Social Camouflage, often referred to as being the "gray man" or "hiding in plain sight", is an attempt to go relatively unnoticed in society. While an individual may be comfortable with not being entirely "normal" in appearance, this may not be conducive to achieving the goal of survival.
Compliance with Social Conventions
The typical urban-raised individual, while generally oblivious to most factors of his or her environment, is extremely sensitive to compliance with conventions of society. As a result of this anywhere you go in an urban or suburban environment you will be constantly subject to hundreds or even thousands or people judging whether or not you "fit in". If someone is singled out as being too different from everyone else, they may draw unwanted attention from security, law-enforcement, or individuals who would take what this person has. So now the person who was previously minding their own business has to consider how he or she appears to everyone around them and how to avoid drawing unwanted attention. The primary attention getters are clothing, personal grooming, and "accessories".
Clothing is the number one factor when it comes to hiding in plain sight so this is where you should give the most thought.
- Color and Pattern is one of the most basic parts of social camouflage. Colors like black, blue, khaki, green, etc.. are all common and go unnoticed when in public. Colors like yellow, orange, and red will draw attention, but not necessarily cause you any trouble as long as they are displayed in typical fashion. About the surest way to identify yourself as being a survivalist or perhaps even a member of a dreaded militia group is to wear camouflage, especially on your upper body. BDUs, multicam shirts, or Realtree camo are pretty much guaranteed to get unwanted attention unless you happen to be at a gunshow or an outfitter during hunting season. Wearing solid subdued colors allows you to fit in while still being relatively well environmentally camouflaged.
- Style of clothing is also important. Wearing popular cuts of pants and shirts will help you blend in, wearing chain laden ultra-wide leg goth pants is a sure-fire way to get yourself noticed by majority of society.
Personal grooming and good hygiene is also important, while it is less likely to attract unwanted attention than bad clothing it is still a concern. You should always be presentable, yet subdued without any "loud" hair styles when trying to avoid the attention of others. Again, the goal is to be so routine for the surroundings you are in as to pass almost unnoticed and be easily dismissed as neither a threat or a target.
The average well-prepared individual is likely to be carrying significantly more gear than the rest of the people around him, as result it is important that these "accessories" aren't obvious visually or audible.
- EDC, or Every Day Carry, should not make itself known easily. If the metallic items in your pockets are obviously trying to burst out or clink and clank a lot more than pocket change, you should reconsider the way you carry them. If you are legally able to carry weapons they should be unobtrusive, i.e. the outline of a pistol shouldn't be seen (called "printing") through clothing and your knife should be discreet yet carried within the local requirements of the law.
- Bug Out Bags also require a great deal of consideration. It is the item most likely to get attention, and most likely to get you in trouble. The average police officer who finds gloves, cordage, duct tape, and a large knife in a bag is going to be less than understanding when you try to explain yourself. However, if an officer also finds a reflective vest, safety glasses and a hard hat with those same items it is much easier to explain you have a legitimate purpose for your rescue tools.
If you are going to carry your BOB in public then you should make certain considerations. It shouldn't be overly large, a large military rucksack is much more likely to be noticed than a "trendy" olive drab pack of less than 2000 cubic inches. The pack should also not have too many protrusions, a few extra pockets are one thing; 3 nalgene bottles, a sleeping bag, and your 3-person tent are another story. Camping gear in an urban setting typically means homelessness and that brings unwanted attention.
Your age is another major consideration, the older you are the more strictly you will be held to social conventions. A 19-year-old girl with purple hair dressed entirely in black "We Make Dead Things Deader" gear is likely to be perceived in some communities as "a Gothic teenager who has obviously not matured enough to understand why such dreadful costume is simply unacceptable" or a teenager in BDUs might be labeled as "punk" while a middle-aged, white male could be viewed as being part of a "militia" group. A 40-year-old man in the same attire is not likely to be given the same allowances, likewise with accessories like a BOB.