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What is a Gray Man?

a gray man with low profile tactical apparel

The term ‘gray man’ (or ‘grey man’ in British English) describes someone who looks unassuming and who doesn’t stand out from the crowd, but is in fact well equipped for an emergency situation.

In crisis situations, there are benefits to going unnoticed and blending in. That is the principle behind gray man (or woman or person) theory.

Gray Man Theory 

Gray man theory is based on the premise of blending into a crowd or your surroundings to not attract unwanted attention. The reality for a true gray man is that they are, in fact, prepared for any situation, but they don’t appear to be to the untrained eye.

Why be a Gray Man?

Being a gray man can be beneficial for a couple reasons.

In a survival situation, such as a natural disaster, the goal is to be prepared with a bug out bag that’s stocked with supplies, tools, and equipment you need to survive. But being prepared like that can also make you a target for others who did not prepare properly. They lack the tools, equipment, and supplies to survive, so they will need to improvise and find other means to acquire what they need for survival.

Using a gray man strategy to blend in and not draw attention to your situation will provide a layer of protection for you and your loved ones.

Perhaps you are just a private person who doesn’t wish to be bothered. Gray man strategies and tools can help you stay unnoticed for whatever reason you wish to be.

How to be a Gray Man

What skills and tactics are required to be a gray man? Is it simply dressing conservatively and staying quiet? Those are two important aspects, but there is more to it than that.

Here are strategies you can employ to be a gray man.

Gray Man Appearance

The key to being a gray man? Go unnoticed. How do you do that? One of the ways is by cultivating a gray man appearance.

What this means is that you want to look like everyone else does in whatever situation you are in:

  • Avoid bright colors like red, orange, and yellow. Go with drab and boring colors like black, gray, brown, and cream. That being said, always consider the context of your environment. If bright colors are commonplace, then adjust your kit accordingly.
  • Keep accessories, such as jewelry, to a minimum. Expensive watches, gold chains, rings, and other personal items are memorable and draw unwanted attention.
  • Although you should be thinking in terms of tactical strategies, you want to avoid wearing clothing and gear that screams “tactical.” This will draw eyes and make you conspicuous, whether people see you as a well-prepared target or as someone with experience and skills who they can attach themselves onto, slowing you down as you try to navigate the situation.
  • Finally, make sure you cover as much of your body as you can while still appearing normal based on your surroundings. Remember that showing your body is a sure-fire way to draw attention.

Apparel from 5.11 Tactical is smartly designed to provided features and flexibility without drawing unwanted attention. From every day carry accessories and belts to tactical pants and gray man backpacks, you’ll find low- profile solutions that will give you the advantage in a crisis situation.


Your Emotions

Here is an important part of becoming a gray man that often goes overlooked – monitoring your emotions. In a survival situation, it is hard to control your emotions – fear, panic, anger, stress. You must be aware of your mindset and learn to hide those fear-based emotions so that you don’t draw attention.

But here is the tricky part – you also must work to reflect the emotions of the greater group you are part of. You do not want to be the only person who is calm after a catastrophic scenario. This does not mean to lose yourself and panic. Instead, it means to fit in with the emotions that are around you. If the collective group shows fear, you should work to reflect that mood, as well, without being afraid.

Sound and Noise

One of the best ways to go unnoticed is by staying as quiet as you can. People tend to remember others they have spoken with. Unless you must, do not speak to anyone. If you need to talk with someone, keep it short and simple, and do not provide any more information than is required.

Other potentially valuable items you carry can make noise, too, including your cell phone, keys, and coins. All these important tools could make you a target, so ensure you turn your phone to silent and keep as quiet as possible.

Smells and Scents

Now hold on just a minute you might be saying at this point. What does the way you smell, or other scents have to do with being a gray man?

Smell is one of our strongest and most important senses, and can warn us of danger, lead us to nourishment, and more. Smells are also easy for people to remember. For this reason, avoid wearing colognes, aftershaves, perfumes, and other scents. Also, in a crisis, don’t worry about washing yourself or putting on deodorant. This can alert other people that you have supplies.

In a crisis or survival situation, food and water are often scarce. The fact that you are prepared and have food will make you a target. Try to avoid cooking food over a campfire, if possible, as these smells will alert others of your good fortune.

How to Move Around as a Gray Man

As the situation unfolds, one of your primary objectives is to get where you need to go quietly and safely. This may include working your way through a crowd of people.

To move through the crowd unnoticed, try to blend in with the others. Match their pace of walking and act like you know where you are going. Avoid cutting across the moving crowd at sharp angles. Move decisively, confidently, and as quickly as you can without being noticed. Avoid confrontation at most costs.

How to be a Gray Man at Home

If you experience a crisis while at home and there is no need to evacuate, there are things you can do to adopt your gray man persona at home.

The most important thing is to keep details about your situation and preparedness level to yourself. Do not advertise to others that you have a pantry full of canned goods or a generator. Keep your plans and strategies to yourself.

As the situation unfolds, try to act like everyone else around you. Share their concerns about supplies, power outages, food and water, and other worries. This may sound duplicitous and rude, but unless you know your neighbors well and consider them friends, you don’t know who you can trust in these types of situations.

Social media is an eye into your current circumstances. Be careful what you choose to share. It’s OK to check-in that you're safe or ask about others, but don’t post updates with pictures that give away too much of your information.

Is Being a Gray Man Right for You?

So, is the gray man lifestyle something you should embrace? It all depends on your needs and your situation. When it comes to a crisis scenario, a gray man strategy is wise, giving you cover and allowing you to go unnoticed so that you can survive.

Being an everyday gray man? That requires a special commitment and is usually a restrictive and difficult lifestyle to live. Perhaps taking certain aspects of the gray man lifestyle and slowly incorporating them into your everyday routines is a good strategy.

Dressing Like a Gray Man

The key to an effective gray man kit is avoiding ‘tacticool’ gear that will draw unwanted attention. Focus on the basics and acquire the right pair of tactical pants that will be lowkey enough to blend in while providing the mobility, versatility, and tactical advantages you seek.

Paired with the right shirt, belt, and footwear, you’ll achieve the gray man appearance while staying ready for anything.


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