So we hear a lot about being 'the gray man' - but what is it, and how can we achieve that?
Below are some of my own thoughts, experiences and anecdotes on just that. This point is mainly (almost exclusively) about every day, non paw, non shtf situations. It's possible that I will make a sister post to it about the same subject but based in a fictitious shtf/paw situation to address things like tactical gear and dealing with LE. Until then, enjoy: and please note, all of this is strictly my own opinion and experience, if you have something to add, dispute or whatever, please do feel free - always open to discussion!
~ The projection of confidence
Are you confident in your abilities? Confident in your gear? Confident in your knowledge? Don't bother answering - the fact of the matter is that people already know. The way you carry yourself, the way you stand, walk, talk - everything - gives even the least empathic person a clear picture of how confident you are in your own skin. Confidence is important, more important perhaps than anything else I'll discuss in this post, because, for all social intents and purposes, it separates the strong from the weak in the eye of the beholder. As a general rule, if you project confidence, you are less likely to be victimized, less likely to go home alone, less likely to be found guilty by a jury of your peers. Confidence demonstrates mental, and sometimes physical and even moral strength.
Let's take an example of a social gathering: When someone slinks into a room and sits in the corner quietly messing with their cellphone while everyone else is chatting away freely and openly, to me personally, they are projecting an aura of not wanting to be around me - for whatever reason. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression - respectful eye contact, a firm handshake, a confident voice - these are all qualities in a stranger that put me somewhat at ease.
Now, at the same time, since this post is about being the gray man, understand that there is such a thing as overconfidence. Whilst I like someone to be willing to participate in a group, or make eye contact with me, or whatever - I do not like someone to come into a social situation and instantly act like they are in charge or try to become the 'alpha' in the room. Two phrases, to me, govern how I should behave in a social situation:
"Speak softly and carry a big stick"
"Men of few words require few laws"
To me - if you wave your big stick around all the time, it means you're probably incapable of speaking softly (and rationally), and if you talk too much, it means you're probably uncomfortable in the honesty of mutual silence - confidence goes BOTH ways, sometimes the best way to demonstrate your confidence is to do nothing.
~ Skin color and how to use it
As a mixed race man I am all too aware of how skin color can dictate the way people behave towards you. I look 'different' - skin tone right in the middle, dark gray eyes and a complete inability to grow a beard longer than 1/4" (which takes about 3 months and is a different color to the hair on my head). Oh and all of my body hair is black except for the hair on my nuts, which is randomly blond.
Yeah, I know right?
At LEAST two times a week I have to answer the "Sooo.... where are you from?" question. I don't especially mind. Well, okay, I do mind, it's fucking annoying, like you're the first person who was even observant enough to notice that I don't look like the other kids? Well done, you get a fucking cookie, thanks for pointing it out, I hadn't noticed...............
...aaaaanyway..... It is, to me, the perfect indicator of the fact that race still plays a massive part in how people view each other. Furthermore, an indicator of how people will make assumptions about you based on your skin color can be demonstrated by my wife, who is Cherokee, but gets yelled at in Spanish CONSTANTLY. One time she was paying the mortgage at the bank and the clerk, without a word, pointed her to another counter... figuring that the clerk was going on break or something she went over to it, where a grinning Mexican man started babbling away at her, leaving her kinda... "Wat?"
Take it from me, even in a hugely multicultural environment such as London, people WILL make assumptions about you based on the color of your skin. That is not to say that these people are necessarily negatively prejudiced, but they'll still make assumptions, and you need to be aware of this and learn how to benefit from it and play upon it. Some of this is common sense: if you're the only black guy in a crowd and you realize you've stumbled into a KKK rally or the only white guy in a Black Panther meeting - just STFU. But that's not what we're talking about here, we're talking about the subtleties, and unfortunately for this post, the subtleties of interracial interaction vary widely by situation, race in question and environment - so I'm going to have to cut this section short and leave it with the age-old internet cop out:
"Figure this part of your yourself, YMMV."
Just keep in mind, when discussing how to be "the gray man" - sometimes you're just going to have to deal with being "the red/black/white/yellow/brown man". You can let that be a handicap, or you can learn to accept, deal with and use it. Remember that humor is great medicine - especially the self-deprecating kind - I'm not above telling someone I'll scalp them and take their firewater if they don't change the subject.
~ The pros and cons of scars and tattoos
A picture paints a thousand words. I picture on your body says "I am very committed to these thousand words". Considering tattoos is a serious choice because, barring removal, you need to accept that whatever that tattoo says about you is going to speak for the rest of your life. Evocative tattoos will bring out the fiercest responses from people because you know that whatever that tattoo says is something that that person really believes. To give an example, last summer my wife and I were driving along and there was a woman on the sidewalk - completely randomly my wife yells out the window at her. And I don't mean;
"HI HOW ARE YOU TODAY?"
"YOU FUCKING CUNT!"
I'm sorta sitting there in a semi stunned silence wondering who stole my quiet country girl and replaced her with a tourettes patient and after a moment manage to squeeze a "wtf?" out of my mouth. Apparently the girl in question had a swastika tattooed on her stomach. I hadn't even noticed it, but it brought out a totally uncharacteristic display of public rage in my wife.
When you're planning your tattoos, both design and placement, consider what they say about you. If you get "I am the hardest fucker in this room" tattooed on your face, you have to expect to have that claim challenged. Yes, that's an extreme example, but it's meant to be illustrative. Consider that what may be commonplace in your current place of living may not be commonplace in the area you move to in ten years time - and that some tattoos and statements will fall greatly out of favor even in the same area over a period of time.
Scars are something different. You can't help your scars, you generally don't plan them. You can, however, choose whether to openly display them or not. I, personally, have some big, bad scarring on my shoulder and right arm - I won't go into how I got them, but suffice it to say, they look pretty mean. I generally choose to wear clothing that shows them off, when possible, because my scars are one of the areas where I allow my 'gray man' philosophy to give way to 'force projection'. If I, personally, was choosing someone to pick a fight with, rob, molest etc, I wouldn't pick someone who looked like he'd been torn up and sewn back together. I realized what a visual impression my scars made very early and easily, because guess what the number one question (even more than race) is that I get asked WITHOUT FAIL by everyone I meet for longer than five minutes?
"Dude... what the fuck happened to your arm??"
So, with scars and tattoos, you have to make a choice. Do I want to go gray, and hide them, keeping attention to myself minimal? Or do I want to use them as a passive force projection in hope of not appearing an easy victim? Arguments can be made for both, again YMMV, but both tattoos and scars can say a lot about a person, just keep that in mind. In a similar vein, scarring on the hands, forearms and feet will tell a person a lot about what kind of life you lead - remember that if you're trying a bluff - don't tell me you're a bare knuckle boxing champion if you have perfectly manicured hands and fingernails - for example.
~ Dressing for success (or failure)
Everything that I have said regarding tattoos also applies to the way you dress. If you are going to wear a shirt that says "I will kill you for no reason" in bright yellow letters, you're going to attract a LOT of unwanted attention. That goes without saying. However, let's talk more about the subtleties of clothing:
How you dress speaks volumes about you. Yes, people can dress up or down, but as a general rule, when you see someone dressed a certain way you make an assumption about them. Someone wearing a police uniform is probably a cop. Someone wearing stilettos probably has a car or ride nearby. Someone carrying a Versace purse is probably also carrying a decent amount of money and an expensive cellphone. Even on a more simple level - someone wearing a short sleeved shirt in December is probably hardy, someone wearing a thick coat in July is probably concealing something. Someone wearing florescent colors probably doesn't care about people's opinions. Someone wearing current season head to toe is probably not as confident in their own skin as they should be.
Consider, when you are getting dressed in the morning, where you are going and what impression you want to give off. If, for example, I am going to the 'bad side of town', I am likely to wear a motto shirt, short sleeved (for the scars), no watch, comfortable cargo pants and no nonsense footwear. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to go into court like that - I'd want to appear smart, well manicured and non threatening. Blend into your environment - but remember that sometimes you may want to push the 'gray man' line a little to appear less of a target. If you're going in to fight a traffic ticket, you want to dress in as responsible, honest and middle class of a manner as possible and try to appear the least guilty fucker in the room - and, conversely, if you are going to your bank in the 'bad side of town', you want to NOT appear to be a worthy target - either through dressing for passive intimidation, for neutral 'gray man effect' or merely by deliberately dressing like a broke motherfucker, not worth the bother to rob.
~ Roll for charisma check
A few nice words and/or a flirtatious grin will get you further, faster, than trying to convince someone that they are wrong, and you are right. What we're talking about now is those day to day situations where you need to talk to someone who may not be receptive. Let's say the elderly lady's dog is digging up your garden. Which of the following is the option most likely to get you in the door to discuss the situation with said neighbor?
A) "Bitch, you need to control your dog, he's eating my vegetables, don't make me shoot him."
B) "Hello, I need you to stop your dog from coming onto my property please, he's damaging my garden."
C) "Well hello young lady, is your mommy home? I'd like to ask her a favor about your dog."
Again, extreme example(ish) and laced with trademark humor but it's meant to be illustrative. Being nice will get you your way at least 7 times out of 10, in my experience, even with people who are ordinarily douchebags. The other 3 times out of 10, fine, do your worst, but at least you can say you tried to be nice and reasonable first.
Now of course, there ARE times when you should not try to talk your way out of a situation and just go on instinct.
"Give me your wallet or I'll cut you!"
"Wow, you have beautiful eyes, can we talk, maybe get a coffee?"
Use your judgment and common sense.
~ Five easy ways to get your vehicle stolen
1) Play really loud music from your stereo
2) Park your car in a stupid place, such as outside a crack house
3) Put flashy shit (rims, body kit etc) on your car
4) Park your car outside when you have a working garage (there's a reason your insurance goes down if you have a garage)
5) Leave expensive or otherwise tempting articles in your car, in plain view
~ Body color and how to use it
Cars wear clothing too! The simplest way to make you car 'gray' is to literally paint the thing gray. Gray is the least assuming, least eye catching color (imho) that you will find. White can work too, but, especially in a truck, white=work=tools=profit. When I see a gray or matte silver car I think old people. Old people don't have thousands of dollars of stereo equipment in their vehicle, and are generally more sensible about not leaving important articles in their vehicles. They are also more likely to be able to spring for factory extras on their vehicle like alarms, immobilizers, OnStar etc.
Understand, at the other end of the scale, that whilst painting your vehicle vibrant, cool colors is fun and it's nice to make a fashion statement - by doing so you are saying "I put a lot of work and money into this vehicle" - and generally, what's true on the outside is true on the inside. If you want to have a real nice truck or car for recreation - by all means do, I'll talk about Q-Cars in a minute, but if you are only using one vehicle, don't make yourself a bigger target.
Also, remember that people will make assumptions about you by the color of your car just as they will with your skin - for example, my wife has a theory that it is impossible to have both a yellow Mustang AND a large penis. True or false, makes no difference, assumptions do not have to be logical.
~ The pros and cons of damage and bumper stickers
Damage and bumper stickers are analogous to scars and tattoos. Firstly, bumper stickers - what bumper stickers you choose to put of your vehicle reflect your personal views about those subjects in the same (although less permanent) way that your tattoos do. Bumper stickers range from funny to outright offensive, and may lead to any number of outcomes, from getting a friendly 'honk' down to getting your vehicle vandalized. If you want to, for example, put a defense of marriage sticker on your car - that's your choice, I endorse your first amendment rights - but don't get mad when you park in the parking lot of a gay bar and come back to a car covered in eggs and all scratched up. Similarly, in my humble opinion, some bumper displays give a small window into the personal habits of a person. If, for example, I see a bumper with "Clinton '92!" on it, I think that you don't care much for maintenance and keeping things up to date. If I see a neatly arranged yellow and a pink ribbon on your bumper, I tend to think you don't give much of a shit about either cause and are just being fashionable. (Again, my personal reactions, I don't mean them to be offensive to anyone.)
As for damage? Well, this gets into the Q-Car concept I'm about to discuss, but damage to your vehicle can do two things; firstly, cosmetic damage makes the vehicle look cheap, and probably means that the person doesn't have much in the way of shit worth stealing inside and/or on their person. Secondly, some specific damage to your vehicle can actually AVOID further damage. For example, having a busted lock on your door might avoid a broken window. Pairing a busted lock with one of those steering wheel bar locks is great for parking in crappy neighborhoods - it allows people to get into your car without smashing anything to look for shit to steal (don't leave anything in there, obviously) but at the same time provides a strong deterrent to stealing the car itself and/or damaging the ignition or column lock.
~ The Q-Car
And so we come to the Q-Car. If you are familiar with the concept of a Q-Ship, you'll understand kinda where I'm coming from with this - if not, look it up on wikipedia.
Just because you want to have a shitty looking car to drive when you NEED to doesn't mean you can't also have a nice one for when you WANT to. Herein lies the concept of the Q-Car - an old, fucked up vehicle that doesn't look worth the time of day, with body aging, corrosion and/or damage, no stereo etc. BUT... mechanically maintained in top condition - or even tuned and tinkered to be more powerful and capable mechanically that your nice car. Old Police cruisers are gold for this purpose - absolute gold.
Some advantages to owning a Q-Car:
1) It allows you a vehicle that is both low risk for break ins AND low cost to replace if stolen
2) It's generally going to be YOUR car. No loan, no lien. If you're paying more than $500-1000 for a Q-Car before mechanical work, you're doing it wrong.
3) If you pick the right vehicle and/or motor, you have a gas saver to drive daily when gas prices get (temporarily or permanently) to the point of choking your nice new truck or SUV. Our '88 Sable gets 29 MPG highway with the cheapest gas. Our '92 S-10 pickup gets around 27. Both a huge saving over the 14 we'd get from our '00 Jimmy.
4) If you don't already have mechanical skills, you can learn them working on your Q-Car without fear of fucking up a $10-$20k piece of machinery. I've said it over and over, the biggest currency in a PAW will be SKILLS.
~ Blending in, the right way, and the wrong way
Blending in and 'camouflage' are always going to be subjective to your current environment (and in a SHTF to the environment of your BOL). Where I'm from, Multicam would be an excellent choice for gear. If however you live in New York City, you're going to look like a prick walking around in Multicam, SHTF or not. Each pattern and/or color has its advantages and disadvantages based on where you are. For example - black gear bags - a lot of people will tease you for being a 'mall ninja' - but if you live in a big city, you're going to stick out WAY more carrying a MARPAT bag than you are carrying a black one. There's not much to say here because it's all SO individual to each person's environment, but just remember that blending in is not about simply selecting the appropriate camouflage pattern or most high dollar concealment items - it's about looking, more or less, like everyone else around you.
~ What about deliberately NOT blending in?
Absofuckinglutely. We've already discussed, in clothing, about pushing the line of 'gray man' into 'passive force projection' and this can apply to gear. For example, if there is a fight breaking out in my street, I'll likely toss on my duty belt (which serves as grab gear for "bumps in the night", if you're wondering) before I run out there. Why? Because at first glance people might assume I'm an off duty cop. It's a visual impression that could potentially help diffuse the situation passively.
The other side of this is when you NEED to be seen. If you're going hunting in a high traffic area for example, don't dress in a deer suit. I don't care how much you want to yiff, it aint worth your life.
~ Carrying what you need - or minimizing your profile
Finally in the gear section, think about carrying what you NEED to carry on a given day. I have three EDC setups, high risk, EDC, and light clothing. You have to work your EDC around what you're wearing and where you're going - especially when you consider printing. We've talked about "passive force projection" sometimes being a good thing, and I stand by that, but this post is about being a 'gray man' and therefore understand that you simply cannot expect to be the gray man if you are only wearing speedos but still want to carry your Glock. There are situations where I WANT people to look at me and see that I'm armed, but they are in the minority. We'll talk open carry in a minute, right now I'm meaning in general, regarding your knives, less lethal etc.
~ Open carry - a cultural thing
The argument about open carry often misses a key point: culture. Where I call 'home', it's no big thing to see someone walking around with a rifle or shotgun slung, or to see a gun rack in a parked truck. Where I live currently however, you just don't see that, it's a culturally different place. For those who want to Open Carry to make a "political point" - I fully support you, but for everyone reading this for the sake of 'gray man' education - consider how others are going to react to you carrying Open vs. Concealed. No matter how gray your mannerisms, clothing and car are, if you walk into certain places with a weapon you your side, you are going to be the focus of EVERYONE's attention, immediately, regardless of how legally you are carrying.
~ The pros and cons of the BFK
Big Fucking Knife. The trick to this, for appearing 'gray', is - can you conceal it? The answer, invariably, is yea, you can conceal more or less any sensible tactical knife but you have to do it smart. I advocate the carry of a BFK as a secondary weapon because the bigger and meaner looking the knife, the more passive force projection you have if you need to bring it out in a situation where your gun is unusable (you don't have one, catastrophic failure, area full of bystanding crowd - pick one). That, to me, is the central principal of being an armed gray man - passivity. I can guarantee you that if I were to go to do my bank errands wearing a plate carrier and carrying an AR - NO FUCKER would rob me. However, I would also quickly find that no fucker would serve me, and likely that no jury would sympathize with me either. Weapons, for a gray man, need to be concealable, functional and fucking awful mean looking - anyone will tell you that the last situation that any sane concealed carry holder (or other weapon toting individual such as those who can only carry pocket knives etc) want to be in, is a situation where you have to use your weapon. 90% of the time, in day to day life, that means you want to ride what I call the "passivity see-saw". You want to appear unarmed and ordinary, but have the ability to suddenly appear extremely fucking scary at a moment's notice - when in doubt, act like a cat would act.
~ Being aware of how your group appears, positioning wise
If you are out with a group, keep in mind how you are positioning yourselves, and how that is viewed by others. If you are all standing in front of the door, blocking others, everyone will know you're there (and be pissed at you). Conversely, if you are all off in the dark corner, everyone will notice you and think you're up to no good. Confidence - stand in the open, talk freely, don't be in anyone's way, be polite, don't try to actively hide.
~ Being aware of how your group appears, composition wise
This plays back into some of my earlier points - understand that people will view certain types of groups with prejudice, and as a gray man/gray group that is not good. If you are a bunch of big burly dudes and you realize you just walked into a feminist rally - don't pinch any asses. Also understand that how other members of your group act and dress reflects on you - yes, you cannot control what someone wears, but you can control associating with them, either at that particular moment or in general - and if one of your companions is acting like a dick to people (especially when drunk), try to rein them in and diffuse the situation. Humans are, at heart, a tribal people, and the 'them and us' and 'guilty by association' mentalities still prevail very strongly sometimes. All the 'gray' attitude, clothing, gear and mentality in the world will not keep you from notice if your buddy is pointing at you and yelling "HEY - EVERYONE LOOK AT THIS DUDE!".
Well, that's my thoughts - of course, open to debate, criticism, whatever - fell free to chime in with your counterpoints or other wisdom. Thanks for reading!
Last edited by ista_hota
on Fri May 15, 2009 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.