There are times when you want to stand out and times you don’t. For instance, let’s say you are walking around wearing a military tactical vest and combat boots. You may think this gives off a “don’t mess with me” vibe, but in certain situations, it puts you in danger. If SHTF and you are the person in the crowd who looks the most capable, you will be thrown to the wolves.
Think of it this way. You are always told to hide your emergency supplies. You don’t want to advertise your stash of long-term emergency food or stock of antibiotics to your neighbors. Why? Because if a disaster happens, your home will be the first place desperate people run to for relief. You have to protect yourself and your family first before you take care of others.
Consider what happened after the recent earthquake hit Haiti. The New York Post reports, “Haitians overran trucks filled with supplies, stealing food and other necessities Friday as the country’s leaders scrambled to provide relief a week after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the impoverished country. […] Some of the trucks that were looted belonged to the US-based Food for the Poor. The trucks had been transporting cases of water, rice and beans.”
The Haitian people were desperate, and in their desperation, they stole from the people providing help.
Other times, opportunity seekers are a threat. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “A federal indictment says the University of Pittsburgh’s former emergency management director stole more than 13,600 face masks meant for school employees and students and sold them online in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Now, imagine you are in a dangerous survival situation. If you look like the type of person who is prepared (such as wearing tactical gear or carrying an obvious go bag), you put yourself in harm’s way. You don’t want to call attention to yourself and your survival gear. Instead, you need to utilize the Gray Man Theory.
Understanding the Gray Man Theory
A “gray man” is someone who can blend into any environment or situation, such as having the ability to move through a crowd or place unnoticed. A gray man knows how to hide in plain sight while also not appearing to have anything to hide.
The Gray Man Theory has been around for a while in the military and used in films and literature. For example, Netflix is currently making a series based on the book and series The Gray Man by Mark Greaney, which follows a covert operationalist who is a master at completing lethal jobs and disappearing.
Within the military, trainees hope to become a Gray Man. According to military.com, a gray man is “the guy who gets the job done, never fails, never wins, and never gets gooned (bottom half of the class on runs). Overall, the Gray Man is a good team player and a guy you want in your squad.”
In other words, a gray man does not stand out or call attention to himself.
When it comes to preparedness, the same ideas apply. A gray man is one who has the skills to survive but doesn’t call attention to these skills or himself. Given his ability to observe and understand his environment, the gray man can move through a space or crowd and escape unnoticed.
Recent Examples Where Acting Like a Gray Man Would Have Been Helpful
Unfortunately, danger is lurking around every corner. For example, we have all heard about peaceful protests that turn violent. According to Homeland Defense and Security, “In total, there were 8,700 protests that occurred in major cities in the U.S. and Canada between May 25th and July 31st, 2020, including 574 protests that involved acts of violence.” These examples of civil unrest were in response to the death of George Floyd.
Similarly, there has been a rise in COVID mandate protests that have turned violent. In France, a protest against the government’s Covid-19 health pass policy ended in fights and protesters being hit with tear gas. In Australia, people protesting Sydney’s month-long lockdown fought with police.
Whether you are protesting or get caught up in one, you will have a much better chance of escaping uninjured if you blend in as a gray man.
It’s not just times of civil unrest when it is helpful to act as a gray man. Anytime there is a chaotic environment, danger is possible. Chaos is always followed by more chaos. In the rush to protect themselves, other people get hurt.
Acting as a gray man will help you stay safe in dangerous situations. As you take cues from the people around you, dress and act in a way not to draw attention to yourself, you can escape easier.
Why Being a Gray Man is a Critical Skill in a Disaster Situation
One of the most important skills you should practice is situational awareness. As a gray man, this is even more possible. If you can blend in with the crowd, it will be easier for you to observe what is happening all around you.
Additionally, a gray man is able to move through a crowd or a place unnoticed. This will be especially helpful if you are in a dangerous situation. For example, if there is an attack in an urban environment, such as a riot or civil unrest, a gray man will have a better chance of escaping undetected.
A gray man also doesn’t appear like a hero. As a result, he doesn’t have to worry about desperate people slowing him down or trying to steal emergency supplies.
[Related Read: 4 Ways to Prepare for and Deal with Disasters in Urban Settings]
How to Be a Gray Man
We live in a society that encourages us to stand out and be different. Being a gray man requires the complete opposite.
- Study your environment. Being a gray man begins by knowing your environment. Since the key is to blend in with the crowd, you need to know what the people look like, dress like, and act like -- beforehand. Keep in mind that this doesn’t just apply to clothing. Your actions should also mimic those around you.
- Dress appropriately. When trying to dress like a gray man, it’s important to understand the people in the environment. In urban areas, you are dealing with large-scale groups of people. So, if you wear clothes fit for a Florida beach in the middle of New York City, you’d draw way too much attention to yourself.
- Avoid eye-grabbing looks. Avoid bright colors, tactical clothing, or clothing with memorable images or brand-name logos. Overall, it is best to choose clothing in neutral tones. This also applies to your overall appearance. While you can’t make yourself average height, you can avoid dying your hair in bold colors or shaving your head. Also, if you have a tattoo visible, try to cover it up.
- Watch your movements. A gray man must also watch his mannerisms. For example, you want to use just the right amount of eye contact. You don’t want to appear standoffish by withholding eye contact, but you don’t want to stare at people either. Another thing to be careful of is your reaction to the situation around you. Avoid being startled, making comments, or pointing when you see something.
- Go with the flow. If a situation starts to unfold, it is important to go with the flow. If everyone starts running one way, you don’t want to single yourself out right away by running in the opposite direction.
- Hide your gear. As someone who practices preparedness, you understand the importance of having gear with you to protect yourself at all times. However, you don’t want others to know you have it. Use your pockets and disguise your go bag.
- Practice situational awareness. A gray man always practices situational awareness. They observe their surroundings and take stock of what and who could be a threat. This also includes taking inventory of windows and rooftops to see who is watching from above.
- Be discreet. Even when you are observing your surroundings, you want to continue to blend in. If you are very clearly looking for threats, people will notice it. Instead, use your cell phone and pretend to text when you observe something potentially dangerous. If you’re checking out the rooftop situation above you, avoid tilting your head up.
- Avoid conversations. If you have to speak to someone, keep the conversation to a minimum. Remember, the key to being a gray man is to blend and not be memorable during and after the fact. Avoid chit chatting or making small talk if you can.
Don’t make yourself a target. Reduce attention, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply