URBAN SURVIVAL: The Greyman PART 1

Can you spot the highly trained tactical practitioner armed with 2 pistols In this crowd ? – Exactly

Editors Note: If you are a Civilian Contractor you should also check out CIVILIAN CONTRACTORS: The Greyman

What is a Greyman?

The term “Greyman” originated as a slang term for people who worked in espionage and intelligence, most likely around the cold war era. These days a Greyman is ether someone who works in the intelligence field, law enforcement or private security (these days tactical enthusiasts are also included in this group) who wishes to blend in to the everyday environment.

Unlike the Greyman of the past, today’s Greyman doesn’t necessarily want to disappear as an anonymous person in a crowd, in fact on some occasions he may even wish to stand out. What he wants to do is not look like a “tactical guy” on his way home from a Blackwater M-4 course.

The “tactical-cool” look is isn’t something new for guys within the tactical arena but is seems to be more in vogue these days then it was 10 years ago. Back in the day tactical-cool look was usually jeans, a glock shirt and maybe a hidden agenda jacket – but now it has gone way overboard.

Every time I see some guy in a shopping mall wearing a TAD jacket, 5.11 pants, riggers belt, pocket-clip knife and Maxpedition man-purse I wonder what they are thinking. Now you may think “who cares, like it matters if I look tactical-cool” – and to a certain extent it really doesn’t matter if people look at you and think to themselves “that guy is carrying a gun”.

If you want to wear the TAD-Tux or the 5.11 tuxedo (why not throw in a tactical Ball-cap wile your at it) when picking up the latest season of 24 at Blockbuster knock yourself out. The point of this article isn’t why you shouldn’t look like someone who packs a gun or an off-duty SWAT cop (not to mention no one in a 5.11 tuxedo will pick up a model) – it is to give you some tips on how to be a Greyman for those times you want to blend in.

So no matter if you want to go Full on Grey or you are just Grey Curious you should read this article (ha-ha, I made a play on words).

Leave the 5.11 Tux at the range

To anyone familiar with the tactical industry seeing someone wearing 5.11 or any other popular brand of tactical clothing screams “I AM CARRYING A GUN!!!!”

To anyone not familiar with the tactical industry the 5.11 tuxedo screams “I am on my way to a safari”

What you want to wear is “regular clothing” – basically don’t buy anything that is sold on a website with pictures of people carrying guns is a good rule to follow when shopping for greyman clothing.

If you aren’t climbing a mountain leave the riggers belt on the mountain

Besides being a belt that totally stands out (and half the damn people that wear them don’t even loop them correctly) riggers belts are not attractive. Seriously, a fat coyote brown nylon belt with a tubular metal buckle looks… well, like a fat nylon belt with a tubular metal buckle.

A good leather belt will hold your pistol holster just as well and without projecting that you are packing a gun.

Leave the Combat boots on the battlefield

Ask yourself this; who wears combat boots? The answer to that question is why combat boots are not grey at all. Also, have you seen guys wearing desert combat boots and jeans in a club? It looks ridiculous – you might as well throw on a polyester shirt and call women “chicks” because you are not getting laid with desert combat kicks on.

Leave the Glock shirts at home

People who wear gun brand shirts are people who own guns, if you are trying to look grey then you sure as shit don’t want people knowing you are packing. This also goes for “Major League Ninja” patches.

Leave the pocket clip knife in your pocket

Carrying a knife with a pocket clip attached to the top of your pocket isn’t the “I am a cop” sign that it used to be. But if you are looking to go grey it is best to conceal every weapon you carry, even if tons of people now carry pocket clip knives.

The easiest way to keep your knife concealed is to clip it on the inside of your waistband (if your shirt is untucked) or cut and sew a slit on the inside of your pocket for the clip.

If you aren’t in the Army 86 the high and tight

Only active duty military and cops have high and tights, being grey means that you don’t want to look like either of these groups. You don’t have to grow your hair down to your ass, just grow it out a bit so you look like a businessman. If you like your hair short then just shave it all off, the Vin Diesel look is always in.

Loose the BCG’s

If for some unknown reason you are still wearing the BCG’s that were issued to you in the Army then for the love of god please visit an optometrist and get a normal pair. Even if you don’t want to look grey please get rid of the BCG’s, they look like shit and are the reason you are invisible to women.

If you don’t know what BCG’s are don’t worry about the above – if you do know what BCG’s are you may continue laughing.

Put a “Save the whales” sticker on your car

Sure the “You Can Take my Gun From my Cold Dead Fingers” bumper sticker is groovy, but it also says “this car is owned by a gun owner, Free Shit in my trunk!”. As a Greyman when people look at your car you want them to think you are the last person on the planet who owns a gun.

I have an Obama and Greenpeace sticker on my car – and an AR, 45. enough mags and ammo to start WW3 and full battle-rattle kit in the trunk.

Keep keys on your keychain

Sure, if you crash into a ravine in the middle of winter and you need to start a fire the Swedish firetool and the 28 other gadgets on your keychain will come in handy. Otherwise your Survivalist keychain says “this person is prepared”. As a Greyman you want your keychain to say “I am going to open the door to my minivan”.

Only cops carry 2 wallets

If you work in law enforcement then carry your badge on an ID holder around your neck and keep your credit cards and cash in a money clip in your front pocket. This also goes for any other profession where you carry a badge or ID.

Eyes forward maggot

A friend of mine that is an undercover narco gave me this tip like 10 years ago: “I can spot a cop (or tactically trained guy) the second they walk through the door – their eyes immediately start scanning the room like someone watching a tennis match”

You can still check out your surroundings when you enter a new environment; just do it a bit differently. Look at things casually and not right off the bat when you enter a room and use your peripheral vision. It will take a little longer to scan your environment at first, but with practice you can scan out an area just as fast as you can with “crazy eyes”.

In Conclusion…

As I said at the beginning of this article – not everyone has to be Greyman, but for those of us that may be working plainclothes or just wish to blend into the crowd “grey is the way”

I understand that the tactical community is a sub-culture that has its own lingo and way of dressing just like any other group of enthusiasts and I am by no means “hating” on the 5.11 crowd (well, maybe a little bit).

The point of this article is to give you some tips on blending in wile still carrying your everyday tools – not to pinch your ear for carrying a Versipack to Wall Mart. Sometimes even the tactical guy may want to look Greyman, so for those times reference the above.

URBAN SURVIVAL: The Greyman PART 2 – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

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~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns and writing poorly written articles.

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55 thoughts on “URBAN SURVIVAL: The Greyman PART 1”

  1. I think the “Grey man” is the goofball asian guy wearing the stocking cap in the blazing heat.

    tomahawk

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  2. Fully admit to wearing 5.11 pants and a wilderness belt most of the time. However I try to temper them with a “grey” T-shirt of some sort with sneakers. Usually a local 5k run freebie or similar. Plus its intucked to hide the batbelt. This is at least how I justify it.

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  3. Nice write up. I think the combat boots are the new fanny pack.
    I’m not sure about the Obama sticker, but I have a bunch of surf stickers on my rides (Florida). I would love to rep a MIA sticker as I’m a veteran, but just cant do it.

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  4. Great site James. I pretty much follow most of these rules. However I need to work on cutting out my tactical stare. Though I notice that most of the people have their head up their own arse to notice I am looking around. I agree about the boots. I either way a well used pair of hiking boots (which is normal wear here in the Northwest) and I just got a weird pair of vibram five fingers that look like I am wearing water shoes. Which my cop buddies lovingly call my hippie shoes. I admit they do look weird. But it occupies people’s eyes away from looking for HK45c concealed on my waste. Again great site.

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  5. I travel a lot and in the past few years I’ve seen some people oblivious to grey. Airports are usually see these people. The easiest spot was a guy with oakleys, tactical pants, riggers belt, acu bracelet, belleville boots, goatee, and ball cap with velcro. He could have been on an ODA but doubt it.

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  6. I am resigned to the fact that I will never be ‘grey’. Hell, I’d never even pass for ‘off-white’ let alone gray.

    You’ve got some great points in this article and I know I am the poster boy for the not grey crowd.

    Great stuff. Keep it coming!

    Bubba

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  7. I’m still working on turning my smallish maxpedition man-purse into a Burlap hippie-shit sack complete with chairman Mao stenciled on the side. Nothing says non-violence like a burlap Chairman Mao, yo.

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  8. I think the “Grey man” is the goofball asian guy wearing the stocking cap in the blazing heat.tomahawk  

    Exactly, and he is probably really awsome at Kung Fu.

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  9. I’m still working on turning my smallish maxpedition man-purse into a Burlap hippie-shit sack complete with chairman Mao stenciled on the side.Nothing says non-violence like a burlap Chairman Mao, yo.  

    I did the same thing. Took a generic messenger bag that cost about 20 bucks and put some iron on hook and loop in it took a simple Uncle Mikes holster and glued the opposite on and voila have a non de script carrier for whatever I need. Or you could use 5.11′s back up belt system in it and carry all you want and look just like a hippie bag.

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  10. I am guilty of the pants, usually just a pair of BDUs. Can’t carry a wallet in back pocket since back surgery. I do like to accent them though with a pair of sandals & a t shirt. I am also guilty of the BW cap. It really pisses liberals off & I just can’t get enough of that.

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  11. I think the “Grey man” is the goofball asian guy wearing the stocking cap in the blazing heat.tomahawk  (Quote This Comment)

    Sure – Many times the Urban (non 3rd world) Greyman wants to stand out – I will cover that in Part 2 of this article

    Fully admit to wearing 5.11 pants and a wilderness belt most of the time. However I try to temper them with a “grey” T-shirt of some sort with sneakers. Usually a local 5k run freebie or similar. Plus its intucked to hide the batbelt. This is at least how I justify it.  (Quote This Comment)

    Like I said – Greyman is not an absolute necessity for everyone

    This article was just to give the guys here a few tips for when they want to go Grey

    When I go out to Lowes or the Home and Garden shop I still throw on a pair of 5.11’s – just the pants not the whole Tux.

    Nice write up. I think the combat boots are the new fanny pack..  (Quote This Comment)

    Hahahahaaa… “combat boots are the new fanny pack” That’s a good one man! I may steal that quote from you

    I’m not sure about the Obama sticker, but I have a bunch of surf stickers on my rides (Florida)..  (Quote This Comment)

    The reason I have the Liberal Treehugger shit on my ride is because I have several guns in my trunk at any time. And if I am taking or teaching/assisting I may have 20 AR/AK’s in my trunk along with 30K worth of gear.

    I want someone to look at my work car and say “This guy has a trunk full of Granola Bars and copy’s of Today’s Woman in the trunk”

    Great site James. However I need to work on cutting out my tactical stare. Though I notice that most of the people have their head up their own arse to notice I am looking around..  (Quote This Comment)

    The Crazy Eyes is a hard habit to loose, it used to be a big problem to me. I used to have the Editor at Large here “Bubba” smack me in the back of the head whenever he saw me do it.

    Glad you like the site!

    I travel a lot and in the past few years I’ve seen some people oblivious to grey. Airports are usually see these people. The easiest spot was a guy with oakleys, tactical pants, riggers belt, acu bracelet, belleville boots, goatee, and ball cap with velcro. He could have been on an ODA but doubt it.  (Quote This Comment)

    Yep – see Luke’s article about the Civilian Contractor Greyman for more info on that

    I am resigned to the fact that I will never be ‘grey’. Hell, I’d never even pass for ‘off-white’ let alone gray. You’ve got some great points in this article and I know I am the poster boy for the not grey crowd. Bubba  (Quote This Comment)

    You make a good point – some guys will just never be grey no matter how hard they try because they just have a “Tough Guy” look – I will cover some tips for those guys in Part 2. But the 5.11 Tux sure as shit doesn’t help, lol’

    Thanks for the comments guys – great productive back-and-forth about this

    ~James G

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  12. Hey, where’s part 2?!?

    Good write-up on my favorite topic. I think we all have our one piece of tacticool gear that we have a hard time giving up. I love my rigger’s belts — infinitely adjustable = always comfortable, and the width seems to make them hold up my pants better. I just leave my shirts untucked and no one ever see’s them.

    The other challenge to looking grey is that in a world of disposable made-in-China products, “tactical” is one of the last refuges of quality made-in-the-USA clothes and gear that won’t fall apart in a few months.

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  13. The hardest habit I had to break was my knife clipped to my pocket. But when I am overseas it attracts way too much attention and in some cases it is illegal. So now I had to retrain myself to draw from the inside of my waistband

    Part 2 is about half written now, give it a week or so

    ~James G

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  14. Just a quick one James, on the riggers belt:

    ‘half the damn people that wear them don’t even loop them correctly’

    How are you supposed to rig them?

    Awesome site btw.

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  15. You are supposed to loop the belt under and through the floating rod – but I see tons of people looping it over so the belt digs into their stomach or they don’t even use the floating rod so whenever they walk their belt goes “ting, ting, ting”

    Did anyone else see that I misspelled SHIRTS on “Leave the Glock SHITS at Home”?

    Man we need to hire a proof reader – lol

    ~James G

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  16. You are supposed to loop the belt under and through the floating rod – but I see tons of people looping it over so the belt digs into their stomach or they don’t even use the floating rod so whenever they walk their belt goes “ting, ting, ting” Did anyone else see that I misspelled SHIRTS on “Leave the Glock SHITS at Home”?Man we need to hire a proof reader – lol ~James G  (Quote This Comment)

    or lay off the booze when you write.

    tomahawk

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    1. NO! Thats the only way I can write dude – on the sause
      ~James G

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    2. Pain killers, the cocktail of choice for the true professional. lol

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  17. Good article, whenever I travel, I go jeans, some “definitely not a gun owner” t-shirt (I have a lot of heavy metal band t shirts, and some company logo t shirts) I personally think too plain of a t shirt screams look at me since some guys try too hard to go grey and just get the plainest things they can find, and if its cold, a flannel shirt or jacket on top of that.

    I’ll admit to the Oakley ballistic glasses, but how do you pass up wearing these? http://www.patriotoutfitters.com/scripts/z.exe/sbproc?action=sp7729

    other than that, I wear Oakley boots since my ankle is messed up from football, and they’re almost so comfortable I forget I’m wearing boots. Plus I do the high and tight haircut, but I keep my hair a bit longer than fresh buzz cut. I also keep a beard, since being clean cut is a uniform requirement, beards really don’t stick out in my mind unless you’ve got some Kerry King beard going on! Last but not least, I wear a rigger’s belt, I never tuck my shirt in since it gets noticed quickly, and even if someone sees it, unless you’re looking for a rigger’s belt, its a large green belt from anywhere but the front.

    also might want to add in the tactical piercing as a thing to ditch, I am guilty of having a hole in my left ear, but some guys take the tough look too far, I have a guy in my circle of friends we call “el toro” since he has a horse shoe in his nose for some god aweful reason.

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  18. James,

    Again another good article.

    Something else to consider is behavior. Here is a poster of the behaviors one should avoide if carrying concealed:

    I always love playing the game, “Who’s carrying concealed?” All the above you described is what I look for, among behaviors, to take a closer look to see if there is a gun being concealed on someone’s person. Heck, I’ll stop people in a store (especially women) and ask them, “Are you carrying?” By their reaction I’m usually 75% right, and it’s good pickup when I say, “Hey I’m a firearms instructor, do you want to learn how to actually conceal that? Heck, we can go to the dressing room and I can show you how right now.” I have yet to get a yes to the dressing room offer, but usually get a number.

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  19. Here it is dude (Click to Enlarge):

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  20. NO! Thats the only way I can write dude – on the sause~James G  (Quote This Comment)

    it is sauce not “sause” – my point exactly, hahahahaha.

    tomahawk

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    1. Hahahahahaaa…

      ~James G

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  21. Great essay & blog. I know you guys are just having fun but there’s a lot of practical value in your material. People with years of relevant experience can’t help but exude useful info.

    “Grey-curious”, that is a hoot.

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  22. “Grey-curious”, that is a hoot.  (Quote This Comment)

    LOL, I took the “Grey Curious” and “Full on Grey” from an episode of South Park where they were talking about suburban poser Bikers

    ~James G

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  23. What if a straight guy owns a harley and is thinking about being gay..what does that make him?
    Cartman-”Bi-curious”

    Walked in to target the other day and saw some dude rocking a tucked polo shirt, crew cut, 5.11′s, hiking boots, riggers belt and no badge. Even before reading this article my automatic thought was where is his gun?

    Great article though, I tend to think more people notice the obvious tactical guy than they probably actually do, but as you said, if they don’t know it’s “tactical” they think you’re going on a safari or something.

    I only wish some of these tactical clothing makers would make an effort to make a pair of pants that looked like…a plain pair of pants…that are cut a little bit better for concealment.

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  24. “I only wish some of these tactical clothing makers would make an effort to make a pair of pants that looked like…a plain pair of pants…that are cut a little bit better for concealment.”

    get some Carharrt pants,Dickies, or columbia river and modify them. Even after paying for the modifications it will still be a fraction of the cost of the “Tactical” clothing.

    go to ace hardware and get yourself a leather construction workers belt, and replace the buckle with your favorite. its a shit load cheaper than a riggers .

    Blackhawk, 511,tad gear, etc. has made boucoup $$ off of Tactical knuckle heads.

    the attached photo shows a pair of Carharrt copies I had made in Thailand with 4 hidden pockets in them – less than 20 bucks.

    tomahawk

    [img]http://www.deathvalleymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Chiricahuas 013.jpg[/img]

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    1. Who is that old fucker wearing them?

      Hahahahahaha!

      ~James G

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  25. My deffinition of grey man is not invisibility, but being totally unremarkable. You don’t have to completely “blend in with the crowd”, just look yourself over and get rid of anything that people would remember about you a minute after they saw you.

    Not just “tactical” wear but crazy offensive and or politcal t-shirts like I am fond of (Save the ‘vote from the rooftops’ shirt for your favorite demonstration and other such special occasions), and generally “overdoing it” in any one area of your apperence.

    Where I live it’s not uncommon at all to wear a pair of BDU pants. And at least 4 out of ten men here carry folding knives clipped visibly in their pants pocket, that’s not uncommon either. If that is uncommon, get a knife that clips in blade side down (all you see if the clip, so it’s not obviously a knife) and clip a sharpie next to it, It’ll just look like you carry pens.

    And you don’t have to go grey man all the time. I mean if you’re a vet or active duty and you want to go grocery shopping in your BDUs or dress uniforms, knock yourself out. My town is not too terribly liberal and military personnel get a lot of respect.

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  26. I wear Carhartt’s everyday :), was simply stating that you would think 5.11 or Eotac would recognize the market for somebody who doesn’t want to stand out and at least try and compete with Carhartt or Dickies.

    Yeah they have maybe one or two discrete cut pants, it just seems like it hasn’t really caught on yet, probably because most people would rather look tactical anyway.

    Like you said, Blackhawk and 5.11 are making a lot of money selling what they are selling now, so they have no real incentive to do otherwise.

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  27. Freedom Outlaw:

    You make some good points about tailoring the Greyman to your environment. If everyone else is carrying knives clipped to their pants or wears mil style clothing (like in many mil towns) then go for it – what is considered Grey in Fort Worth TX wont pass for Grey in Boston so look at the sheeple around you and that is Grey.

    The Greyman to disappear is more of a tradecraft thing and is extremely difficult to pull off.

    Justin:

    A couple of companies have tried to sell “discrete” tactical clothing, you can find them on the clearance page of just about any online tactical store.

    People who buy clothing like that want too look Tactical, it’s the whole point of buying a pair of 70 dollar pants that were made in China – they are tactical-groovy

    ~James G

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  28. I think you just hit the nail on the head: People, in general don’t buy that stuff because they need to blend in with a crowd, they wear tacticlothes because they want the whole crowd to know that they’re a self proclaimed badass.

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  29. And like I said – nothing wrong with that, I sometimes buy expensive designer clothing that many tactical folks would think I am retarded for buying.

    But just like tactical clothing my Versace shirt is only appropriate for certain environments – like if I wore it at the range people would think I am a tool.

    Same goes with tactical clothing

    I have actually never purchased tactical clothing, I was lucky about 5 years ago I worked for a company that gave me all the 5.11 shit I could carry.

    I will give 5.11 one thing – it lasts forever, I may use it for a bit of camping in Indonesia next month.

    ~James G

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  30. I only wish some of these tactical clothing makers would make an effort to make a pair of pants that looked like…a plain pair of pants…that are cut a little bit better for concealment.

    Check out Vertx pants:

    http://www.wearvertx.com/clothing-men-pants.html

    http://www.vertxtactical.com/

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  31. Quite possibly one of the best f*cking articles online I’ve ever read regarding the pure douchebaggery of “tactical cool”. Please keep up the good work. I’ll be forwarding this article around, no doubt.

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  32. Mr. G,
    I’ve been reading you site only recently and I really enjoy your work. I had to share this, I have a friend who is moonlighting a starbucks and the first thing he told me when he landed the gig was that he would be able to wear his 5.11s on the job…

    -Flo

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  33. Like I said don’t get me wrong – I do like and own Tactical Clothing, I use it for work and training, and sometimes just for walking around. I am not hating on folks that do wear tactical clothing, maybe poking a little fun, but if we can’t make fun of ourselves then where is the fun in that.

    The point of this article was to give pointers on the Greyman for those times when you want to go Grey – not to pinch people’s arms for wearing the 5.11 tuxedo to Wal-Mart

    ~James G

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  34. James…. there are those that will get this post, and those that won’t. Tactical clothing in general is way better than your average pair of khakis… it’s when you take it to the limit. Going out to dinner wearing the full ensemble and velcro-patch tactical ballcap with shemagh…

    Freedom Outlaw has it right… most folks get decked out when they want to “onlookers” to think they’re a total badass.

    The baddest motherfuckers I’ve ever met have generally been totally normal looking dudes… Grey.

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  35. I wear combats all the time anyway so wearing anything else would make me stand out like a turd in a sugar bowl.

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  36. Again, a great article. I think us civi pukes can learn a lot here. I dress down at the airport = Ballcap + T-Shirt+ Flight Jacket + Jeans and Vans shoes. I use a ruck I have had for years that can carry a snowboard if needed. I did this to not be a target. I look like a broke, 40 something, dude who never grew up or got a job. Hence, I dont get “rolled.”

    Take that for what its worth…

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  37. Good acting skills could come in Handy! injured,few fries short of a Happy meal!

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  38. I don’t know about ” the Vin Diesel look ” . I think the only real Old School man to look like that would have to be Yul Brynner. Just watch the original ” The Magnificent Seven ” , with Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles and Robert Vaughn. Every time I hear an old Marlboro ad, I remember that movie. Now, there was a stud.

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  39. People try to look like what they want to be percieved as. Stoners wear concert shirts and hats with pot leaves etc. Gang bangers (and wannabee’s) wear pants around their knees and sport gold teefes, cops dress like cops, vets, bikers, homo’s (liberals) etc. wear what ever clothing they think makes them look like who they really are (or want to be) Tacticool is very similar in that regard. That’s why it earns so much $$$. Where I live, (the rez) I stick out no matter how I’m dressed. No hickies or tatoo on my neck is the 1st red flag! The fact that I’m driving a vehicle worth over $300 and doesn’t have a rag for a gas cap is another little hint. I fly the colors everyday because everyone knows who I am, where I live, I’m armed, my propensity for immediate violence and my dogs are meaner than I am! I can roll alone dressed however I want because of who I am and what I am. But that’s just here where people know me. Traveling is different. I fly under the radar, or try to.

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  40. Forget the bumper stickers altogether. During surveillance, I’ve seen a vehicle then thought “I’ve seen that one before” because it had a bumpersticker that said this or that on it. Bumper stickers, like writing on a shirt or hat, is by nature not grey.

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  41. Guys, I work in the middle east – Yemen and Afghanistan – the people you are describing in the various articles i’ve read are more often than not, american –
    any reason for that?

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  42. Grey, who the hell wants to be Grey, For me Tactical shouts, ‘Stay the Fuck Outta My Face Hippy’ and go bother a Sheep, my choice of clothing is 511 cargo’s, good set of trainers, tee and plain ball cap, but unfortunately can’t hide my posture, that screams ex mil…….though I admit when travelling I wear jeans, timberlands and a plain tee shirt, unfortunately as stated we veterans walk a certain way that shouts out ‘Ex Military’ most of us also keep ourselves in good shape, hard to grey that…..LOL

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  43. THIS!! I’m so glad someone wrote about this because I am so tired of reading about tacti-cool gear and backpacks as if the best greyman weren’t he who completely blended in with the crowd.

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