If your objective when working or carrying off-duty is to remain below the radar, to show no indicators that you’re a cop or armed, then plain clothes is what you need. I mean “plain” in the ordinary sense of the word. The tactical “plain” clothes that have hit our industry like a storm over the last decade are not actually “plain” -- rather, they are “professional”. They aren’t a uniform, but in wearing them, the fact that you are either on the job or armed is hardly hidden. They make excellent choices for detectives and other investigators, but they certainly “make” you.
What most of us wear when we wear plain clothes – on or off the job -- is what our predecessors have worn for this purpose for decades: jeans and a work or casual jacket. This classic haberdashery combination works well and “blends” today as well today as it did in the 60s. So dressed, you become gray in the projects, on the street, or in symphony hall.
What has changed a bit, though, are the preferred jeans and costs, and no brand now is as familiar and works as well as Carhartt. When I was a wee lad Carhartt had a reputation for making ferociously tough clothes, but also ones that were at a higher price point than less tough alternatives. Now, decades later, by contrast, Carhartt costs no more than any other good brand and they make a much wider variety of pants, shirts, coats and vests than ever before. You see them everywhere: tradesmen and women, students, artists, yuppies on casual Friday. I was in the Emergency Room last year, and even the doc working on me was wearing green Carhartt carpenter jeans. When I was on my county narcotics task force, Carhartt was practically the uniform. While most jeans brands are more or less associated with certain demographics: rural or urban, white or minority, young or middle-aged, and so on, everyone is wearing Carhartt these days.
Carthartt’s reputation for tough, long-lasting clothes is still deservedly intact, and with all Carhartt offers today in terms of models and options, it’s a perfect choice for plain clothes carry. They make everything from their traditional heavy canvas, double-kneed work jeans to khakis (their Canvas Khaki is an under-appreciated cross of the two, and is a great alternative to either). Here I want to look at just three of the many pieces of outerwear that Carhartt makes, and show you how some size-hacking of their vests can solve a common cold-weather dilemma.
Eldin Jacket You are probably already familiar with many of Carhartt’s jackets and coats – they’ve been making some of those models for a long time. As well made and incredibly rugged as they are, the issue I’ve always had with many of them is that they are insulated – sometimes extremely well. Now, that’s great if you’re going to be working in them in winter – which is after all what they were designed for. But our purposes are different: we need a “blends everywhere” jacket to conceal our belt-worn gear, and to carry some other gear in its pockets. And we need this capability year-round, not just in the very cold months. To be sure, no jacket will be comfortable or not stand out in Georgia summer weather, but a light-weight, “3-season” jacket will suffice for most of the other months, and is the type of jacket that we’ll wear most often. Also, some Carhartt jackets are not long enough to fully conceal a belt-worn handgun – again, that’s perfect for mobility in an active job, but we need something longer.