I just read an article by Julie Loeffler admonishing instructors to stop dressing like… well, instructors.
It’s amusing to me that the article came up when it did because I kind of came to my own conclusion about this matter a few months ago after seeing quite a few pictures of me teaching.
Shortly put, I dress for the range a lot differently than I do for my daily life.
But before I get a bunch of people admonishing me to “train how you fight” or some such nonsense, allow me to explain.
Smart people dress for the environment they are going to be in.
I don’t go and spend 8 hours in sub-freezing temperatures without wearing insulated pants, hats, gloves and boots. I wear yoga clothes when I go to yoga. I wear sunglasses and hats when it’s sunny. I even wear different swimming suits based on whether or not I’m doing laps or just lounging by a pool.
The point is that there is a purpose to range attire that is often overlooked.
Most ranges are hot, they are dirty and they are sunny if they are outdoors. There are hazards to the range like exposure injuries (depending on the time of year) and brass burns. Depending on the terrain and weather you may need to be particular with what you are wearing on your feet. The clothes themselves can either make or break your range experience depending on the needs of the class and the weather.
If you shoot enough range apparel ceases to be “tactical” and becomes downright practical.
Long-sleeved dri-FIT or other heat-reducing, moisture-wicking shirts become essential for keeping comfortable and dry on summer ranges. Pants with pockets to carry more ammo, magazines, note-taking materials and med gear aren’t just to look cool but reduce time running to and from the sidelines so you can stay engaged in the class and ready to work at a moments notice. Hiking shoes with good ventilation keep you comfortable and give you good traction while you’re running drills while waterproof boots can do the same on wet or muddy ranges.
For carbine classes, vests and other rigs can help with the loads of magazines and even provide a place to put a snack or two for those hangry moments.
And hats, eye pro and ear pro just make sense from a safety and comfort aspect.
And everything in OD green, grey or khaki means less worry about grass and sweat stains.
Just one problem… No one dresses like that who aren’t a) on the range, b) in the military, c) playing or d) all of the above. So, yeah, serious gun people can look exactly like Julie suggests; unrelatable.
How I dressed on the range never used to bother me before because people weren’t generally looking at my image before coming to my class. Now they are and I see the point Julie is trying to make.
Gun people LOOK like gun people. And the clothes look like gun clothes.
The problem is that we are one of the only industries where the people in it are expected to look like they aren’t really in it. Somehow Kuhl hiking pants or Merrell shoes on firearms instructors have become cliche’ but scrubs on nurses haven’t?
Perhaps the reason for this is because…
1) We’re Trying To Appeal To People Who Don’t Really Get Us
My mother doesn’t understand the appeal of standing outside on a range all day putting bullets into stuff. Not her thing. She thinks I’m a little crazy.
Other “gun people” also think other gun people are crazy. They think dry-fire is a waste of time or think those of us who completely rearrange our houses to better suit our work around guns as a bit extreme.
Sure, these people want to learn how to shoot a gun. They want to learn how to be safe with it, carry it and most effectively use it in self defense but they have no interest in being a “shooter” or a “gun person.”
But it’s important for those people to understand that our uniform to us is a little like a cyclists is to a cyclist.
Do you need an aerodynamic helmet and cycling shorts to learn how to ride a bike or even take a ride around your neighborhood? No. But are they helpful in keeping you comfortable when you are a serious cyclist? You bet! If you wanted to take a class from a serious cyclist about biking would you be put off by the fact that he wore his cycling outfit to class? I should hope not.
But, alas, people are put off by “range attire.”
I get it. I really do. In order to appeal to the average person who wants to take a gun class I have to look like that average person.
2) The Uniform Is Getting A Bad Rap
No one needs a plate carrier and fatigues to teach a four-hour pistol class, or to their kids’ soccer game, or to the park, or to that industry show (unless they are exhibiting their wares). Moms don’t have to wear their yoga pants to grocery shop either but here we are.
People wear what they feel comfortable in, what makes them feel good and what they identify with. Some people would love nothing more than the mirror on the wall to proclaim them the most tactical of them all and that’s okay. The rest of us may groan and moan a little bit about how ridiculous they look but then compared to People of Walmart they are doing pretty well. Many associate people who dress like tactical ninjas to be overzealous and a bit detached from regular people. The common argument is that people who dress like that can carry, or conceal or live in ways that normal citizens can’t or don’t. The tactard who insists everyone should be carrying a G34 with an RMR and a weapon-mounted light, three spare magazines and at least four knives is not going to relate to the suit-wearing civilian who just wants to know how to conceal a G43 in his suit coat for his office job.
3) No One Wants To Be Someone Else
Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a lot of people who like to play dress up and pretend or don different uniforms throughout their lives, but very few people like to give up who they see themselves as being in order to fit what other people think is better. In the context of “range attire” we see people who either state–or heavily imply–that in order for one to be as well protected or prepared for self-defense they must look at act and be clones of their instructors. The truth of the matter is that this is often a symptom of the narrow-mindedness of the instructor and his inability to imagine, consider and find solutions for students that don’t look, live or act like he (or she) does. That being said, I think there are a lot of people who erroneously assume that just because an instructor chooses not to dress, live or act like they do that they haven’t considered the needs of those unlike themselves.
There’s give and take on both sides of the wall of scrutiny.
This is why I’ve been more conscientious about what I wear when I teach–less black, more purple, less pony-tails and braids, more hair down and makeup. I want my students to be able to relate to me and realize that I don’t walk around in my day-to-day life wearing 5.11 and hiking boots. I understand their struggles to conceal in skirts, dresses, cocktail dresses, business attire and leggings. My attire for a long day of reasonable comfort on the range is not my attire when I arm up to go on a girls night out with a few friends. Most people who meet me in my role as an instructor or on the range as a student only see a narrow representation of myself.
Thankfully there are a lot of companies that are getting better at making range attire that isn’t so tacticool looking and appeals to people who aren’t particularly obsessed with OD green and khaki but understand the necessity for practical range attire. It’s been a fun experience finding such resources and utilizing them.
Below is a gallery of photos of myself in a wide variety of different states of dress. I’m armed in all of them with everything from a Kel-Tec P3AT, S&W Shield 9mm, Glock 19 to Daniel Defense DDM4v11.
I get you, ladies (and gentlemen), but I promise that you will be so much more comfortable on a long, hot range day with a dri-FIT undershirt and moisture-wicking pants. Just sayin’.