While in the military, I never gave much thought to my daily attire, simply because it was dictated what I would wear.
I’m sure a lot of thought and testing went into how my clothes would hold up, not just as the result of everyday wear and tear but also to the rigors of field exercises and even during tactical engagements—from materials that could withstand countless bumps and scrapes to reinforced areas that took a lot of abuse. The military uniform, for the most part, is designed with a fight in mind.
Now that I am retired, I tend to choose my everyday clothing with the same things in mind. My likelihood of getting into a fight or ending up rolling around on the ground have been substantially reduced. Even so, I want to be ready.
COMFORT AND FUNCTION
I don’t wear “skinny jeans” and prefer to have clothing that allows me more freedom of movement. I carry concealed when out and about and want to make sure I can get to my weapons, should the need arise.
There is a happy medium for what clothes to wear and still be able to fight—but not have your clothes work against you in a fight. Something too tight restricts the ability to retrieve a concealed firearm, knife or other weapon you might have on you. It also reduces your ability to move quickly. In contrast, clothing that is too loose gives an attacker something to grab hold of to control you. Loose jackets, shirts, ties and heavy necklaces are all items that could be used against you in a fight. Anyone familiar with Jiu-jitsu knows of the cross-collar choke (aka “X Choke”). And while this doesn’t take extremely loose clothes to execute, clothing that is harder to grab makes attacks such as this more difficult.
CHECK THE FIT
If you are a concealed carrier who uses an ankle holster, you know that you have to make sure you have plenty of room to raise your pant leg to get to your firearm—more, if you need to do it quickly. Loose pants are good for an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, but without a good belt to hold your pants up with the weight of a handgun, you could end up exposing more than your Second Amendment rights!
There are a lot of companies out there that are making clothing specifically for people who carry concealed. Look for durability, wearability and the accessibility of your weapon when choosing your attire. How you look will be less important than how you can move when a fight happens.
“I don’t wear “skinny” jeans and prefer to have clothing that allows me more freedom of movement. I carry concealed when out and about and want to make sure I can get to my weapons, should the need arise.”
DRESS FOR WORK, NOT FOR WAR
I’ve been a 5.11 fan for quite a while and have several pairs of 5.11 pants, some polo shirts and one of the company’s lightweight jackets. They are functional and can take a beating
(and they have) while still being stylish. The extra pockets on 5.11’s tactical pant line can hold myriad items, including extra magazines, flashlights and phones.
As stylish as they are, you still might look like a military contractor on your way to Iraq when you wear too much. That being said, 5.11 does offer clothing with a less-tactical look while still keeping the functionality and toughness this company is known for.
Its new line of pants includes Defender-Flex pants and jeans ($70) in a wide variety of colors and for both men and women. These pants provide comfort, range of motion and performance without looking as if you are about to engage ISIS.
While I am no longer as flexible as I used to be, I could still give someone a kick in the chest while wearing these pants. Made for everyday wear, they provide enough flexibility so that you are not restricted during a scuffle. The straight-leg versions (yes, there is a “skinny” version) provide enough room at the ankle to retrieve a firearm in an ankle holster.
Picking the right holster is extremely important. You want to make sure that in the event you get into a close contact fight, the gun will remain in the holster until needed. It is also important that the holster is designed for the gun. Generic holsters allow too much room for a gun to move around.
Depending on your needs, Safariland has two excellent choices. If you everyday carry with a light on your firearm, the 557 will fit the firearm; and when attached to your belt, it hugs your body to reduce printing. For an even more concealable choice, the 17T can fit inside your waistband while being attached securely to your belt.
Footwear is just as important as the rest of your attire. Being able to keep firm footing and possibly use your feet in a violent exchange both require forethought.
5.11 introduced a new boot at this year’s SHOT Show. Called the Apex ($70), it has a waterproof membrane lining and Kevlar-reinforced heel. While this is more of a tactical boot, it could still be worn for everyday use. One of the neat features is
the built-in pocket that can hold a knife but is also big enough to hold a small firearm such as the Glock G43. Although there is no retention device, it uses friction for a fairly solid hold. I would hate to be on the receiving end of a kick from this solid boot.
KEEPING OUT THE WIND
Also new from 5.11 is its line of Cascadia lightweight jackets and vests ($79 and $69, respectively). These are great for mild weather and also include some features that make them perfect for the concealed carrier. The hand pockets, with YKK-branded zip closures and an internal pass-through, allow for easy access to a concealed firearm, enabling the user to be prepared without having to brandish. It will also keep the wind and rain out and allows plenty of flex in the event of an assault during which you might have to fight off an attacker.
WORKWEAR WITH AN EXTRA PURPOSE
In 2015, Berne Apparel took its expertise in the work clothing market and applied it to concealed-carry apparel. Berne developed a U.S.-patented concealed weapon storage pocket system called the Echo One-One Jacket ($110). It has an exterior cargo pocket system designed to look and function like existing outerwear pockets. The exterior layer of the pocket system is pleated to minimize printing. The inside of the pocket contains a MOLLE panel to accept Velcro-backed or MOLLE holsters.
To access your weapon, the cargo pocket flap was designed to function as a pull tab. While this is not a coat for the summer, it would be good for fall and winter in most places. The added thickness for warmth could also protect the wearer from blows from a fist or a slashing from all but the sharpest of knives. I have a similar one from Carhartt, but the added feature of the pocket access from Berne makes it a winner.
TRAIN WITH ALL YOUR TOOLS
If you are going to carry concealed and want to protect yourself or your loved ones in a fight, you should train with the firearm you carry and in the clothes you will be wearing. Finding out that your gun gets tangled in your clothing when you are drawing is not something you want to happen when lives are on the line. That high kick at the dojo in your gi will be a lot harder on the street in your skinny jeans.
Brian Berry is a retired Army Special Forces Command sergeant major. He is a former Special Forces weapons sergeant and has multiple combat tours under his belt. Brian is the co-founder of Spartan Defensive Concepts, at which he teaches concealed carry and defensive marksmanship courses. Brian retired in 2014 and is now a consultant currently working for the Special Operations community.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.