In prior articles (see here, here, and here) I have provided some tricks and tips for concealment that have worked for me over years. However, I must admit that I am lucky in that I am able to dress in a very casual way at work. While some old-timers might bemoan the fact that most male teachers do not wear suits and ties to work these days, the fact is that few want to do my particular job while wearing $500 worth of clothing. Working in special education, I come into almost daily contact with blood, feces, urine, vomit, half-chewed food, etc. I’d rather throw out a $15 WalMart shirt when I get home than a designer suit.
Due to my career choice, I do not “carry” at work, but I tend to wear the same style of clothes when I am outside of work. Cargo pants or shorts (occasionally jeans), button-down long or short-sleeved casual shirts, and sneakers or hiking boots are my typical dress.
Of course, there are times when I have to dress up a bit more. A dinner out with the wife might require a tucked in polo or button-down shirt and dressier khakis, in which case I might choose to pocket-carry a smaller pistol than usual.
More recently, however, I was told I had to attend a wedding of one of my in-laws. This, obviously, necessitated some fancier dress. The wedding involved several formal events over several days (don’t ask!), so I decided to bring both my navy blue and my medium grey suits.
I am going to say right here and now that I am no expert on carrying while wearing a suit. I am not a member of the U.S. Secret Service, nor do I protect VIPs at high-profile events. Nor am I any type of fashionista (I found this site helpful, for what it’s worth). What follows are just my own observations from trial and error.
Being vertically challenged, there are several suit styles that do not, aesthetically, work for me. This has the added benefit when carrying a concealed handgun, as those same styles do not, in my opinion, work as well at hiding a pistol. The styles I generally avoid are the double-breasted suit and the three-button suit. Both of these suit styles tend to make shorter people like me look even shorter and also more portly. Neither of these are fashion goals of mine. In addition, the double-breasted suit—with the left front of the jacket correctly buttoned over the right side—makes access to a pistol worn anywhere between the 12:00 and 6:00 positions on the belt problematic. Along those same lines, both the double-breasted and three button suits tend to look more snug around the torso, making concealment of items beneath the jacket a dubious proposition.
I should note that a suit can be tailored to assist in the concealment of a firearm. However, for several personal reasons—financial and otherwise—I chose not to explore this avenue. I went with classic two-button suits.
Readers of this blog know that John and I both prefer to carry our handguns in the appendix inside the waistband (AIWB) position. Ignoring the concept of the tuckable holster for now (not a fan, not practiced in their use, etc.), AIWB would be an issue for this occasion. While AIWB could work if I kept my suit jacket buttoned, I knew there would be a lot of sitting-standing-sitting-standing, meaning a lot of unbuttoning-buttoning-unbuttoning-buttoning of the suit jacket. In addition, despite “proper button etiquette”, I planned to keep my suit jacket unbuttoned as much as possible to allow easier access to my pistol. Accordingly, I recognized that AIWB would not work for these events.
Though I do not have a drawer or box full of holsters, I still have the very first holster I ever purchased, a Blade Tech IWB model that can be set up for zero cant or more of an FBI cant. This is an older model of holster no longer made (it might have been called the UCH, but I cannot be sure. It is kydex rather than injection-molded like most of their holsters of today. It is a decent holster that accepts all the double-stack Glock sizes [9mm, .40, .357 Sig], two-position adjustable cant, adjustable loops for different width belts, and adjustable tension on the pistol). I tried on my suit pants and set up this holster with the cant at the 3-3:30 position on the belt, tried the jacket on over it, and it did a reasonable job of concealing my Glock 19. I was not overly concerned that I would be carrying in a different position from my usual, since I carry on my strong-side for IDPA matches (under a split-front cover garment, not unlike a suit jacket).
As noted above, I chose my Glock 19 for this event. I regard the Glock 19 as the most capable of my pistols that I can still conceal effectively. Though I have other, smaller, more concealable options, I prefer the capability of the Glock 19 in my hands. While wearing a suit, it would be carried in the aforementioned Blade Tech holster. When in more casual clothing outside of the ceremonial events, I would carry in my Raven Concealment Systems Eidolon holster in the AIWB position.
I lack a good “dress” gun belt. It’s never been an issue before and I forgot all about it leading up to the wedding. I just wore my Ares Gear Enhanced Aegis belt. With its black buckle it is “low profile”, and with the jacket buttoned over it whenever standing, I was not worried that it would draw any attention.
On the belt, I also carried my Raven Concealment Systems magazine carrier and my Headhunter Blades Rat Knife, because why not? I put a set of keys into the right side jacket pocket to help make sure that, when unbuttoned, the jacket would continue to hang and cover my pistol. I also put a SOFTT-W tourniquet in one of the inside pockets of the jacket. Once dressed, I felt a little John Wick-esque.
Overall, the events went well. It would be a stretch to say I had fun, as I never really have fun at weddings. My biggest concerns were hugs (my wife has a huge family) and the dance floor. With the hugs, I was careful to always get my hands/arms inside of theirs in order to direct their arms higher on my body, away from the tools around my waist. As far as dancing goes, I only really ended up slow-dancing with my wife, so I did not have to worry about my unbuttoned jacket flapping about and exposing the items on my belt.
Overall, this was a very positive experience. I was amazed at how well the suit covered my pistol and other items, and afterward felt like I could have concealed even more (a second spare magazine, etc.). While I do not think I am about to start wearing a suit every day just for fun, it is nice to know that I have effective strategies to conceal carry while wearing one. I hope you found this article in some way instructive or useful.
As always, thanks for reading. What has been your experience carrying concealed under more formal wear? We would love to hear your experiences and/or advice on the subject.