Dress for Success: Attire for the Armed Citizen

A loose shirt makes concealment simple and keeps your carry gun accessible.

There is no doubt that how we dress says a lot about what we think of ourselves. This is true in the business world, and it is true in the personal-defense world as well. Clothing is not just there to cover your defensive handgun.

Col. Jeff Cooper, being a retired military man, felt that the way he dressed added to what is often called Command Presence. One’s attire would give the appearance of someone who is clearly in charge, someone that it would not do to mess with. Many Texas Rangers and other old-time lawmen also adhere to this theory. Starched shirts, pressed pants and polished boots were simply an indication of someone who could ruin your day if you tried to take liberties with them.

Another theory for the armed citizen is called the Gray Man. That is, one dresses so that one blends into the population. Clothing, while it may be neat and clean, is chosen so that the person does not stand out and draw attention to himself or herself. The theory here is that the crook doesn’t see people as victims simply because nothing about them draws the crook’s attention.

By contrast, one guy in my community, who chooses to open carry, looks like a homeless person who is packing a 1911. He looks like he changes his clothes once a month and sleeps in them in the meantime. I am not sure what he is trying to convey, but my first thought is that he has no personal pride. It would be interesting to know what the criminal element thinks of his chosen attire. By the way, since this guy drives a Corvette, one may assume that he could dress better if he chose to do so.

Frankly, I can see merit in both the Command Presence style of dress and the Gray Man method. In one case, the unspoken message is that a crook might ought to hunt for an easier target. In the other method, the crook simply overlooks the individual entirely.

My personal view is that the guy who dresses like a bum—especially if carrying openly—does a disservice to the rest of us who support the Second Amendment. We should strive to be the best ambassador for the Second Amendment possible, not feed the misconception of gun owners as irresponsible Bubbas. However, that is a personal view and does not have to be yours.

Regardless of your personal choice, it is wise to give some thought to how we dress and what messages we might be communicating to the criminal. After all, the best gunfight is the one that we avoid entirely.

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