifle Coffee Company tees for the lineup. Look at the people around you and dress like them. If hoodies are in, invest in a few. If flannel is in season, get a few shirts.

Do your best to make this layer blend in with those around you.

Gray man clothing

Equipment and bags

We collect stuff as preppers. We even have names for our essential gear groups. Everyday Carry (EDC) and Bug Out Bags (BOB) are just a few of the common terms we use.

While I love my Maxpedition Gearslinger and it’s travelled the world with me, it’s not exactly low-key. After a trip abroad, I switched to a “much greyer bag”.

The Vertex Ready Pack has the same ability as the Gearslinger. What is different is the look. There is no Molle, no military index or law enforcement. There is no hint of “shoot me first”.

Review Gray Tactical Backpacks. They are neutral in appearance and built with the prepper in mind. Especially those designed to conceal a firearm.

The grey men’s packs that I like:

Beyond the bags is your EDC. Unless it’s your daily job, keep the Leatherman, Utility Knife, or Box Cutter in a pocket. Forget the big rigger’s belt and stow your gear in your pockets. Similarly, if you work in law enforcement and the community knows you as such, you are the exception.

The rest of us have to keep the equipment silent.

Word and deed

The gray man theory isn’t just about what you wear and carry. It’s also about what you do and how you behave.

The goal is to fade into the background and be instantly forgettable. This includes how you present yourself to your peers and a crowd, especially in urban survival scenarios.

The average commuter on the way to work isn’t overtly “checking their six” in-store windows or making unexpected route changes to pull in the line. No, for the average person on the way to work, life is much more mundane.

Even in an emergency, most people will follow others like lemmings. It is hole A in the crowd that attracts attention. Move against the tide. Barking orders. You know the gender. Don’t be them.

Blend in with the crowd. Stay on the edges, know your exits and be confident in your routes if the crowds get ugly.

Normally, it’s best to blend in as well. Most people surf on their cell phones while drinking coffee without thinking. It’s amazing how much you can exercise your situational awareness while appearing to do the same. Look around you, imitate others, but observe your surroundings as much as possible.

The grey man theory applies to your words in normal times as well as SHTF. Getting grey during quiet times is quite simple. Keep your mouth shut, don’t stand out, and don’t make a scene about the preparation.

Ok, let’s back up a bit and get the upper hand.

The Gray Man specializes in hiding in plain sight. Normally, this consists of staying below the noise. I know this idea conflicts with our desire to create a community of like-minded people that we can rely on.

What you need to focus on is keeping your prep chat close to the jacket until you have a high degree of confidence that this person will keep your chats private if they choose not to join you.

In short, be selective about all the topics you prepare and share with anyone you don’t trust 100%.

The Practice of the Gray Man: Before, During and After

Going grey is one of the easiest skills to practice, but one of the hardest to master. Also, we don’t experience the end times every day, so the practical application can be a challenge. All you need to do is a plan.

Hiding in plain sight and avoiding drawing attention to yourself is currently quite simple. Observe your imprint on the world and ask yourself some questions.

  • Do you regularly wear tactical clothing?
  • Are you still the one who has to sit in the restaurant tactical seat?
  • And your footprint on social networks?
  • Basically, are you drawing attention to yourself?

During an event, you have to redouble your efforts. A well-prepared person can become a target.

Don’t seem prepared! This may mean caching material rather than hauling the uber-BOB. It may mean taking the long and lonely road rather than the direct route. Either way, review your contingency plans and see where you can modify them to attract less attention.

After an SHTF event, it can be harder because it’s hard to stay grey while you’re in good shape and everyone else is hurting. This may require some avoidance or deception on your part. Avoidance will be as easy as the situation allows. 

When it comes to contact with individuals, you can always imitate their physical mannerisms, whether it’s slower walking, difficulty thinking, or interrupted speech.

Appearance can be a little more difficult. Buying clothes a size or two large may give the illusion that you are losing weight, but that, admittedly, does not go far. It is best to minimize contact.

Final Thoughts on Going Gray

The grey man’s survival strategy doesn’t just need to be theoretical. You can easily put it into practice.

All it takes is attention to how you dress and what you do. Take a critical look at the clothes you usually wear. 

  • Do they signal law enforcement, military, or 1980s survivalist? 
  • Or do you look like everyone else at the mall?
  • Does your bag betray its function and content? 
  • Will a few soft attachments make you a target when you need your supplies the most? 
  • Or will it look like every other travel bag? 

Like the other sheep on that long walk home, your normality bias has made you unable to leave your business papers behind. It’s the way you want to look and act.

Sharpen your critical eye and take a walk on the grey side!



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