Actual, casual and active urban camouflage is about becoming a part of an interpersonal space, not hiding within a (crypsis) visual space.

Urban camouflage isn’t about blending into the physical city around you but to appear as if you’re from and belong there. Achieved by selective cultural assimilation and controlled method acting.

Nature, despite its vast diversity is all made up of relatively specific patterns that can be easily duplicated as graphical prints. This is why wilderness and weather mimicking camouflage is just a matter of wearing their respective patterns; jungle, desert, snow etc.

Camouflage in urban environments isn’t nearly as passive, it can and only be active as well as adaptive.

There is a pattern called “urban camo” that even the military utilizes but it’s not intended nor is it effective as actual camouflage. When they use it, it serves more for a uniformity purpose and not to blend-in with the city.

So in essence, there is no such thing as a universally applicable urban pattern as there are with nature.

Technically, urban camouflage should be called “adaptive urban camouflage” as it’s not merely a garment you wear but an entire act of decisive self reinvention.

Urban Survival at Taipei, Taiwan /// Vinjatek
Streets of Taipei, Taiwan

To blend-in to a type / group of people or simulate a specific person or persona that fit the locale or venue. That is true urban camouflage. Becoming a part of an interpersonal space, not hide within a visual space.

Adaptive urban camouflage isn’t the concept of being the “gray man“. That term has been popularized by wannabe survivalists and tactical fanboys. The theory is to be invisible within a crowd, to the extent of being ignored by being “gray”. To be as unnoticeable and unremarkable as possible compared to everyone else.

This is a counterintuitive practice because the smallest fragment of gray in a world of color sticks out like a beacon. Being too different generates visibility…



To actively be unnoticed; unsocialability, emotionless, monotonous etc. All taken to the extreme at all times around “regular” people raises suspicion.

Take for example a busy pub or bar. The “gray man” is supposed to be unnoticeable so he will be wearing all gray (or even dressed for the occasion) and sit alone in a corner keeping his head down so that no one will notice him. It’s one of those cases where the unnoticed is the most visible, even if know one is paying attention. The gray man will stand out in trying too hard to stand back.

Whereas the man “in” active urban camouflage will be wearing like-clothing and participate in the party, socialize and make himself known to the extent of the venue’s “normalcy” and expectancy. Get into the thick of the people, adapt to the obvious mannerisms.

Being liked by the people drops their guards and increases camouflage status and stability.

“Double Shirt” Active Urban Camouflage Tactic

This shift type pertains to the operative’s top, as in attire; shirts, jackets, sweaters, tanks etc.

An Example

  • An assailant for whatever reason is chasing a target through a crowded New York City street.
  • The assailant only knows the target as wearing a red shirt, and so is the primary focus when crowd scanning.
  • The target, with the assailant trailing him, takes a turn on a street and suddenly has a blue shirt on.
  • As the the target blends in with the crowd, the assailant still looks for a red shirt.
On Line at Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa in Saigon, Vietnam /// Vinjatek
On Line at Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa in Saigon, Vietnam

“Shedding Skin” refers to the strategic detachment of the operative’s outer layer to reveal a perceptively different one – often with high contrast; a black shirt to a white one, a green sweater to a red one or a nondescript jacket to a graphical one.

The outer shirt is intended to be removed or concealed at a critical moment some point after being compromised in one of the following ways:

  • Shirt Double – This method requires wearing two different shirts, one over the other. Activation is just taking off the outer shirt. While this requires the least preparation, the disposed shirt can become evidence or it can start a traceable trail.
  • Shirt Fusion – This method is similar to the previous, except the two shirts are sewn to each other, making it into a single, reversible shirt. This requires relatively significant preparation, but only needs to be applied once. The downside is that the shirt(s) need to be completely removed to activate, which isn’t always ideal to pull off in public.
  • Shirt Tearaway – This method superficially attaches an exterior layer (of a shirt) over another shirt in a way that it can easily be torn off with just a pull. This also requires some preparation but is the quickest and most fluid activation. However, this is delicate and it can also leave evidence or a trail.


Urban camouflage is about blending in with the people and culture. Wilderness camouflage is about blending into the nature and physical surroundings.

The art of adaptive urban camouflage is part street smarts, social simulation and situational awareness. It’s not hiding. It’s adapting, blending and becoming…



  1. Specialist Zero Reply

    The “gray man” concept does have some good ideas but now a days it has become a bit ridiculous. It’s become a marketing term in a bad way, they now have like “gray man” clothes and colors when it’s just grey.

    Anyways, great post and more on this subject would be awesome.

  2. Excellent points my friend. Curious, where is that in Tokyo? I’m going next month and that building looks very cool.

  3. This post is genius. But I surely hope active camouflage like in Predator does come out soon!

  4. Good thing is when times become hard, especially in some abnormal communities, failed states et c, people – all people – somehow behave like gray men, lonely and self-isolated in their atomised society. Then we could just blend with it, simply and effortlessly, with our standardised clothes and looks, hollow-eyed like everybody else around us. Exclude any risky object-oriented behavior and You’ll become almost invisible among other invisibles. No personality, just non-readable, non-interpretable, non-understandable individual – from latin ‘in-divido’: something we cannot share with others. And then other people will concept our absent personality themselves for their necessary comforting: something accustomed and familiar, potentially safe and, of course, absolutely uninteresting, something to glance and forget immediately. Cheap sneakers, blue jeans, dark jacket or boring shirt, black medium-size backpack, sanitised baseball cap – ta-dah! I’m not exist anymore! I’m just like anybody else, one more urban loser to go. Gray enough, I guess.
    And another one: NEVER keep Your tier 1 gear (some papers, money/gold, phone/burner, folded knife, flashlight, multitool, tourniquet/hemostat, a little toilet set) in the backpack: always on Your belt. Then it could be only ripped of Your dead body when You’re don’t need it anymore.
    Sorry for my poor English.

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