How to be a Gray Man

Diving in the city, especially in densely populated areas, poses many dangers. Sad as it may seem, there will always be people willing to take down anyone to save their own skin. For them, the weak and unsuspecting people usually make easy targets. If you’re not careful, you might just be the next victim.

If this mentality is already present in cities today, just imagine what would happen when SHTF. In a post collapse world, it’s going to be every man for himself. If you don’t want to be the receiving end of criminals or lose the preps you’ve worked hard for, you have to learn how to defend yourself, to stay constantly on the move, and blend into a crowd, aka become the gray man.

What is a Gray Man, and what does it take to be one?

The concept of the gray man revolves around the idea of a person who does not draw attention to himself, who does not stand out from the crowd in any way. He can weave through a large group of people without anyone looking at him or her twice, and 10 or 20 minutes later, 99% of the people who passed him will never remember they did.

This is useful in situations such as:

  • martial law and state of emergency
  • bugging out through the woods
  • getting out of a riot
  • going to the flea market post-SHTF to barter
  • carrying valuables
  • hunkering down at home or at one’s bug out location

Some of the benefits of being a gray man include:

  • to increase your chances of survival;
  • you’ll be less likely to be approached by people in general;
  • decrease the odds of others remembering you, which could be used against you later on.

In cases when you are in harm’s way, being invisible is not so bad. But, in order to be gray, it takes more than just a change of clothes. It’s also about losing any distinct traits and mannerisms people will notice, and adjusting to the crowd’s movement.

To see what it takes to become a gray man, read our suggestions and strategies below.

Wear nondescript clothes.

The first step to becoming invisible is knowing what clothes to wear. As a general rule, avoid choosing bright, flashy outfits. If you’re walking down the street wearing bright colors, people will take notice. It’s also not wise to dress in clothes with distinct designs or patterns

Wearing prints and logos can catch people’s eye, and be ingrained on their memories. Instead, opt for natural and neutral colors. In terms of style, a safe choice would be to go for the classic, conservative look such as basic polos, t-shirts, and button-down instead of the trendy, loud clothes.

Wearing neutral colors or a common outfit may not necessarily hide you in a crowd. You must consider the area and occasion or event you’re attending. Wearing a tux in the middle of a busy street will make you stick out but not if you are attending a black tie event. If you are headed to the beach, then lying back on the sand in a pair of trunks would be the norm.

Some folks may also think that camouflaging involves a jacket, a cap, and sunglasses. Wearing layers may be acceptable in the winter but you should definitely lose them in the summer. It will only make you look suspicious and appear to be hiding something.

Hide distinguishable features.

One of the key things to being a gray man is to not have any obvious features that people will recall when asked to identify you or describe you. Being tall or short, bald, or having a big nose are things you can’t change.

However, there are some things you do have control over such as a bushy beard or a bright hair color. Get rid of or alter any features that stand out fast.

If you have a permanent feature like a tattoo, hopefully you can conceal it, otherwise you might want to consider getting it removed. Although plenty of regular people wear tattoos, in a WROL situation, you’re more likely to be considered a troublemaker if you have one.

Needless to say, fancy haircuts and accessories are out of the question.

Lose the scent.

Aside from causing any visual stimulus, you should also refrain from wearing any scents that might get you noticed.

If you are wearing expensive cologne, then you may easily get branded as a person with means which will put you in danger. Even if it’s not cologne, carrying a certain smell can be risky as people also have strong memories associated with smells.

Also, when you are trying to lose someone on your trail, having a strong scent can betray you even if you found a good hiding spot. To be on the safe side, don’t put any products on yourself that produce a fragrance.

Control your movements.

Physical appearance is not the only thing you have to worry about. You also have to watch out for any mannerisms or body language that can be used to mark you. These may consist of a rowdy laugh or constant fidgeting.

Whatever it may be, you must learn how control your movements. You must also not project any behavior that will leave a lasting impression. Keep your movements small while maintaining a high level of awareness.

For example, when surveying your surroundings, you can do a head sweep by discreetly adjusting your body left and right. This is no easy task, and may require a bit of practice but if you are able to control your actions and avoid reckless behavior, you are on your way to becoming imperceptible.

Controlling your behavior is probably one of the hardest things you can do. Changing how we act is never easy, but it can be done if you have time and patience, plus the trick I’m about to teach you.

What you can do is use a psychological trick called the observing ego. This is more or less your ability to see yourself from above, acting in real time, and allowing yourself to control your movements and reactions independently of what you might feel.

So if you’re in on the bus, with 20 people around you, instead of curiously looking around at each of them, trying to notice if they’re good or bad (while pretending you’re in an SHTF situation, of course), you could develop the strength to do it more discreetly, by visualizing exactly how you should do it from above, via your observing ego.

It’s easier said than done, I know, but it works – and that’s all that matters.

Adapt to your surroundings.

Some cities or towns may have people with a certain style or unique look to them, for example blond hair and blue eyes. Other towns are inhabited by people with a particular accent that makes it easy to identify where they are from.

When it comes to appearances, people in large urban cities may wear more black and grey colors while small town residents might go for more colorful clothes.

When moving to places like these, you have to learn how to dress and act like a local. Choose cities that will be easier for you to study and imitate the people. Nothing arouses more suspicion than a stranger in town.

Take advantage of discratnios

If you need to make some noise for whatever reason, do it while other noises around you are happening, so you don’t draw attention to you.

Similarly, you can take advantage of the things happening around you to move – it’s less likely that people will pay attention to you.

Minimize interaction.

If don’t want to be seen, then you must definitely avoid talking with people other than what’s necessary. Sure, small talk every now and then won’t hurt but be careful not become a presence in other people’s lives.

Don’t go bragging about your prep and survival skills or divulge any personal details that can identify you. Because if you do and SHTF, these people will come looking for you. In short, steer away from interactions that can leave a lasting impression.

To minimize interaction, avoid large crowds and gatherings, such as crowded malls, protests, concerts etc. The less people see you, the higher the odds no one will pick on you.

You should be aware of all the places in your city that people tend to protest in, the location of the stadiums, dark alleys, bad neighborhoods and so on.

A good trick to minimize interaction is to wear earphones. This will decrease the possibility of other people trying to talk to you – in peacetime at least.

Get out of a crowd quickly.

If you’re trapped in a protest or a riot, the best and only thing you should do is get out. It doesn’t matter if you support the cause, you’re a prepper and your mission is to survive.

Rule #1 is to never go against the crows. Try to move with the crowd, but at an angle, so you slowly get to the edge of the group. Don’t move faster than the crowd even if you see a window of opportunity to get out – someone might spot you.

Get rid of old habits.

If you get your morning coffee from the local shop or have brunch every Sunday in your favorite deli, then being a patron will certainly not make you invisible.

You may be recognized by your routine and become predictable in your daily movement. Break off any consistency in your life and don’t visit places frequently enough to make you a familiar face.

When you walk home, don’t always take the same route. Change it a little bit. This will also help you familiarize yourself with the different ways to get home, or to bug out.

Don’t play the hero or the villain.

In survival situations, being too friendly might do you more harm than good. The same goes for being rude. In terms of behavior, people tend to remember those who helped them carry a bag of groceries and those who shoved past them without so much as an apology.

In cases like these, avoid being on either side of the spectrum. Be the person in the middle, be empathetic without being too nice.

This might also mean that if you see someone being abused, you might need to stay away. If it’s one poor gal and 4 thugs, trying to help her could not only result in failure, you yourself could get hurt.

if you’ve read some of Sven Hassels novels such as Comrades of War, you probably noticed nasty situations were daily life during the 2nd World War, even among people on the same side of the war. I highly recommend you read some of his books to get your mid accustomed to what things might be like in a post-apocalyptic society.

Know the ins and outs of your town or city.

The best way to stay out of trouble is not to go near the cities. If you must go, you must have extensive knowledge of the city and its roads. Know which areas are safe and which ones aren’t. You must also be able to locate the nearest resources such as hospitals, police stations, gas stations, convenience stores, etc.

When entering a building, always take note of the nearest exits. If you take time to map out the city, you’ll be better able to find your escape route when you find yourself in the middle of a chase. Better safe than sorry.

Observe people.

Mastering the art of disappearing is no easy task. As an exercise, try to look and study people when going out in public. Take note of the people that catch your attention and determine which characteristics which made you notice them.

Learn to use your peripheral vision to observe people and things. This takes practice but it’s a pretty easy survival skill to learn, and it’s actually pretty fun!

By identifying the stimulus, you have an idea of the things you need to avoid in your own behavior. In addition, scan the crowd to see if you can spot a gray man. Pay attention and identify the traits that make him inconspicuous and try to emulate him.

Be careful what you post online.

You may be a pro in being anonymous in public, but this may be to no avail if you don’t practice the same techniques online. Any information you post on the internet, like announcing a holiday trip overseas, provides an opportunity for others to break into your home.

Your personal details may also be used for online theft. There are a lot of opportunists and hackers who take advantage of information people carelessly give away online. Don’t be a victim, and protect your online identity, as someone might use precious bits of information about you post SHTF.

In Summary

Being a gray man will require a lot of practice and patience on your part. You will also need to do some profiling to understand human behavior and the things that may or may not make people stand out. In addition, this task requires keen observational skills to survey an area without looking suspicious.

Watching detective shows may help to give you an idea on the do’s and don’ts of camouflaging. If watching TV is not your thing, there are plenty of other ways for you to learn.

The fact of the matter is,the world is a dangerous place. If you don’t anticipate danger and plan ahead, you’ll lose. When calamity strikes, there may not be any cops to enforce the law and you will have to take matters into your own hands to protect yourself and your family. It sounds extreme, but it never hurts to prepare.

So, what are some of the things you’re doing to become a grey man. IN addition to the mindset and the general way of being we talked about, there are dozens of specific things you can do to go unnoticed.

We gathered no less than 50 of them here, but do let the Survival Sullivan community know of any others you may be employing.

last update 07/23/2019 by Dan F. Sullivan

About Dan F. Sullivan

My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don't like taking orders. I'm taking matters into my own hands so I'm not just preparing, I'm going to a friggin' war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.


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    I believe that it is easier for me to be a “gray woman” than my husband to be a gray man! He seems to be very memorable and when we are out together people notice him and remember him. If we go back to the same place he is remembered but if I go back on my own, no one remembers me. I guess that can work to my advantage in a SHTF situation even if it is a little annoying now!

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    one area not addressed is the mental, for lack of better term, mindset. we can now buy hunting clothes that are camo pattern and also have carbon fiber in the material to faraday cage the human nervous system so as to make hunting more successful. i am not advocating wearing this material in an urban setting but to illustrate the fact that you can be visible on a level that you might not be aware of. a clear mind with no internal chatter is the best way i can describe the “mindset”.
    i am 6′ 6″ yet many times i have approached people to with in close range three feet with out the being aware of my approach, both in a rural setting and urban. on some level people can sense others, we may not know the correct name for the process just be aware that there are other factors at play.

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    In the Marine Corps, we call this “situation awareness”. It takes a lot of time to develop the required skills – some people never get there!

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    Everything has a frequency including people, male and female.

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