Monday, October 13, 2014

Art of Going Grey - Part Two: The Team

You might recall that a few weeks ago, Dear Reader, I posted Part One of  this series exploring what the term 'going grey' meant as well as some practical advice on what certainly wasn't grey in regards to personal accoutrement.

This eagerly awaited installment will take that a little further and examine greyness in the context of the team. Part Three will cover vehicles.

Read on.

Greyness and the Surveillance Team

Let's begin by taking a look at this team photograph taken from a website offering covert surveillance services. What is wrong with this picture?

Not scoring highly on the greyness scale

To be fair, they might not actually dress this way while operational. Well, I would certainly hope not.

It's not enough to consider just the individual since surveillance is a team activity. And while, individually, we might dress in a way that can be considered inconspicuous, what if we are all dressed in a similar, nondescript, manner?

Is that not just as bad?

In Peter Jenkins' excellent book 'Surveillance Tradecraft', he recounts how students arrive on day one of training dressed relatively alike, but how this will change with "experience, training, and knowledge."

Uniformity is a uniform (taken without permission from 'Surveillance Tradecraft', p11)

Jenkins goes on to state:
Many that work in the surveillance sector are former military or police. By nature they are practical outdoor people and tend to wear very similar styled clothing, which in essence could be considered a uniform and should be avoided if you dress in this fashion.
Then he includes a check-list of things to avoid. It is a very good book, which I have stated before, so if you haven't got a copy, and work in this industry, you should certainly avail yourself.  
So, now, knowing we have to consider that we dress in an inconspicuous fashion, but not all in the same way, we also have to factor in the possibility that being grey might also be, in some cases, a give-away.


Here is an interesting article writen by a photographer (on a now-defunct blog) advising his readers on the subject of detecting surveillance teams. Take particular note of the comments on clothing and footwear.

While it may seem a little damned if you do, the reality is that the majority of your subjects of surveillance are unlikely to be looking out for plainly-dressed individuals wearing loose clothing and steadfastly refusing to make eye contact, at least in the private sector. You would hope. However, people involved in criminal activity are more likely to be surveillance aware, if not just paranoid in general.

In fact, I would probably go so far as to say that most subjects are likely to be blithely unaware they are being surveilled and you could be wearing something like this and you'll never be burned.

Most, not all.

The key is knowing your subject, at least as much as is possible prior to undertaking a surveillance operation. And then your level of greyness will depend on context.

As usual, I would like to hear from you. In particular any personal stories in regards to your own experiences, good or bad. Either post comments below or, if you prefer, you can email me.

Next time we'll look at vehicles. Unless I change my mind.


  1. Great post. Look forward to part 3.

    1. I'm going to take a wild guess that you are the same person who was looking forward to Part 2 after the first post...?

      I'm kind of intuitive that way.

  2. Intuition is a good skill to have in your line of work

    1. And yet it never was Colonel Mustard, in the ball-room, with the candlestick...

  3. No, it was Butler.