If you’re still here and reading my material, I’ll assume that you share my interest finding that balance of how to effectively dress for the gun. Either that or you’re being held against your will, in which case blink twice and we’ll send help.
Now before you go out and spend a ton of money on a new wardrobe (something I would never recommend), there are a few tips, tricks, and tweaks that you can apply to your existing clothing. The thing to remember above all else is that fit is king. The properly fitting garment can fall & drape exactly the way you want it. And that is actually the focus of my first to points:
- Avoid clothing that’s too tight: This one should be pretty obvious. Over the last couple years the trend seems to thankfully be moving away from overly fitted, almost painted on looking clothing. I don’t think much needs to be said on why this would be detrimental to concealment. We all like to joke about the guy in his shmedium Grunt Style t-shirt trying to hide a duty sized pistol in a hip holster. If your clothing hugs every curve and contour of your body, then any additions made to those curves & contours, be it a firearm or tacos, will be immediately apparent. That being said, I doubt this one will be a real issue for a majority of the people that read my posts.
- Avoid clothing that’s too loose: There are actually 2 major reasons for this one. Firstly, baggy clothing tends to look sloppy or careless. This can set a negative impression, and is unflattering. Aesthetics might not be the top priority, but that’s not to say it isn’t important. The second aspect is a little counter-intuitive. Baggy clothing can highlight a concealed firearm almost as easily as tight clothes can. How is that? Baggy clothing means there’s a lot of extra fabric flapping around, so your daily bending, twisting, and moving can result in that extra material settling on the shelf that’s created by the grip of your pistol. If one side of your shirt is bunching and gathering unnaturally, that’s the type of irregularity that can invite further scrutiny.
- Belt selection is critical: Typically when you’re dressing up, that means a tucked in shirt, which in turn means your belt is visible. Even if you’re wearing jeans, a “tactical” belt like the Wilderness Tactical Instructor belt or the Ares Gear Ranger belt will look out of place. Even something lower profile like the Mastermind Tactics (formerly Graith) Specialist is too conspicuous in my mind. Ares Gear tried to get around this with the Aegis, but it’s still scuba webbing. Typically dress(ier) belts mean leather. Just make sure the leather you select is appropriate for the environment. If, for example, you’re in a button down shirt with jeans & boots, a beefier leather gun belt like the 1/4″ thick offerings from Mean Gene, but if you’re in chinos, slacks or suit pants, you’ll need something that doesn’t look like work wear. You may have already read my article from last month where I compared the Kore Essentials and Slidebelt, which are my previous and current go-tos.
- Your pants play into the concealment of an IWB holster! Most dudes, especially dudes that have a less than athletic build like myself will be inclined to pick pants that are less constricting because that’s more comfortable. This unfortunately creates a problem. You want your waistband to help snug the gun up against the body. Additionally, I’ve found that pants that are a little more fitted in the crotch, seat, and thigh tend to keep the holster body in place and prevent shifting. I’m not suggesting that the waist of your pants needs to be so tight that it’s cutting into you and leaving marks or red spots, but there should be at least some notable level of pressure from the waistband against your body.
- Pant rise is important: For those unfamiliar, “rise” is the distance from the waistband to the crotch of a pair of pants. “Wait, you mean to tell me they’re not all the same?!?!?”. Well no, in fact they’re not, nor is one type universally effective. Depending on your build and the length of your torso, standard (high) or mid-rise pants might be moppropriate for you. The most common mistake that most guys make (again, especially those with the “successful lifestyle body”) is that they wear their pants too low. This can negatively impact your concealment by causing the gun to ride too low and/or create hot spots and discomfort. Your natural waist is typically at the level of your belly button, possibly down an inch or two. Most guys wear their pants on their pelvis, which is too low. The other issue is that wearing pants with the wrong rise too low can impede movement. The crotch of the pant is now lower than it should be, which means your legs are joined further down than they are naturally.
- Shoe selection matters! Dressier shoes tend to have leather soles. Leather soles tend not to have the best traction. Traction is kind of important if you’re having to physically manage another person. You’re probably thinking “Well that’s an easy fix. I’ll just wear nothing but rubber soled shoes then!”. While that will work, I’ve yet to see a rubber soled shoe that actually looked like it belongs with a suit or dress pants. Thankfully there are some hybrid options out there, where rubber studs or sections are built into a leather sole, giving you better traction without looking like you’re wearing orthotic shoes or a uniform duty oxford.
- Get friendly with your tailor: Most clothing off the rack doesn’t really fit anyone all that well, it just fits a lot of people okay enough that they’ll buy it. A good tailor can help tweak and adjust any garment to serve a specific purpose for you, and make sure your clothing is working for you instead of against you. And, speaking of tailors, there are a few specialty adjustments you can have your tailor make to your wardrobe:
- Reinforcing your waistbands: Most of us carry guns and other support gear on the belt line. Other than work wear and denim, most slacks and suit pants are more delicate and not well suited to supporting weight. Having your tailor reinforce the waists of your pants will help to prevent sagging, and have the added benefit of more material that will keep your holster clips and other gear from wearing holes in your pants.
- Extra belt loops: Along the same line as a reinforced waist, you may find it beneficial to have extra belt loops added to your trousers. This helps more evenly distribute weight across your belt, and prevent the waistline of your pants from sagging. Very important for any tools carried along the mid-line or in the pockets.
- Extra lining in your jackets: This is primarily for the hip-carry crowd. If you’re using a jacket as a cover garment, you’ll want to have an extra panel of material sewn into the coat where it rides over the gun. Doing it this way will allow you to only have to repair the panel instead of having the entire jacket re-lined after it gets shredded by the rear sights and/or cocking serrations on your carry gun.
- Breakaway buttons: Generally, when a man is standing he should have his jacket buttoned. Well if he now has to access a pistol under that jacket, he has to either tear it open, unbutton it, or try to pull it high enough to clear the holster. There are some companies now that are doing breakaway buttons. Essentially, it’s a normal functioning button & buttonhole, but instead of the button being sewn directly to the jacket, it’s sewn to a snap so that it can perform normally, then in an emergency it can be pulled open without damaging the garment. I’m actually talking to my tailor now about doing this to all my suits & sport coats.
- Weight in the hem of your coat: The old bodyguard trick was to keep a spare magazine in the strong side coat pocket. That way, when you went to clear the cover garment, there was enough inertia and hang-time that it would keep the jacket from floating back into the path of the draw. Personally I find a magazine in the pocket too conspicuous. I have heard of guys having weight sewn directly into the hem of the jacket under the liner to the same effect.
- Beware of neckties! The fabrics that they use for ties have a pretty high tensile strength. Especially when you consider that good ties are 5 or 7 fold material. That’s a lot of fabric wrapped around your neck. If you’re not careful it can easily turn into a leash or a noose. That’s why all of the uniform neckties I’ve ever seen have been clip-on. It’s super difficult to strangle somebody with a clip-on tie…………..allegedly. I’m not suggesting you replace your Hermes ties with clip-ons, just making sure it’s something you’re aware of. Look at it critically, and ask yourself if there are any modifications you can come up with to make your neckties “safer”.
This was intended as a very high-level primer, and as something to spark more questions and dialog.
Do you feel that anything was left out? Which of these would you like me to go into more detail on? Please let me know in the comments.