Being the Gray Man – Skills for Urban Survival

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gray man skills

In a survival situation, going unnoticed can go a long way towards keeping you safe. Gray Man skills not only protect you in crowds, but when practiced strategically, help to keep yourself, your family, and your supplies, off the radar and overlooked by those who may be looking for an easy target when SHTF.

What is a Gray Man (or Woman)?

A Gray Man or Woman is a person who can blend in with the crowd and be easily overlooked, unnoticed and forgotten. It’s used for personal protection and to allow you to move freely in otherwise difficult surroundings. It’s a method of urban camouflage and disguise that can be used with or without any additional props.

Why Be a Gray Man?

There are many different situations in which you may not want to draw attention to yourself. In a crisis or survival situation, if it’s obvious that you have supplies or tools, someone may want to take them from you. If you appear calm and collected when everyone else is panicked, they may expect you to take charge even if it’s against your own interests, or even worse, blame you for the disaster.

How to Be a Gray Man

Being a Gray Man is an instinctual human behavior. Everyone’s done it at one time or another without even realizing it.

Think of how you instinctively act when you want to avoid someone in a grocery store. What do you do? You look away, and then try to quiet your mind and draw your energy and emotions in as you smooth your face into a bland expression.

Without making any sudden movements, you gradually slide away and walk calmly and steadily in a different direction, perhaps even using other people in the store as a screen between yourself and who you want to avoid.

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around the Gray Man concept, think of how you act when you do want to be noticed. For instance, you see someone you do want to talk to. What do you do?

You lift your head, look them in the eye, call their name, wave or make expansive gestures, start walking towards them quickly and with purpose. You raise and project your emotions, probably smiling and greeting them happily (or angrily as the case may be.)

All of these things, sudden motion, sound, movement, actions, and broadcasting emotions, are all designed to attract attention.

To be the Gray Man, you do the opposite.

urban survival

Basic Gray Man Skills

While it may be easy enough to avoid your ex in a grocery store, there are times when the stakes are much higher. Developing the skills of the Gray Man can help you remain unnoticed and safe in otherwise potentially dangerous situations.

Becoming Invisible: Cultivating a Grey Man Appearance

The key to becoming invisible is to be unnoticed. The best way to be unnoticed is to look like everyone else.

To blend in with a crowd, dress like an average member of the group. Depending on where you are, this can change. The clothes that you wear to church are different than the clothes you would wear to work or to a bar.

Avoid bright colors. Bright colors such as red, orange and yellow tend to draw more attention. Stick with more neutral colors. Also, pay attention to accessories. Remove or cover jewelry or expensive watches.

If you want to remain unnoticed, also avoid tactical gear. Keep any weapons well hidden.

Depending on where you are, specialized clothing (think camo gear or workout wear) can either help you blend with the crowd or become more visible. Know your area and the local culture well before relying on a particular fashion.

Don’t show too much skin. This is advice for both men and women. The sexier you look, the more attention you’ll get, both wanted and unwanted. Even at a beach or swimming pool, a one piece suit or swimming trunks will draw less attention than a bikini or thong.

What About Smell?

Smells are easy to remember. Aftershave, perfume and even laundry detergents can leave a lingering memorable scent.

In a crisis situation when food is scarce, food smells and campfire smells can let others know that you have access to food. The same can be said for body odor. Being too clean in a SHTF situation alerts others to the fact that you have supplies.

gray man survival skills

Keep It Quiet

Don’t speak to anyone unless you have to. Even then, keep it short and simple.

Know your locale and the customs and manners of the area. For example, in some southern parts of the USA, if you bump into some accidentally, it’s customary to say sorry or excuse me. To do otherwise will draw attention and possibly cause offense (or a fight).

In the north, the culture is different. Know your area and what will pass unnoticed and what won’t.

Also be aware of any other sounds you may be making. Change the ringtone on your phone to something bland and unmemorable. Do your shoes make noise? Do you have rattling coins or keys in your pocket? The quieter you are physically, the easier it is to move about unnoticed. This comes in especially useful when moving in the dark.

How To Move Through A Crowd Unnoticed

Walk at the same speed as the majority of the crowd. Don’t run unless everyone else is running.

Move calmly as if you know where you are going (even if you don’t).

If you need to go in a different direction, slowly work your way through the crowd in the direction you want to go. Avoid cutting through the crowd at sharp angles.

If a group of people break off in the direction you want, move with them, staying far enough away to avoid their attention but close enough that others think that you are with them.

Notice the behavior of the people around you. Match their behavior. Act like you belong there. A slight bit of boredom draws less attention than nervousness.

If you feel you don’t fit in, act as if you do. It’s a matter of confidence. Set aside your personal insecurities for the moment and remind yourself that you are merely looking to blend in, not join their group. That takes the pressure off and puts your focus where you want it – on not being noticed.

Monitor Your Emotions

Become aware of your own energy and emotional levels. Are you feeling stressed, angry, frustrated, afraid? Emotions attract attention. Learn to change your emotional vibration and take it down a notch or release it entirely.

That being said, you also want to reflect the emotional mood of the people around you. You don’t want to be the only calm person on the street after an explosion.

Scanning Your Surroundings

Be aware of your surroundings but do it discretely. If you turn suddenly and look at something, others will notice and look there, too. Finding nothing, they will then look back at you and wonder what you saw or be annoyed with you for making them look. In any case, they’re more likely to remember you.

When scanning your surroundings, act casually. Use your peripheral vision. Instead of moving your head, move your eyes instead. Also, take advantage of reflective surfaces around you such as glass windows or storefronts. If it’s daytime, wear sunglasses to hide your eyes.

Avoid eye contact. People are more likely to remember someone who looks them in the eye.

Don’t look at a person’s head, even if you’re walking behind them. Instead, look at their shoulders or past them. People tend to sense when someone is looking at their head. It’s more likely to draw their attention.

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Be Aware Of Potential Trouble

Be alert to the mood of the crowd and any potential disturbances around you. Avoid confrontation or possible problems. If you notice a disturbance, identify a potential threat or feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to cross the street, turn the corner or step into a shop if necessary.  

Should You Embrace a Gray Man Lifestyle?

Is it possible to live as a Gray Man or is it better to treat the Gray Man as an alter ego? Only you can determine what’s best for you and your situation, however, here are a few things to consider.

The purpose of the Gray Man is to be unnoticed. As an alter ego, being able to slip in and out of a Gray Man persona allows you far more freedom to live and enjoy your life. After all, the purpose of Gray Man is to get through a situation so that you can emerge elsewhere safe and sound.

To live as the Gray Man as a full-time lifestyle is far more difficult and restrictive. Your presence will be noticed at some point by someone unless you are in constant motion or well hidden.  That doesn’t allow for much of a life or much of a personality, either.

Being the Gray Man in Your Home Environment

While you don’t have to be a full-time Gray Man, there are times when slipping into your alter ego is useful even in regular circumstances. Here are some ways you can use Gray Man skills in your home environment.

Don’t tell anyone about your preps, your plans or your political views.

During a crisis, act like everyone else. Share their same concerns over such things as supplies and power outages. Act as if you’re in the same situation. Don’t let them know you have preps.

If the power is out, don’t show obvious signs of electricity in your home – keep windows dark at night and don’t run the generator where they can hear. Or don’t continue to run the generator once everyone else has run out of fuel.

Don’t grill out when food supplies are low unless you want to share or have your supplies taken.

Be careful what you share on social media. People tend to remember who has food stored away, especially when they run out of their own supplies.

How to Practice Gray Man Skills

The easiest way to get started is by people watching.

Go to different places with different types of people. Think of malls, sporting events, fundraisers, different types of bars and restaurants. Go to places that you usually go and places that are unfamiliar to you.

Notice the people you see. What do they have in common? What makes them blend in together? Look at the broad groups such as sports fans in jerseys or business people in suits, families with children, and different age groups. What types of people do you expect to see there and who stands out unexpectedly?

What do they wear? Look for different clothing groups such as casual wear, office dress, uniforms, and expensive versus inexpensive clothes.

What is the general emotional temperature of the group? Are they tired and frustrated during rush hour? Are they in a hurry at the grocery store? Having fun at a ball game?

Notice the people who draw your attention and why. Was it their appearance, actions, or a combination of several things? Also, take a second look at people that you glance over without noticing. Why are they less interesting to you? Is there any way that you can incorporate that into your Gray Man persona?

What Makes a Good Gray Man Disguise?

Chances are you may run into certain circumstances where your current look just doesn’t cut it. Can you quickly modify your appearance to fit in with the group? Sometimes being unnoticed may require a quick change disguise. Check out this video to learn how:

Create your own Gray Man outfits for different places. The classic gray hoodie may work well for a jogger in cold weather but would look out of place on a summertime beach.

If you’re short on cash, check out thrift stores. It’s a cheap way to get everything from casual clothes to suits and gowns, not to mention clothes you can easily alter for a quick change outfit, as well. Try different looks in different places.

Change Your Body Language

There’s more to it than just clothing or outfits. Notice any mannerisms or behavior that draws attention. Notice how it feels when you’re in a place that is comfortable to you versus an unfamiliar place. Practice calming your own emotions while matching your general facial expression to the crowd. A lot of nervousness will wear off with practice.

Try out your Gray Man skills. Go to the grocery or library and practice both your usual behavior and your Gray Man guise. Get comfortable switching back and forth so that you can slip into your persona instantly. Like any other skill, it takes practice and repetition. If someone notices you, take a few minutes and figure out why. Make adjustments and try it again.

If you keep having problems, get a trusted friend to shadow you and tell you what you’re doing to attract attention. We all have different body language and habits that are obvious to others but invisible to ourselves.

Gray Man skills are an important part of anyone’s survival skill set. Staying unnoticed and being able to blend in with the crowd can keep you, your family and your supplies safe and secure both in peaceful times and when the SHTF.

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2 thoughts on “Being the Gray Man – Skills for Urban Survival”

  1. Too many people want the whole world to believe that they are wealthy. So they wear flashy clothes and own over priced vehicles. Things that a gray person avoids doing. They
    don’t understand that being a gray person decreases your chances of being mugged.
    So I wish you luck in teaching people how to go unnoticed. Whether it’s now or when the
    SHTF happens.


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