A Strapping (and Strapped) Man: A quick guide to clothing selection for concealed carry

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So you’ve made the decision to join the ranks of concealed carriers. You’ve selected your firearm and your holster, but have you thought about what you’re going to wear? It’s not only about fashion sense—far from it. You’re going to want to choose clothing that maximizes concealment while providing you with quick and easy access to your firearm when seconds count.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you build your concealed carry wardrobe. We’ve tried to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

Get a sturdy belt.

This is especially important if you’re going to wear your pistol on your waist. You don’t want your belt to sag (possibly limiting your concealment) or twist/bunch when you attempt to draw. That can lead to major safety issues—not the least of which is the fact that you’ll be fumbling for your pistol as the bad guy gets the drop on you while you’re still vulnerable.

When it comes to your belt’s construction and material, you have plenty of options. Classicists will find many full-grain leather belts to choose from, while those who prefer a more modern, tactical fit may look for one of the many woven nylon options available.

You’re also going to want to consider the right style of buckle for your lifestyle and fashion sense.

Here are a few variations to keep in mind as you proceed.

Standard Hole: With this option, you get consistency in fit and wear. On the other hand, when you use the same hole over and over (and maybe you put on a few pounds over the years) it’ll wear out and loosen.

Ratchet/Track: This buckle works a lot like the safety straps you can use to secure cargo on a trailer or in your truck’s bed. You’ll get a precise fit that won’t slip.

Quick Release: Nylon belts feature this type—and it is totally tactical. Once it snaps into place, it’s not going anywhere.

V-Ring: Remember flag football belts? This is kind of like that. You can cinch it precisely—and adding a hook and loop can help you make sure it stays put.

No printing—and we’re not talking about fabric design.

Moving up a size with just about everything you wear—from giving an extra inch on your blue jeans’ waist to going for a less-fitted cut in your t-shirts—can provide you enough room in your clothing to comfortably wear and conceal your pistol. Remember: A little extra room is good, but too much can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and even dangerous.

Since tailoring and fabrics change between brands and seasons, finding clothing that masks printing (how much your pistol stands out under your clothes) might take some experimentation. Baggier is better for concealment, and a light jacket can give you more holstering options, but it may make it more difficult to access your pistol in a pinch.

And it’s not just about the size. A little patterning on your clothing (think plaids) can go a long way toward masking your firearm’s profile. Bold patterns, in particular, act like camouflage for your pistol. Remember the little things, too. If it’s a windy day and you’re going to wear a button-up shirt, avoid appendix-carrying, since a strong gust can give you away.

To get this right, it's going to take some trial and error, but you’ll be happy you’ve put in the extra time and effort.

Consider the context.

Concealment is about blending in—and that means you’re going to want to think about the times and settings in which you’ll be carrying. You might find a three-piece suit that perfectly conceals your pistol, but that’s not going to mean much if you rarely have occasion to dress to the nines. Conversely, if you’re interested in concealed carry while simply out and about, tactical garb is probably not going to be your friend. A little common sense can go a long way in this regard.

You also have a choice when it comes to on-body carry or off-body carry. Carrying a purse at a social function? Rocking a fanny pack on a family outing? Lugging a gym bag? Consider packing it there.

Remember again to consider the weather/season. while baggy layers of winter wear make it easier to conceal your pistol, you’re not going to want to head to a summer barbecue looking like you’re ready for a snowball fight.

Look, we get it: Shopping for clothes might not be your favorite thing to do with your free time. But if you’re serious about carrying your firearm in public, it’s worth putting some effort into this often-overlooked facet of concealed carry.