Dressing for Self Defense, by A.Y.

This is a review of considerations for civilian dress for basic self defense in most areas. Be advised some of these suggestions may be illegal where you live, follow all laws when dressing defensively.

The goal of this article is to re-think basic aspects of normal street clothes and minimize any possible negative aspects of normal street clothes for purposes of self defense.

An important consideration to this task is understanding your own personal Threat Matrix.  A Threat Matrix is the likely risks you personally have to face in your day to day life.  Are you an ordinary citizen in a middle income neighborhood?  Are you a working man or women in a rougher part of town?  A high profile business or media personality?  You will all have slightly different most likely threatening scenarios and you need to plan your wardrobe (notice the beginning of the word, it says war!) accordingly.  With the knowledge that a violent incident is likely to be launched within two seconds time, you need to build up a plan of action from that first second onwards that gives you the highest probability of survival.

A related development in this discussion in the marketplace of products catering to those interested in self-defense is the commercialization of “combat sports,” there has been a slew of clothing and other products marketed to fans of sports like “mixed martial arts.” These products have features such as short pants with special seams and moisture-wicking material designed to enhance comfort while performing these activities.   Like most “fadish” fashion accessories, most of these products have more bark then bite and brands like Tap Out and Bad Boy cater to a certain demographic that James Wesley, Rawles would surely refer to in jest as “mall ninjas.”  

Full disclaimer, the author trains in “mixed martial arts” and can wholeheartedly recommend a previous Survival Blog post on the subject.

This article is focused on non-sport clothing and gear for everyday carry.  What my fellow martial artists and I use to train and sweat in at the gym doesn’t correspond to what we would like to dress in every day.

Let’s start from the bottom:

1) Socks.  Some combat veterans would argue that comfortable socks are your second most important clothing (ask your local Vietnam vet!).  These days short sports socks designed to wick moisture away are a good bet. Keeping your feet comfortable and dry aids in minimizing distractions or possible discomfort.  For those of us “very good” at cooling our bodies down with sweat black socks tend to keep the best color for the longest period of time.

2) Wear gel foot insoles in your shoes.  Gel insoles are not just for grandpa, they aid in protecting your feet and joints when walking or running long distances and can cushion the impact in the event of needing to make a large jump.  Be sure they do not slip excessively in the shoes you wear while running.

3) Shoes.  There are tons of options available for shoes but in light of needs for self-defense, I suggest the lightest non-boot steel toed shoes you can find.  Not only does this protect your foot from heavy objects, it makes a formidable self defense tool capable of stopping the largest of attackers with a minimum of effort.

4) Wear pants that provide as much leg range of motion as possible. God knows I love skinny jeans but I can’t kick or knee strike in those for the life of me.  Make sure the hips have a wide range of motion. Optional pants are BDU style such as made by Blackhawk that have extra pockets, built-in tourniquets for each leg, and ultra secure waist and pockets.  Non-camouflage versions of these pants are to be preferred over military style pants in the interests of attracting the least amount of attention from onlookers in your day to day activities.

5) Just as important as your pants is your belt.  I recommend trainer or rappelling capable belts made out of strong nylon material with metal belt buckles.  I find it highly unlikely that you may have to use the belt for rappelling purposes, however if you are trained in how to safely use it the functionality is there and in an emergency the belt can be removed and the heavy metal buckles can be used as a self-defense weapon.

6) Belt mounted horizontal knife sheaf.  In this wear a legal sized foldable knife with a quick release button.  Knives with a slight serrated edge are to be preferred over simply straight knives. Depending on the type of area that you live you may want to get a carbon steel blade over a stainless steel blade.  With a magnesium based fire tool, carbon steel blades can make sparks to light kindling whereas a stainless steel blade cannot.  There are compelling reasons to consider a fixed-blade knife for this purpose, just be aware that state and local laws for the length of the blade can vary considerably or in some draconian places be outlawed completely.  

7) Keychain tools.  A bare minimum of keychain tools is a) a multitool, b) an LED flashlight.  Others may wish to add a “rape whistle.”  These whistles are not just suitable in signifying an emergency, they can also initiate a signal to action or get someone’s attention. A Kubotan pen or even more devious since it is not normally considered capable of being used as a weapon, the ubiquitous sharpie pen marker is made with a hard and indestructible plastic that would suit this purpose well.

8) Shirts / Hoodies.  Some of the best new technology include shirts that are “slash proof” against knives and other sharp objects. Although these products mainly protect against a slashing motion and not a stabbing attack, the level of protection this offers is better then nothing and can be instrumental in saving your life in a life and death situation. Look at Bladerunner.tv for products.  I am also fond of the Condor hoodie jacket with multiple arm pockets, rear back pockets, and moisture resistant material.

9) Jacket’s with lots of pockets.  The more stuff you can carry on your self without a backpack the better. This will help help you carry other items such as a) ear plugs, essential for hearing protection in a CCW or firearm situation, b) comfort items such as a power bar, eye drops, lip balm, c) Swedish fire starters, d) larger flashlight such as a Surefire Defender with the ability to temporarily blind or hurt assailants, e) a few condoms wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially since they have outdoor survival potential for holding water and are highly elastic. I also like having a few essential first aid items on my person at all times.  This includes a few Tylenol or Ibuprofen, sterile gloves, antibiotic ointment, and gauze. 

10) Gloves.  Protecting your hands is extremely important.  I don’t know about you but I can only watch newsreels of WWII or Vietnam combat troops without any hand protection whatsoever with trepidation!  Slash, fire, and cut resistant gloves are essential for the modern day war fighter and those concerned with personal safety.  Consider motorcycle or Wiley gloves with plastic or carbon knuckle protectors to give your punch the extra oomph.

11) Large frame shock proof sunglasses.  Protecting your eyes in a violent situation is not optional.  When I was assaulted last year by hoodlums they started it with a mace attack to my eyes.  Wearing eye protection allowed me to continue to see and react to the situation. The brand military users seem to prefer to protect their eyes from IED blasts are by Wiley.  I wore those when I was attacked too.

12) Hat.  A good hat protects your eyes from the glare of the sun and can deflect strikes to the head.  I suggest styles a) help you blend into your local area such as sport team hats, b) aid in inconspicuously camouflaging you in the local environment.  To be inconspicuous might mean they are not in an obvious military style camouflage pattern but olive green, black, or coyote tan.

As mentioned earlier, dressing for self defense means being inconspicuous about it.  When I see someone I don’t know wearing a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai branded t-shirt, advertising to the world what they likely train in, I shake my head in disbelief at the bad OPSEC.  Although some would argue wearing a “Tae Kwon Do Champion” T-shirt might dissuade would be attackers from an assault the truth is all too often just the opposite of such an assumption.  An example of this is if you have ever attended a Halloween party where the kids (or adults, it’s a thin line these days!) dress as a karate kid or ninja they are certain to be messed with by someone who thinks they are bigger or badder then the Karate Kid.  

This concludes my article on “rethinking” how to use everyday clothing to help you rather then hamper you, for self-defense.