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

The Greyman (also sort of looks like my Jr. High prom date)

You can read URBAN SURVIVAL: The Greyman PART 1 HERE

In our other Greyman articles we primarily covered what not to do if you are trying to look Grey. For this article we are going to show you what to do (clothing wise) when going for the Greyman look. Over the years I have figured out the different types of Grey clothing that best works for me when concealing gear and weapons.

The Greyman isn’t a must do for everyday life; I understand in our community wearing the latest TAD jacket is a fashion statement. This article is to give you a few pointers for those times when you don’t want to look like a guy who has been to 20 tactical training classes, is carrying a gun and generally looks like someone on safari.

When would you want to blend in as just a regular guy?

In my opinion if you work in a 9 to 5 office gig being a Greyman at work is a wise decision. If you are the “go to guy” whenever your coworkers have a question about last nights episode of 24 or you show up to work every day in a ranger green TAD Jacket with morale patches all over it, well…

When that nice but quiet guy in accounting flips out you are the first person he Zaps, or even worse, he waits until you call in sick to go on his rampage.

And for some guys reading this going Greyman may be an occasional requirement for your job, you may be doing low profile EP work, conducting surveillance or you are an off-duty policeman going to the mall with his wife and kids.

Also (this has nothing to do with your job or personal safety) no man wearing a pair of slacks with 18 pockets, an AK-47 t-shirt, desert combat boots, a black Casio G-Shock and a baseball cap covered in Velcro and IR patches is going to get laid. Fo reals…

CLOTHING

There are two of different ways you can go with Greyman clothing, buy clothing that is specifically made to conceal items or modify regular clothing.

Buy Clothing Specifically Made to Conceal Items

Scottvest clothing is more or less the 5.11 for techie nerds, their clothing is pretty fashionable, doesn’t even look remotely tactical and has a bunch of hidden pockets sewn in. I have recently become a Scottvest fanatic, and compared to tactical clothing prices you really won’t spend much more on Scottvest stuff then you will on TAD or 5.11.

Also, this is the only brand I know of made with tons of concealed pockets that looks Greyman and cool. One reader also pointed out a company called Vertx Tactical that sells Grey style clothing, I have not seen VT stuff in person but from the web page their clothing looks like a good option for Greyman clothing.

Modify Regular Clothing

Modifying non-tactical clothing is an easy and cheap way to add a few items of Greyman clothing to your wardrobe. I actually started doing this a long time ago back when I was a stinky hippie backpacker trekking through Southeast Asia as a way to hide a handcuff key (see the Expat Survival articles for an explanation on this) and to hide my money and passport.

A few things that your local tailor can do for you:

– Have the stock pockets removed and new larger and deeper ones sewn in (like the 5.11 pockets).

– Sew in Velcro pockets, mag pouches, knife pouches, ect. on the inside of your jacket.

– Have discreet pockets cut and sewn into your pants. These are basically cargo pants pockets without flaps that are sewn on the inside of your pants instead of the outside. You can also have mag pouches, knife pouches, ect. sewn into the concealed pockets.

– Sew in admin pouch features in your jacket pockets and in the hidden pockets on your pants.

When choosing colors go with earth tones and solid color schemes and stay away from highly branded clothing. Also Carhartt pants are great for looking grey when you need to wear really tough clothing.

A Note on T-Shirts: you can probably get away with wearing vintage trendy t-shirts because so many people wear them, but generally speaking you want to skip any t-shirts with text on them.

Shoes

This is probably the #1 fail when people are trying to look Grey, buying or modifying clothing is completely defeated if you wear a pair of ninja black Hi-Tech boots. It actually isn’t really that hard to find Shoes that are as tough as tactical footwear yet look Grey.

I like Converse kicks when going Greyman, guys have climbed mountains and sailed around the world wearing these – I even wore them in Iraq sometimes. Converse are not only tough ass Shoes, they are reasonably priced and no one will even bat an eye at them.

If you need a pair of safety Shoes when going for the Greyman look I would suggest picking up a pair of steel-toed tennis Shoes from Wal-Mart. I used to wear steel-toed tennis kicks when doing low-profile Executive Protection gigs back in the States.

Caps and Hats

When going Greyman a ball cap is one of the most used items, it can conceal your features in 1 second (just put it on). Just about every surveillance class I have ever taken mentions ball caps as a must have item while tailing someone.

When choosing headgear for the Greyman look go with solid colored ball caps, or you can go to a sporting goods store and ask them what their top selling ball caps are, then choose the one that is the least loud.

Fedoras, panama hats, boonies and any other type of hat that you generally don’t see people wearing indoors are also out.

Jewelry and Watches

Jewelry is the easiest Greyman issue to address, do not wear any at all.

For watches: Just like clothing your watch should be low profile, so 86 the G-Shock or Rolex. The best Greyman watch is a Swatch, they are cheap, tough and no one will notice it.

Belts

As you can probably guess the riggers belt is out unless you have your untucked shirt over it, a simple leather belt is the ultimate Greyman belt. My leather LL Bean belt has outlasted all of my nylon belts; I have had it for over 15 years.

Carry the bare necessities for self defense

Unless you are a cop or PSD guy who is going Greyman for work, you do not need to carry enough weapons to single-handedly assault Mogadishu. A single compact handgun, one extra mag and one knife (all evenly distributed for weight) is more than enough when going Grey.

As most people reading this probably know, when you carry several weapons it will change the way you walk and your mannerisms. So in this case going Greyman isn’t just about dress, it is about the way you move. You also don’t want to look like you have a 3rd arm growing under you coat.

In conclusion…

As with any sort of tactical instruction or advice tailor the information to your environment. If tons of people in your town wear cargo pants then go with a non-tactical brand of cargos – if you are in the business district of your town wear a suit.

That’s about all I can think of Greyman clothing wise, if you guys have any suggestions please make a comment below.

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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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43 thoughts on “URBAN SURVIVAL: The Greyman PART 2 – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”

  1. I prefer the “Sam Axe style”… LOL!

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  2. But, seriously, I will never give up my Tactical Elite / EOTAC cargos unless I wear a suit.

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  3. I prefer the “Sam Axe style”… LOL!  (Quote This Comment)

    Same here – I own like 50 Hawaiian Shirts

    Bruce Campbell is the man and Burn Notice is a kick-ass show, actually lots of my friends say I remind them of the Sam Axe character because he drinks all the time and wears Hawaiian Shirts– but mostly cuz of the drinking part

    ~James G

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  4. YEAH…..JG was the model for the Sam Axe character. are you being paid royalties?

    Bubba

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    1. Yep – I got a totally sweet chainsaw hand out of the deal

      And the above doesn’t apply to you Bubba, you could wear a dress and you would still have “I can kill you with my bare hands” written all over you.

      ~James G

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  5. I’d like to add that proper holster selection, and a belt that won’t let said holster sag, are key as well. Nothing worse than making the effort to go grey and having your holster sag and print.

    I wear a rigger’s belt and untucked shirt when in civvies, so no-one ever sees the belt. I wear that style belt because of its near-infinite adjustability. I can over eat and let it out a hair or take a dump and cinch it far better than I can with a leather belt with pre-spaced holes. When I’m dressed classy, I wear a vest. Looks good, hides gun.

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  6. I recently worked in an environment that had a few FEMA liaisons, and one of the guys looked like he walked right off the set of a 5.11 catalog photo shoot, complete with a logo’d baseball hat.

    At first I thought it might have been tongue in cheek – some sort of ironic nod towards the concentration camp conspiracy crowd. But then I talked to him, and he was a gen-u-ine uber-tactidork. He pretty much ruined that look for me ever since, kinda like the photo of the fat kid in BDUs.

    One of my favorite grey clothing sources is Duluth Trading. They offer the kind of stuff that guys who normally wear Carhartt’s for work might consider “dress-up” clothing.

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  7. This sort of philosophy should be used in everyone’s lifestyle simply to keep aware and be prepared. These are all good tips – especially about modifying clothing.

    As for shoes, it’s pretty amazing how well typical low-top trail hiking/fast packing shoes hold up and perform and they certainly do not look like your typical l.e.o./military boot. Look for those that aren’t too flashy and decide whether or not you prefer the reflective swatches on them.

    Also, those of you who like Danner Acadias as your duty boots – Danner makes models in other colors other than black and a good shine on these boots can serve you well in semi-formal events as the tops are covered by (modified) dress pants.

    So many people wear cargo pants these days that these pants aren’t as “conspicuous” as they once were. The most conspicuous feature on the 5.11 pants is their nearly worthless extra mag pocket that is located in a poor position.

    Take a seam ripper to them, the cotton carabiner strap (that catches on drawer latches anyway) and the exterior 5.11 logo on the pants and you’ll have a grayer pair of pants that are actually superior to the original design…

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  8. Also – The photos rock on this article – especially the first one. That is all. Carry on and keep up the good work!

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  9. decide whether or not you prefer the reflective swatches on them  

    I have heard like 100 stories from my cop buddies about bad guys they were chasing who were wearing reflective kicks – not really hard to see someone running or hiding behind a bush when their kicks glow in the dark – lol

    The most conspicuous feature on the 5.11 pants is their nearly worthless extra mag pocket that is located in a poor position  

    That poket is by far the most annoying feature in 5.11’s – I love how when you put something in it and sit down it rams you in the thigh

    Also – The photos rock on this article – especially the first one. That is all. Carry on and keep up the good work!

    Thanks dude

    ~James G

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  10. Great article on my favorite subject. +1 on the great intro photo, hmm that sheep looks like he has a bit of an attitude. lol.

    Mal, thanks for the tip on Duluth clothing. I knew about their packs, but didn’t know they made clothes.

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  11. One of the readers here suggested that we re-post this poster about spotting an armed person (it is also posted on one of the other Greyman articles)

    So thanks to “B.C.”

    ~James G

    (Click to Enlarge)

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  12. Thanks James for bringing up Scottvest. I had a buddy show me that site one time and I could never remember the name of it. It has some interesting stuff in it that are functional. As for Vertx Tactical I have a pair of their low profile pants with the hidden cargo pockets and they are comfy and can pass as just some slacks if you are forced to wear a sport coat. I highly recommend them.

    Though I admit I do love my TAD cargos and my fleece from there. It is hard to give up on something so serviceable. But as I remind some of my buddies they make pants that are the exact same cut but without all the bells and whistles. I will have to ask if they are willing to make some low profile cargo pants when I am down there in a couple weeks.

    As for carrying, the one thing that I address with people, and can spot someone carrying easily. Watch your mag carrier, most guys that I know will carry in their Blackhawk mag holster, which are great, it just really isn’t designed for covert carry. It sticks out, often further then a good concealment holster.

    Also I would add to your things that you carry would be a good all around flashlight, something small and adjustable and that the batteries can last a long time. I have had more than a few times where carrying that proved to be if not life saving certainly time saving instead of waiting for the lights to come back on.

    Another great article, thanks James.

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  13. Duluth trading’s clothes are really great, especially the long-tailed Plumbers” t-shirts and their sport coat.

    I also have an Orvis sport coat that is cotton canvas with leather elbow, pocket and collar accents. The thing has great pockets for lights, extra mags, zippered pockets for documents, etc. and it looks classy. When it gets dirty, I just throw it in the washer and hang it dry, putting some jergens Moisturizer on the leather before and after.

    THe worst thing working PTD in a suit used to be the weight of extra radio batteries, and I used to wear a LEGSAFE calf holster for those. Now my agency has switched to a lighter batery with a clip built in, so it is easier.

    3 things I have used for surveillance are my dog, a cane and a box with some new Bibles. I have gotten into quite a few houses as a “Bible salesman” going door to door. If you are watching a location, anyone tarrying too long is noticed, but you can take your time walking your dog, letting him sniff everything, and no one notices much.

    But it should be a “Grey”dog, like a lab, not a Pitbull or Rotty. The cane is good if you older (like me) and can appear somewhat impaired. Grey is good.

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  14. As for carrying, the one thing that I address with people, and can spot someone carrying easily. Watch your mag carrier, most guys that I know will carry in their Blackhawk mag holster, which are great, it just really isn’t designed for covert carry. It sticks out, often further then a good concealment holster.

    When carrying a pistol plain-clothes and Grey Leather is the only way to go – it will take a couple of months to break a leather holster in but after then a leather holster will mold itself to your body

    Though I admit I do love my TAD cargos and my fleece from there. It is hard to give up on something so serviceable..  

    I love TAD stuff – but for me I only wear it for work or training

    Thanks James for bringing up Scottvest. I had a buddy show me that site one time and I could never remember the name of it. T  

    Yep – scottvest is the bomb, I just ordered another pair of pants from them today

    >Another great article, thanks James.

    Glad you like DVM man

    ~James G

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  15. I used to wear a LEGSAFE calf holster

    Man I love ankle/calf holsters – I have 4 of them

    ~James G

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  16. When carrying a pistol plain-clothes and Grey Leather is the only way to go – it will take a couple of months to break a leather holster in but after then a leather holster will mold itself to your body

    I find that Mothers leather conditioner really cuts the time down for breaking in a leather holster.

    As for clothing K mart sells Wrangler Denims with cargo pockets that are pretty functional & casual. I am still a fan of Woolrich clothing, functional & very comfortable.

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    1. As far as leather conditioner goes, go down to the local sporting goods store and buy a bottle of neatsfoot oil. It’s a thick oil, sort of like 3-in-1 oil. Apply a thin coat on your new belt/holster/boots and let dry overnight. Do this again in about two days. This will help waterproof and break in the leather. I did this with our daughter’s T-ball and softball gloves. Works real nice. If you have a leather repair or tack shop around, they’ll have it. Duluth Trading is an excellent company for ” grey ” clothing and other goods. They’re starting to carry ” military-style ” goods, though.

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  17. I would have hated to be you in high school….rough times James?
    Great article, as per usual.

    One thing to watch out when going grey, is grey and similar colors. Most of us tend to choose very muted colors. We think to much camo, which regular Joe, doesn’t. Sometimes sticking out is blending in.

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  18. I have had the mouse hovered over the buy button for a ScotteVest more times than I can remember, but I just haven’t been able to do it. Maybe it’s just the pictures, but they look really slim and I have a wide back…

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  19. I’m a student on a decent sized campus, and I find I get less grief with my mohawk, jeans, and black boots. More people assume I’m buying or selling certain substances than assume I’m quite the opposite.

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  20. Of course, it’s not really a valid choice for anyone who has to look professional at any point.

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  21. A loud polo shirt, cargo pants, ballcap with the school’s logo and a general air of egotistical douchebaggery will make you invisible on just about any college town in America.

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  22. My favorite trousers are TAD Gear’s Spartans. They are super tough and don’t have the cargo pockets, but they still have all the other features that make them great. Now that TAD is making their trouser’s in the Herringbone, and other nicer fabrics, IMHO they are even more Greyman. I’ve worn my tan, twill Spartans with a dress shirt and sport coat; blends in real nicely.

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  23. A loud polo shirt, cargo pants, ballcap with the school’s logo and a general air of egotistical douchebaggery will make you invisible on just about any college town in America.  

    But that begs the conundrum of being able to make it through the day not catching a mirror, as to avoid wanting to punch yourself in the face. I put myself through most of my schooling being a bouncer in college bars and clubs. I think I became behaviorally conditioned to immediately want to put them in a wrist lock and an oops against the door jam.

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  24. I find that Mothers leather conditioner really cuts the time down for breaking in a leather holster.

    Thanks for the tip, I have a new holster that I need to break in, I’ll order up some on Amazon

    s for clothing K mart sells Wrangler Denims with cargo pockets that are pretty functional & casual

    Denim Cargo Pants are a fail from just a fashion viewpoint – lol

    I would have hated to be you in high school….rough times James?

    HA! – She was a really nice and smart gal, she asked me to the Jr Prom and I said yes because I know it took allot of guts to ask (I knew her from a few classes). We still keep in touch; I should have stayed with here because she is some big time doctor now banking in the mad cash.

    But I like bimbos – so I will have to work forever

    I have had the mouse hovered over the buy button for a ScotteVest more times than I can remember, but I just haven’t been able to do it. Maybe it’s just the pictures, but they look really slim

    They are somewhat slim, I would just give them a call about sizes

    I’m a student on a decent sized campus, and I find I get less grief with my mohawk, jeans, and black boots.

    Yep – sometimes blending in is dressing loud

    Dressing loud or in a way you normally would not is more of a Greyman Tradecraft thing

    A loud polo shirt, cargo pants, ballcap with the school’s logo and a general air of egotistical douchebaggery will make you invisible on just about any college town in America

    Ha-Ha- Ha-Ha- Ha-Ha…

    ~James G

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  25. Great article, as usual. Reminds me of the Grey Man I spotted in a bar once. Took a lot of work, but I’m very perceptive. He was huge, scowling, wearing that loud long-sleeve Blackwater shirt with logos down the sleeves, and a Seal Team “X” ball cap. :)

    Moi? I look so average, I’m naturally grey. But I wear Hawaiian shirts with baggy bike shorts or non-descript slacks a lot. There was this job however where the governor and his wife were handing out awards all evening, and I was posted at the base of the stage where the recipients walked up to get their plaque or trophy or whatever. I was specifically told to “look tough and professional.” Suppose I should have studied Mr. T on old A-Team re-runs.

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    1. Yep the “look like a tough guy” request from clients in EP still exists – clients that are not educated in how to properly run EP missions is and will always be a problem in this industry

      thanks for the comment

      ~James G

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  26. One thing I have not seen mentioned is socks. Yes socks. The white tube sock just screams: AMERICAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I mean it. Look at the socks wherever you are. See what the locals are wearing? On vacation in Spain, we kept getting looked at like crazy! Turns out no one wears white tube socks, their socks matched their clothing, was thin, and 1/2 the folks did not wear socks at all their sneakers.

    I sugest maybee short ankle socks, in various darkish colors.

    (I am not a contactor nor do I play one in life. But I thought this tip might be worth while.)

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  27. Arcteryx makes really great clothing that’s very functionable yet hip enough to walk in public with your signifigant other. Great features like on their spotter trousers is the cut where you can go to one knee and not have your pocket junk ram you in the man junk.

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  28. One thing I have not seen mentioned is socks. Yes socks. The white tube sock just screams: AMERICAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    That’s good advice for international travel if you are concerned your nationality my place you in danger.

    I never really think about socks because I never wear shorts – I haven’t owned a pair ever I think

    ~James G

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  29. James you said that the vertx clothing is good when you try to go grey but I’m not sure it can work out because although it has low profile cargo pockets they are still visible and vertx is marketed as discrete cargos for the athletic operator so it’s only a matter of time until it recognized as 511 v2.

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    1. Actually another reader pointed out Vertex so I have never held their stuff in my hands

      I am a Scottvest guy 100% now – I ordered a shit-load of stuff from their site today for my next gig

      ~James G

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  30. James you said that the vertx clothing is good when you try to go grey but I’m not sure it can work out because although it has low profile cargo pockets they are still visible and vertx is marketed as discrete cargos for the athletic operator so it’s only a matter of time until it recognized as 511 v2.  

    That is a good point with any of these types of clothing. I have a pair of vertx and they work great, dress up nicely and if you get them in a dark color you really have to be up on them to catch the outline of the cargo pocket. But you are right, as with anything popular or serviceable; as soon as it hits the SHOT show or has a good review everyone is wearing them.

    Then it starts to fit the stereotype. Heck I remember when 5.11 was just all about rock climbing pants, which along with H2H training is what I used them for. Then they got popular with first responders and that was the ball game. Same thing with pretty much all tactical looking cargoes.

    Unfortunately we just have to stay ahead of the popularity. I go grey and I am in either mechanics jeans, my TAD spartans (the ones in herringbone work great with a sport coat) or something from arc’Teryx. Based on the recommendations here I just ordered from ScotteVest there Flex caros and Sev travel pants. Looks like they work great and hopefully they won’t get that big as to keep them grey.

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  31. The VERTX don’t hold up though. Made in Honduras, and my knife wore a hole clear through in about a month. They also look horrible at the end of the day, the fabric pics up dust better than a lint-roller.

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  32. Excellent article.

    Just one thing : as a Swiss guy, I mostly use Swatch watches. My favourite one is a totally black one that has been mistaken for a tactical watch so many times… so the greyman gotta chose wisely the colour of its swatch.

    for undecover self defense, a sturdy metal pen or even a “caran d’ache” fixpencil works great.

    A gun is never part of my EDC gear…

    Thanks for sharing mate!

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  33. Dickies brand workwear might also be ideal for going grey/gray. It’s basically a line of uniform clothing for those who work in industrial situations. I wore a Dickies jacket in a warehouse for 10 years and couldn’t wear it out. It’s not fancy stuff, but what greyman wants to stand out? WalMart sells it, which means that it can be found almost anywhere, not to mention online.

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  34. As a woman, I remember when I went to the Philippines with my parents in 1972, prior to Martial Law w/Uncle Ferdnand. Being born in the US, we went home for 30 days to see the old homestead. So deciding to go native, I generally wore “Flip-Flops”, T-shirts, American made blue-jeans, or whatever I found in JC Penny’s or Sears here in the US. Plus, some non-discript blouses. During the day when we were out with relatives I’d hold my female cousins hands when we all went downtown to shop. Generally I’d get a funny look from the American tourists, and I know they were thinking…. “Lesbian” or whatever.

    But the funny thing is that whenever we were near other American tourists, I’d manage to just go next to them, to listen to their conversations; and they’d always talk down about the Filipinos in some way….. They never knew that this Filipino next to them was just American as they were…..

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  35. Do you remember which L.L. Bean belt you have?

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  36. Women do not get the scrutiny men do. We are generally assumed to be unarmed and vulnerable an advantage in itself. Being a plus size woman gives you even more “greyman” ability as most people never notice you nor will they notice your flashbang holster under the correct clothing. What people will notice on one side of the scale, your jewelry, your unnatural hair color (bottle blonde/carrot red/gothic black) and over use of make-up and bad walking style in high heels. The otherside is dressing as mentioned above I know women whose clothing are walking billboard ads for tac gear, gun companies and political groups (and so are their cars).
    Great article/blog post.

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