The Basics of Blending into a Crowd: Becoming the Gray Man By:



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Sometimes, you just need to disappear. Of course, you can’t do this literally. But there are ways to stay out of sight even when you’re directly under the noses of those targeting you. Regardless of the reason, you need to know how to blend into your surroundings and essentially vanish. This is called “becoming the gray man,” and it’s not quite as hard as you may think.

Attire Means Much to the Gray Man

One crucial aspect of hiding in plain sight is your attire. If you don’t have a specific destination and are unfamiliar with the local attire, plain, bland-colored clothing is best.

Avoid bright-colored shirts and jackets with logos (logos can stick in other people’s minds). Likewise, try to match the style of the times. For example, wearing a style of pants that was popular ten or fifteen years ago will be memorable to others.

If you do know what to expect from the typical local attire, then by all means, emulate their styles. If it’s a sporting event, then jerseys and branded T-shirts will help you melt into the crowd. At a rally, debate, or organized protest, shirts with printed photos or sayings that represent their cause are the way to go.

Location, Location, Location

When you need to disappear into a crowd, it’s best to head to the middle of the mass or to the largest grouping of people that you can find. It’s very easy for someone targeting you to walk the perimeter and find you if you’re at the outer edge of the group.

Instead, head deep inside, find a group of people, and pretend you are part of the group. Move with them until they scatter or exit the crowd. Then, simply return to the pack’s densest area and once again find another random group.

This is a great strategy until you can come up with a more permanent plan to stay hidden.

When there’s a large group, go deep inside for cover. Staying around the perimeter will get you noticed.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Regardless if you’re in a crowded bar, walking the streets of a foreign city, or attending a concert or other event, you need to do more than just dress like the locals. Actions can speak just as loud as your attire.

If an entire crowd is cheering or booing, you look out of place if you aren’t doing the same. Likewise, avoid staying quiet while those around you are being loudly vocal or talking too much/showing too much emotion in calm, quiet environments. This can set off red flags in those around you.

You need to follow the pack and do what they do as if you are supposed to be there. Be careful not to go against the grain.

If you don’t know what to do or say, observe others and directly copy what they do and say. Applying situational awareness here will help you find the flow of the locals. You’ll be in the majority and won’t attract any unwanted attention.

Don’t Be the Sore Thumb in a Group

Simply put, you’ll blend in much easier if you stay with others who share similar traits or characteristics as yourself.

If you are shorter than average, then remain in an area or group with shorter people. Likewise, if you’re tall, then stay with tall people. Think about this: how easy would it be to identify a tall woman in a group of short men? The answer is—extremely easy.

Yes, it may not be easy to find a crowd that is grouped under one or two specific traits. However, do your best to get as close as possible to traits of your own.

A tall person walking among shorter people stands out in a crowd. The gray man “hangs” with people who share their own characteristics.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Do And Do Not Accessorize

This may sound like a direct contradiction, but you should carry accessories and know when to ditch them. The key is to know when to do one or the other.

For example, if you wear simple, bland clothing but always wear a red baseball cap, you will be easily picked out as the person wearing the red cap. Even if you change your clothes but keep the cap, the cap will stay in many people’s minds.

Using the same example, if you put the red cap on initially, just to discard it later to throw off anyone following you, then it’s beneficial to wear it.

This also includes a man or woman wearing a jacket, carrying an umbrella, or holding a purse or briefcase. If a target is marked by their accessory, then discarding it will be one way to change your appearance quickly.

Change Your Look

Finally, you may have to change your look altogether. This could include cutting or dying your hair, styling your hair differently, growing out your beard or mustache (if you have the time, of course), or wearing a wig.

Becoming the gray man may include drastic actions like cutting your own hair.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Additionally, your clothing will have to change altogether, too. If you normally wear dress shirts and pants, then maybe ripped jeans and printed T-shirts will help. If you always wear a dress or skirt, then consider pants or overalls.

Radically changing your overall look can go a long way to making you invisible, even to people who knew you before your “transformation.”

Smoke And Mirrors

Like magicians using smoke and mirrors to disappear, use some tricks of your own to make yourself disappear from others. Do your homework and learn about local customs. Likewise, buy second-hand clothing for quick changes. Finally, don’t attract unwanted attention by acting differently from the locals or the crowd.

The best part of all? They will be looking everywhere for you while you are virtually hiding in plain sight!

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