Dressed to Kill: Sartorial Guidance for the Well Armed Man Part IV (or IIII for you watch geeks)

There’s a lot of debates that exist in the gun/tactical/defensive world: 9 vs. 45, red dot vs. irons, aiwb vs. strongside hip, tourniquet vs. spare mag, night sights vs. fiber optic, whether New Shimmer is a floor wax or a dessert topping (most of you are going to have to Google that one), etc.

There is, however, one unifying topic that everybody can get behind and discuss into the wee hours of the morning: Gear! That shiny new piece of equipment that promises to make you shoot faster, group tighter, draw cleaner, and make all your dreams come true. All you have to do is lay out some cash, take it home, and be fulfilled…until the next thing comes out.

It is with this topic that I will win over the masses, and convince people of the benefit to understanding style! Best case scenario: you’ll have the ability and understanding of how to incorporate the stuff that you’ve spent your hard earned money on into your wardrobe. Worst case scenario: you need to buy more gear! Either way everybody wins!

Ok, so seriously, here’s why this makes life so much easier. There’s lot of advice out there about how concealing a gun in dress attire is as simple as just throwing a jacket over top of your normal carry rig. There are 3 major challenges to this idea:

  1. A properly tailored jacket would either result in horrible printing of the gun, or may not even be able to be buttoned due to the extra material on the waistline (depending on how fitted it is)
    • An improperly tailored jacket has the potential of you looking sloppy and/or out of place, possibly defeating the entire point of the jacket all together
  2. For those of us that carry appendix, the jacket does virtually nothing as an open-front cover garment. It works ok as a closed front garment, but there are times where the jacket should be unbuttoned (like when you’re seated)
  3. This presupposes the ability to wear a jacket. If you live below the 35th North Parallel, that’s not a realistic proposition for 6-8 months out of the year, especially if you spend any time outdoors.

This drives most people to explore tuckable holsters, which makes sense. You can still carry your pistol in roughly the same place, so your drawstroke can remain consistent, and all you’re doing is putting a shirt overtop of it. This can work, but again, you need to know what the outfit is supposed to look like before the gun is introduced, so that you can maintain that look after the gun is in place. Otherwise it may be covered, but it’s not necessarily concealed. So odds are, you’re going to need a different holster.

Once you’ve gotten past how to cover the gun, we want to make sure that it blends in with your chosen attire, so that it doesn’t look like you’re hiding something under your shirt. This is best achieved with the artful use of fabric weight, patterns, and textures.

  • Fabric weight: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Heavier fabrics are
  1. More likely to retain their own form and not hang up on/cling to whatever you have underneath it
  2. Generally less sheer, so you reduce the chances of being able to flat out see the gun through the material
  • Patterns are your friend. Look at military field uniforms. The mixing of different colors and shapes help to obscure the shape of things. Now keep in mind, what is available to you will vary dramatically based on your required dress code. Loosely from most effective to least, we’re looking at:
    • Hawaiian/Aloha/Floral: Just don’t. Unless You’re a freeloading private eye with an epic mustache (or Caleb Giddings). Then all bets are off. Seriously though, this is a very bold shirt and can easily look foolish. If you intend to wear one seriously, I’d save it for when the wearer is more proficient in fashion and style.
    • Plaid & Madras: This offers multiple colors and stripes of varying thicknesses going in different directions. These are extremely bold and, unless you work in an artistic field, or one that doesn’t have a dress code, these are unlikely to be a viable choice for professional attire.
    • (Multi)Check & Gingham: Gingham is a bit more informal, but it can be pulled off in an office environment if things are suitably casual. The check & multi-check are a little more subdued. Depending on the size of the pattern, and the colors selected, you can probably use these in slightly more buttoned up environments like banking/finance.
    • Stripes: There’s a pretty wide variety of striped patterns, which is nice. It’s generally understood that vertical stripes are considered to be slimming, and we can play this to our advantage. Just as they can help conceal the contours of all those tacos, they can also help hide the angles and edges of your sidearm.
    • Solids: I’ve worked in environments where we could only wear the most conservative of shirts: The solid white dress shirt. It is arguably one of the most versatile staples in a man’s closet. It can be worn with literally everything. The catch is that, especially in solids, lighter colors tend to be less forgiving than darker ones when it comes to concealment. That’s where our next section comes in handy.
  • Fabric textures like herringbone, twill, and various oxfords will offer some “topography” to the shirt, some visual action so it’s just not a big flat panel of one color. Think about what a sheet of copy paper looks like fresh out of the package vs. after you crumple it up and smooth it back out. That texture can help reduce the shadowing

The other reason that a working knowledge of materials is useful is because you know what you can expect out of your clothes in terms of performance. It’s pretty easy to hang a 1911 or Beretta 92 off a big thick gun belt in a pair of Wranglers. Believe me when I tell you the can change when those jeans change to an Italian suit, and that double stitched bullhide is replaced with 1″ calf skin. Not saying it can’t be done, just that that it poses more of a challenge. Just like you wouldn’t ask your gear to do something it wasn’t intended for, like a 200m headshot with an Uzi, the same should apply to your wardrobe.


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