Not long ago, I wrote an article about 5 ways to spot that you’re carrying a concealed handgun. A few of the comments pointed out the obvious–that sometimes it isn’t a behavior pattern that tips people off, but the way we dress or–dare I say it—accessorize.
Well here are five tactical fashion faux pas that anyone paying attention can easily recognize.
1. The Shoot-me-First vest
If you’ve ever attended a local gun show, you have seen the Shoot-Me-First vest. This badass tactical accessory has lots of pockets for concealing all of your various defensive accouterments. There’s room for ammo, lights, mace, cellphones, grenades….
The origin of the phrase comes from the idea that a proverbial bad guy, when deciding who poses him the biggest threat, will recognize the vest for what it is–a convenient way to conceal anything you want. The old fat white guy (OFWG) wearing the mesh-backed vest with all of the overstuffed cargo pockets may be a legitimate threat, too. Don’t mess with the OFWGs.
You can pull off the look if you’re a cameraman for National Geographic in the 1980s. In the era before the digital camera, these pockets would have held film, batteries, flash-bulbs, etc. You can also pull it off if you’re wearing hip waders. Otherwise, it tends to make a statement. I’ve always found this aphorism to be mildly amusing: Your gun may be concealed, but the fact you’re concealing something is obvious.
The solution? Get a more subtle coat, or a messenger bag. If climate keeps you from dressing unseasonably warm, train with a lighter, leaner set of tools.
2. Man Purse
While we’re on the subject of obvious, let’s discuss the man purse or murse. I’ve got a man purse, and I carry it a lot. I’m not a proponent of off-body carry, but I sometimes want a larger handgun (like when I’m out in the woods), but don’t want to carry openly (like when I’m out in the woods with gun-shy friends who would flip if they knew I was carrying .357).
But all of the molle loops are sometimes a giveaway. Most of these bags are made to withstand years of hardcore service. Most are black, or green, or some shade of coyote earth.
There are some who are still making good use of the fanny-pack, too. I’ve never carried in one but know some who do. It is an especially good option for joggers or walkers–people who are doing some sort of activity that is most comfortable in pants with elastic waistbands. But the fashion trend died in the 80s, so the fanny-pack tends to stand out.
The other option? For every tactical sling, there are at least 10 that have no molle straps. Look at the camping store instead of the gun store, and you’ll find a more plain-looking murse. Or look to companies that make diversionary bags–tactical bags that have innocuous exteriors.
3. Unnecessarily tactical pants.
I’m going to apologize to all my EMT friends right up front. A lot of those wearing high-concept cargo pants are very philanthropic individuals who I hope would try to save my life (should the need arise). The ass-kicking pants aren’t really designed to be worn for concealed carry–they’re meant for duty. In some departments, they qualify as uniforms. But a lot of folks wear them out to the hardware store, or to the mall.
While these aren’t as obvious as the Shoot-Me-First vest, they’re easy enough to spot. Those who keep up with fashion swoon over the latest Crye-Precision pants. And I’m right there with them. After I win the lottery, I plan to buy a pair. But I won’t wear them anywhere where subtlety is required.
The other dead giveaway is the Rigger belt. Duty belts abound, but some of them have a really aggressive look. The more stitching and velcro and cobra buckles, the better. When I’m out and about and I see a full blown tactical belt, I know I’m looking at a vet or a member of the tribe, or both.
The other option? There are less overtly tactical options. Almost all of the companies that make BDU style pants also make clothing designed to function well for EDC, but look less conspicuous.
4. Gun shirts
Is a GLOCK t-shirt an overt sign of concealed carry? Not always. Back when Wes Anderson made the film “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” I bought one of those intentionally ironic hipster t-shirts. It had this image on it.
The joke, for those who haven’t seen the film, comes from a theme that develops when Bill Murray’s character, Steve Zissou, asks one of his crew “Anne-Marie, do the interns get GLOCKS?” and she replies “No. They all share one.”
But as that film has faded from the American cinematic landscape, odds are a black t-shirt with the same image is actually a badge. It is more of the Molon Labe aesthetic. Speaking of Molon Labe, I’ve got a nice gun belt with the inscription on the buckle. Otherwise, the rig is subtle enough, but I’ve had a couple of comments from folks close enough to read the writing.
Is there a fix for those of us who like to
pay to allow companies to use us as walking billboards wear our favorite gun shirts? Sure. I’d suggest Mexican wedding shirts. Stylish and functional.
5. The Beard
Another game I play when I’m out in the real world: High-Speed or Hipster? The concept is simple enough. You see a dude with a beard. Then you assess the rest of his get-up and make your call. If he’s wearing Kryptek, your choice is easy enough–A: High-Speed. If he’s wearing skinny jeans and pinstriped suspenders over an ill-fitting (but maybe ironed) white t-shirt, pick B: Hipster. But if that same dude is debating the benefits of MLOK over keymod with a tattooed woman built like a 1940s Cadillac, there’s a good chance the answer is C: All of the above.
As the illustration on the left would suggest, the combat beard has gone through something of an evolution. I can remember a time when a bunch of vets, recently free from the rules imposed by Uncle Sam, would grow beards. And then there were the contractors who wore them for a variety of reasons (including expressing their independence and/or because they could). But then a lot of people started growing out the facial hair. Don’t get me wrong–I’m in no way making fun of the beard. As of the writing of this piece, I haven’t shaved in more than six weeks. I grow a beard that, at best, makes me look like Norville “Shaggy” Rogers. Hardly Tactical. I’m built for comfort, not speed. And I look more like a dirty hippie than a hipster. So I’ll never be a member of the club. Not even a wanna-be. And that, brother, is how it is.
So those are my top 5. And before you jump into the comment section and blast me for making fun of you, know that I’m guilty of all of these. I constantly forget I’m wearing my shirts with guns on them and run up to the school to pick up my 9-year-old. I’ve got an old Maxpedition man purse that I take just about everywhere I go. I own way too many cargo pants. I don’t actually own a vest, but I’ve got some coats that are almost as obvious. And if I could grow a beard, I’d have one down to my belt buckle, and odds are it’d be braided.
With all that said, anything you think I’m missing? What telltale signs do you look for? What faux pas are you guilty of committing?