Dressed for Success

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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.

No Expert

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.

Suit Style

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.

Carry Position

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). 

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Gear

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.

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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.

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Under the jacket….

The Events

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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15 thoughts on “Dressed for Success

  1. This article was forwarded to me with the comment:

    “Oh lord…another article by a guy who admits to never wearing a suit, about how ‘easy’ it is to carry in a suit.

    My sentiments exactly. Please stay in your lane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Claude,

      With all due respect (and I mean that sincerely), that’s really NOT what this article was about.

      Rather, it was about ALL the thought that I had to put into carrying in a manner in which I’m not accustomed. Even then, numerous compromises had to be made in terms of carry position and where and what else to carry. If I was writing an article about “carrying at the beach”, it would be very similar. Would you accuse me of not staying in my lane because I’m not a surfer or lifeguard?

      I think whoever forwarded you the article was guilty of perhaps just skimming the article without considering the full implications. Perhaps you did the same.

      I will grant that perhaps it needed a final sentence/paragraph saying something like, “while I was successful in my concealment, I much prefer my standard attire”, or words to that effect. Fact is, growing up as the son of a Wall St. executive, I knew from early on that I never wanted a suit to be part of my daily dress.

      Accordingly and out of respect, I approved your comment, because we wish to hide nothing here on our blog and are always looking to learn more.

      Thanks for the comment.

      –Robert

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      1. I appreciate your thought. Let’s keep in mind that even Jeff Cooper admitted he carried a J frame when he wore a suit and suits were more generously cut in those days. I’m not trying to be mean but rather trying to inject some reality into the discussion. Somewhat akin to Greg Ellifritz’s “Don’t Dig the Rig” articles.

        Those of us who have worn suits while carrying in the corporate business environment, such as myself and the forwarder, long ago came to a rude awakening. Trying to conceal a service pistol in that environment 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year just isn’t workable. That’s true regardless of opinions by .gov guys who work overseas in NPEs but only have casual occasional contact with any one person. Not saying that’s you but rather that it inevitably comes up in this discussion. My comment to them is the same I gave to you “Stay in your lane.”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Claude,

        Thanks (for everything).

        Yes, I recall a past article of yours when you said something along those same lines, how day-in day-out, people (often women!) will notice things about your dress, like never taking your jacket off, or always wearing the same belt, etc. In a daily environment of suit-wearers, people WILL catch on.

        Having said that, that’s not really who this article was intended for. I thought I pretty clearly explained where I was coming from and also the parameters within which I was working (basically, surrounding myself for 3 days with a bunch of people I’ll never see again!). In other words, could someone who typically dresses “casual” pull off suit carry if needed (a wedding, a funeral, etc.). Also not mentioned in the article was that I did not want to spend ridiculous amounts of money on tailoring, custom shoulder-holsters/ankle holsters, etc. I was trying, as much as possible, to make-do with what I had on hand. If I had to wear a suit every day, I’d definitely look at other options and put more resources ($) to work.

        Thanks again. Always welcoming your sage advice.
        –Robert
        P.S. The last article of mine you had issue with ended up being our most read so far this year! Not sure what that says about our readership!

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      1. I carry part of the day. If you lived in a not-so-free-state and chose to work surrounded by some of the most liberal people possible, where if caught carrying you will not only lose your job but also be prosecuted at the Federal and Local levels and lose your license to continue working in that field, you would not carry all day either. There are also these things called weekends, vacations, etc., where I do carry all day.

        I hope your comment made you feel much better and got the day started off right for you.–Robert

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  2. Your belt is a “tell”. I saw a Secret Service guy wearing a badly fit suit jacket and an “Instructor ” belt. Gee…I wonder if he was packing a SIG.

    Like

    1. Tom,

      Uh, yeah, of course it is. Didn’t I say as much in the article? But how much of a belt is visible when someone is wearing a suit? Look at the photos of me wearing the jacket. How much of my belt can you see, especially with my tie covering the buckle?

      Where did you see this Secret Service agent? Was it at a wedding? How much time do you spend checking out the belts of suit-wearers at weddings?

      So yes, as noted in some answers above, the point of this article was to take a person (me) who does not normally wear a suit and see if he could get away with carrying while wearing a suit without spending a ton of $ on new holsters, belts, tailoring of suits, etc. So while a discerning person might pick up my belt as a “tell” (and the Ares Enhanced Aegis belt doesn’t look at all like an “instructor” belt), it really wasn’t something, in my opinion, worth worrying about.

      Thanks for the comment.

      –Robert

      Like

  3. I wear a suit daily and have to carry at 4 o’clock due to the possibility of the sports coat flapping open and losing coverage.

    Belly bands and tuckable holsters are considerations if the suit jacket will need to be removed.

    Like

    1. J.D.,

      Thanks for the comment.

      As I said in at least one of my other replies to a comment, if I had to wear a suit EVERY day (as opposed to a handful of times per year), I would explore other options (smaller pistol, different carry positions, different holsters, tailored clothing, etc.). As it was, this worked for what I needed for three days surrounded by a bunch of clueless people, mostly in dimly-lit conditions (dark church, dark ballroom for reception, etc.).

      As someone who wears a suit every day, I’m sure you’ve become quite adept at concealing in that clothing.

      Thanks again!–Robert

      Like

  4. This is the first thing I’ve read on this site as it was mentioned in Active Response Training’s weekend knowledge dump. I was a cop for 23 1/2 yrs and a Detective for the last 18 1/2. We wore suits everyday (hated that part!). I bought my suit coats a bit larger to cover all the crap I had or chose to carry: handgun in issued holster, cuffs, double mag pouch, shield (on belt), and expandable baton. It never seemed to be a big issue once I got used to it. I enjoyed your perspective as one who rarely wears a suit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Retdet,
      Thanks for the comment. We appreciate someone with your experience and expertise lending your opinion on our blog (and now that you’ve found us, we hope you visit and comment again!). Thanks also for understanding from where it is that I was coming from when I wrote this article (something seemingly missed by many!).

      Thanks also for the work you did as a police officer.

      –Robert

      Like

  5. Thanks for your insight. I agree that wearing a suit coat doesn’t require swapping your G19 for a G42 or a J frame Smith. Claude is just ornery (but you gotta love him!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Roger,

      Thanks for the comment! I love Claude and all of his writings, the work he does, etc. I met him earlier this year (he probably doesn’t remember this), attended one of his seminars, etc. I also like that he looks with a critical eye at the entire gun owning public and training industry. Someone should! I think that he’s right in that if you work all day with the same group of people, no matter who they are and no matter what you are wearing, there is a good chance that they’ll one day figure out you’re carrying, especially if you carry a full-ish sized pistol. So I actually agree with him on that point. It was just outside the scope of this particular article, which is something I think he kind of missed.

      Thanks again!

      –Robert

      Like

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