A carefully selected wardrobe that fits in well and can blend into any environment takes time to curate but can make all the difference when attempting to go gray while out and about in the world.
It can be difficult to find a good pair of pants as a gray man, especially ones that can hold up to the challenges of daily use while accommodating a weapon. But, with a little effort, it is possible to find the right pair for you.
When you are buying a pair of pants or jeans for concealed carry be sure to consider factors such as fit, quality, style, durability, and access to carry gear. You will also need to consider things like the carry-style, holster, and belt you will be utilizing for CCW. When picking out your next “carry” pants, be sure to try them on with all your gear to ensure the whole system works as intended.
Companies such as Tactical Distributors, 5.11, and Vertx make this search much easier by producing pants with an active lifestyle in mind, so let’s get into the details and look at how you can buy your next pair of pants with concealed carry in mind.
A Few Assumptions Before We Start
Before we look at how you can pick out a good pair of pant for conceal carry, it’s important to set a few expectations.
By concealed carry, we’re mainly talking about inside the waistband (IWB) concealment, as this style is most dramatically improved by a set of well-fitting pants.
While appendix carry is arguably the most popular form of IWB carry, clothes that fit you well will improve your experience whatever your method of carrying.
There are some special considerations, such as if you’re looking to conceal with an ankle holster, which we will look at later but for most people, a well-fitting set of jeans will have the most noticeable impact on your experience if you are carrying inside of the waistband.
We’re also going to assume you are being realistic with the weapon you are attempting to conceal. No matter how much money you invest in your clothes or how well they fit, it will always more difficult to conceal larger full-frame handguns compared to subcompact pistols.
Personally, my go-to pistol is the Glock 43 or the Glock 19, but any compact or subcompact pistol makes it much easier and more comfortable to conceal carry, so choose carefully.
The Problem with “Regular” Jeans
From the outside, it’s very easy to assume one set of jeans is identical to any other, but denim can be thought of in a similar way to knife steel, with various levels of quality available within the general category of denim.
A value set of jeans from somewhere like Walmart can be tempting, but their low cost often makes them unsuitable for concealment for several reasons.
Cheaper denim is typically much thinner than what you will find with a more expensive pair of jeans, which can lead to more printing, depending on the make and style of your holster.
Perhaps more important than printing is the durability you will also find with cheaper jeans. More than any other clothing, pants experience a huge amount of wear, especially with all the gear we typically carry as part of our EDC, running the very real risk of having the jeans stitching fail.
If you’re lucky, a hole in your pants pocket might just result in some loose change being lost, but there have been times I’ve had pockets fail, resulting in larger items such as a knife or other important items falling out of my pant leg.
High-quality jeans won’t eliminate this risk entirely but can go a long way in saving you the potentially compromising situation of having equipment fall to the floor while potentially letting folks know what you’re all about.
What Makes a Pair of Pants Good for Conceal Carry?
From the last section, it’s fairly easy to come up with a few criteria that make a set of jeans good for conceal carry.
Whether you’re concealed carrying a weapon or not, how well your clothes fit you should be one of the biggest priorities for any piece of clothing you are wearing.
Clothes that fit either too tightly or too loosely increases the chances of someone noticing how you are dressed, ultimately drawing attention to yourself.
Pants that fit too tightly are also more likely to press your weapon into your body after long periods of time, making CCW incredibly uncomfortable.
It’s normally worth going one size up when selecting clothes for this purpose, as this will still offer a good overall fit on your body while providing some extra room to accommodate your holster platform of choice.
Whatever size you choose to go with, always try your pants on with your weapon and don’t be afraid to return them for a more suitable size.
Quality can make all the difference to a good pair of pants, so you typically want to look for a pair made with relatively heavy-duty denim, or other durable fabric with good stitching to help them keep up with a busy lifestyle.
Heavy-duty fabrics can help to make your pants slightly stiffer which will help to reduce printing, but they shouldn’t be too rigid or stiff to completely eliminate any stretch the jeans have on your body.
Wearing slightly elastic pants will not only help hug your holster slightly closer to your body to offer a better fit but is also crucial in order to allow you to move in jeans.
Whether you’re running away from an attacker, chasing after a suspect for work, or chasing after one of your kids, it’s almost guaranteed at some point you’ll be somewhat active in your pants.
If they are unable to stretch with this movement, it may inhibit your ability to do certain active things due to restricted movement.
It’s also important to be careful when selecting pants specially designed for conceal carry, as you run the risk of purchasing tactical looking pants.
Certain pants often come outfitted with so many pockets that when fully loaded, you may as well be wearing cargo pants. Just remember to consider your environment if this is something you care about.
This is not a lot of options, but it is something important to keep in mind when shopping around to prevent ruining your low-profile appearance and overloading yourself with unnecessary equipment.
If there truly is a need to stock up on gear, it’s probably worth carrying a dedicated backpack so you can keep your first line gear from overloading your pockets and giving away what you have on you.
Why Jeans or Pants Over Other Options for CCW?
The basic principles you should look for when shopping for a set of jeans to conceal carry in can be applied to almost any pants.
Again, they should be thick enough to help reduce printing, with a limited number of pockets and enough stretch and durability to withstand the challenges of your life, so why go with jeans over other pants?
Around the world, jeans are almost universally accepted. Whether you are wearing them to a casual meeting in New York or touring Kabul in Afghanistan, it is not uncommon to find other people wearing jeans. This makes them an ideal staple piece of almost any gray man wardrobe.
Not only can jeans be worn around the world, but a good pair of jeans are suited to almost any application. It requires you to take care of your jeans, but few other clothes can be applied to such a wealth of situations (from meetings to physical labor), making jeans ideal for whatever situation you may find yourself in.
With that in mind, there are other options that I feel work just as well in a lot of applications. A number of manufacturers make heavier duty pants, that resemble khakis or slacks, but are designed to fit in in more normal situations.
There are also quite a few options that fall right in the middle of the pack. A couple of my favorites are the Mountain Khakis Original Mountain Pant and the Carlos Ray Tactical Pant 2.1 by Tactical Distributors.
Both are super solid options, but the Carlos Rays are quickly becoming my favorite.
If your focus is on choosing the right pants for appendix carry, durability and fit are the two most important factors to consider, but there are many other types of concealed carry that may influence what you need from a set of pants.
The best example of this can be found with those who still ankle carry, whether it be a subcompact pistol or preparedness kit, such as the WPS Ankle Medical Kit.
If you’re a fan of this carry style, you will also want to pay attention to the fit of your pant leg, in addition to the fit around your waist. If the cuff of your jeans is too tight around your leg (as in a lot of tapered pants), it can make drawing from an already awkward position much harder.
From my experience, most regular cut jeans will fit around an ankle holster but may still limit your draw. If you have the option, a set of boot cut jeans will not only fit your pistol more effectively but will also offer a much greater amount of purchase when drawing, giving you better access to your weapon should you ever need it.
Ultimately the choice is yours and with so many options on the market, it often takes a little trial and error.
Accessories Matter – Choosing the Right Belt
Choosing a good set of pants can make your experience with concealed carry significantly more comfortable, but it is possible to conceal in almost any type of pants. The factor that will truly influence your experience with conceal carry the most is your belt (outside of holster).
Most belts on the market today aren’t designed for concealed carry, which can lead to a range of problems that will either give away your weapon or potentially have fatal consequences.
If your belt is not able to hold up the added weight of a pistol and magazine, it’s more than likely you will have to constantly adjust and move your holster to make sure it is sitting correctly against your body.
To most people, adjusting your clothes is a fairly common sight, but can be a clear indicator to a trained eye that you are concealing a weapon.
A thicker belt that is appropriately sized to your weapon makes holster retention much less of a concern. Although, you may also solve this problem by using a holster your belt threads through like those that utilize soft loops.
It is much harder to recommend a good gun belt, as this can depend on various factors including your style of dress, holster, and carry position. But, I am a huge fan of the Kore Essentials and Nexbelt lineups.
Not only are these systems incredibly customizable, but they also include a unique ratcheting mechanism that can be used to discretely tighten or loosen your belt and holster, depending on if you are sitting or standing.
Recommended Pants for CCW
Countless tactical companies have thrown their hat in the ring, offering high quality and well-fitting pants at affordable prices that work extremely well for concealed carry. My go-to pants for concealed carry are the Vertx Defiance Jeans and the TD Carlos Ray 2.1.
VERTX Defiance Jeans
Like almost any Vertx product, these jeans are incredibly well built, while offering a huge range of movement and hidden features.
These include not only hidden pockets, for stashing small emergency items such as handcuff shims or money, but also strategic pass-throughs allowing you to discretely run wires around your body to hide a communications system.
TD Carlos Ray 2.1
The Carlos Ray 2.1’s offer an alternative to traditional jeans. They have a soft feel thanks to a cotton/twill fabric that offers a bit of stretch that won’t restrict movement.
They also offer a secret handcuff key pocket in the waistband, reinforced pockets, magazine pockets on both sides, articulated knees, and a gusseted crotch.
All in all, they are super comfortable and will not restrict movement at all. I also like the variety of colors they are offered in.
If the option is there, we would always recommend trying out your clothes first for fit at the store, but for quality and durability, most tactical companies have very viable jeans on the market today that are almost guaranteed to suit your needs.
Be sure to experiment a little and try not to get caught up will all the bells and whistles. Make sure they carry well, are comfortable, offer flexibility and mobility, and are able to blend in without drawing a lot of attention.
The last thing you want to do is size them wrong to where they are uncomfortable. If that happens you are less likely to carry and you will be defeating the purpose.
With that in mind…carry on!