HOW TO BE THE "GREY" MAN
I used to travel a lot with my job. I never had to travel overseas and most of my travel was regulated to the United States. Most of you have probably never heard the term “grey man,” but being the grey man/woman means making the effort to blend in with the society that surrounds you as a safety measure.
Now, if you have ever travelled overseas, most of us already seem to think about standing out from the crowd while with different dress and customs, but many of us do not realize that you can be just as much of an outsider even within the States.
There are criminals that specialize in seeking out of town travelers to target for a various number of crimes, some being violent. Typically, these criminals hang out near airports or at baggage locations to interview potential victims.
Areas we want to focus on to become “grey” include:
How You Look
How You Act
How You Move
How You Look
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. In terms of being grey, one of the best things you can do is to avoid traveling with excessively flashy luggage or clothing. Don’t wear a $10,000 watch or necklace when traveling. Very expensive luggage is going to attract attention in the hotel lobby and that attention could be bad attention.
Try and avoid bright colors such as red, orange, and yellow which tend to draw more attention. You don’t have to only wear grey but stick with more neutral colors. Depending on where you are, camo prints or other outwardly tactical-looking clothing are not the best choice, unless of course, you are in a situation where that type of dress is the norm, such as a hunting trip. Know your area and the local culture well before relying on a particular fashion.
If possible, carry an additional item with you that can instantly change your look, such as a hat, sunglasses, or jacket, as this can be quite helpful. If someone does happen to peg you as a target, you can use the item to slip under their radar as they scan for you in a crowd
For example, dressing with your preppy tennis sweater tied over your shoulders may fit in quite well in Boston but not so much in Dallas. Avoid walking with paraphernalia that obviously labels you as a tourist. Carrying backpacks or sling bags are quite common these days so there is probably little to worry about with this. However, wearing a pair of binoculars around your neck is an obvious way to label yourself as an outsider.
How You Act
The key to acting as a grey man is to appear average and non-threatening. Be careful about what you say and to whom you say it – being known as strongly antagonistic or too outspoken can lead others to make assumptions about you and mark you as a prepared individual. Maintain conversation topics within the norm of the group. If small talk seems to be the normal thing to do, engage with others to not draw attention to yourself.
You will most likely stay at a hotel of some sort when visiting a city away from home. Predators sometimes spend time in the lobby of a hotel and look for a vulnerable victim for theft or other crime. Be aware of who is around. Be conscious of anyone who seems to be trying to overhear your conversations.
When checking in to a hotel don’t accept a room if the hotel employee blurts out the number for all around to hear. You should be handed your key packet and it should the hotel staff should “your room number” referencing the number written. If your number is blurted out, by you or the hotel staff, ask for another room. Be sure to stay alert to anyone who seems uncomfortably interested in you while in the lobby. If someone follows you to your room do not go in but divert back to a public area in the hotel until the individual leaves.
While out and about, 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.
How You Move
In a crowded urban environment take note of how people are moving. Where are people going and what are they doing? While being part of a herd is not always a good thing it is often the best way to be grey if we are indeed trying to do so for safety reasons in a strange location.
While a good understanding of your surroundings is paramount in a disaster, be careful to play down any attempts to scan areas for escape routes or possible problems with security. Walk at the same speed as most of the crowd. When moving, appear as much as possible to go with the flow, walking with purpose but not urgency. Any rapid motion will draw attention to you and raise suspicions as to your motives. Don’t run unless everyone else is running. Move calmly as if you know where you are going.
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.
An integral part of the grey man theory is the ability to move through a crowd without drawing attention to yourself. When navigating a crowd, make gradual progress – cutting through a sea of people at sharp angles will draw attention to your movements and make you appear suspicious.
If you need to break away from the crowd, try and make your exit alongside a small group of people, keeping enough distance so that they know you’re not with them but close enough that you don’t appear to be alone, which makes you appear less vulnerable. There may be other safety concerns that arise that lead you to deviate from the herd, and that is completely acceptable based on the situation, but in an attempt to be grey in our behavior acting like the masses is usually what we are actually going for.
The ability to conceal yourself as a grey man/woman can be an extremely useful skill. To improve your “grey” abilities, observe the way people dress and act as you go about your day – what stands out, what makes various people noticeable? This can help you spot the objects and behaviors that draw attention.