This is the first in a short series where are going to use to discuss concealed carry, and how you dress to accommodate your self-defense lifestyle. Today our focus is going to be on shirts and what designs, cuts, and colors benefit the average concealed carrier. Shirts are our primary cover garments, and they can make or break your ability to effectively conceal a gun. There is a big difference between concealed carry shirts and standard shirts.
A good thing to keep in mind, though, is that some concealment is directly related to the weapon you are carrying. A Glock 17 is a lot harder to hide than a Glock 42, so if you tote a small gun, your shirt selection won’t matter near as much. Personally, I like my big handguns, but the gun I’m carrying now is the SIG P365 in an IWB holster. So let’s dive into what I mean by concealed carry shirts.
Some big no-nos for materials are anything nylon, spandex, or any combination of materials common with athletes. They are super comfortable and perfect for warm weather, but they are terrible concealed carry shirts. They tend to either drape over the gun or cling to it, making that unsightly bulge noticeable. They can also be more difficult to defeat on the draw.
Materials like cotton, linen, and even heavy polyesters work fantastically. Cotton blends are common, affordable, and hang more than they drape. The thicker the fabric, the better, but if you’re like me and live in the South you know that’s not much fun 90% of the year. However, sometimes you have to make sacrifices in your quest for a closet full of concealed carry shirts.
Unfortunately, we have to stay away from our athletic cuts. As someone who recently lost 65 pounds, I get a little bummed when I find a great fitting shirt that makes my gun stick out like a sore thumb.
A standard cut works for me, and what helps is if your chest is wider than your stomach. When I was a fatter guy, I had issues with almost any shirt that wasn’t excessively baggy. You’ll have to dress for your body type for sure.
I don’t have to go a size up anymore, but that’s my advice if your belly is bigger than your chest. A standard cut is a little baggier around the bottom which aids in concealment and gives you more the grab when defeating your cover garment.
Tall sizes are also great because they hang a little lower. This helps keep the gun concealed when you reach upwards or bend over.
Color and Pattern
Color and pattern are critical to choosing the right concealed carry shirts. Dark colors are your friend, making bulges difficult to see. I stick to black, greens, dark blues, and stone grays.
Concealed carry shirts with a pattern can make a gun disappear entirely. In fact, it’s a lot easier to make anything you have on your belt disappear with a patterned shirt. A good flannel style pattern makes it easy to conceal a gun, a reload, a belt carried multitool, and more without issue.
If you have the mustache, you can always Magnum P.I. it with a nice Hawaiin shirt, too.
Purpose Built Concealed Carry Shirts
There are tons of companies out there producing purpose-built concealed carry shirts. Companies like Blackhawk, Propper, 5.11 Tactical and even UnderArmour are producing clothes aimed at the CCW marketplace.
I own several, and they work. Their design and function are typically fantastic, but they are kind of expensive and you are limited in designs. Having a few in the closet is always handy for those deep concealment days. For women, these are often one of the best choices due to how their shirts are usually cut.
Suggested Concealed Carry Shirts
Before we part ways here are a few types of shirts I suggest for concealed carry. These are aimed at men because I know very little about women’s clothes. (Sorry ladies) They are also more casual because formal garments are a bit more complicated.
Flannels – Real flannels are heavy and hide a gun well. Flannel pattern cotton or polyester shirts are also functional. Try to find snaps over buttons for quicker access.
Rugby Shirts – Rugby shirts are nice and thick and often feature a striped pattern that breaks the cut up well.
Hanes Beefy – Hanes beefy shirts are a great go-to for a comfortable, affordable and casual shirt. They come in tall cuts too.
Outdoor Shirts – I’m not sure what exactly these shirts are called, but they are button down shirts a favorite for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor sports. If you live on a coast you’ve undoubtedly seen these lightweight, but somewhat baggy shirts from companies like Columbia. They are button downs and conceal a gun well while breathing freely.
Choosing a good set of concealed carry shirts will make life a bit easier when it comes to carrying a gun. This is especially true for those folks who are either on the small side or are carrying something more substantial than a pocket pistol. My last piece of advice is to take your gun and holster combo with you into the dressing room. It makes a world of difference.