Dressing For Success and The Car Tire

During the course of my work as a private investigator, I find myself going from place to place. My reason for visiting these different places vary, but one thing remains the same, my need to get people to cooperate with me. Sometimes, I am visiting a business and sometimes I find myself standing in the middle of not so nice neighborhoods. Nevertheless, I always have the need to encourage people to openly speak with me. This can be disastrous, if I am not well prepared for the task. There is always issues of equipment, information I need to commit to memory or my notebook, and the most important factor, my physical appearance.
During the course of my work as a private investigator, I find myself going from place to place. My reason for visiting these different places vary, but one thing remains the same, my need to get people to cooperate with me. Sometimes, I am visiting a business and sometimes I find myself standing in the middle of not so nice neighborhoods. Nevertheless, I always have the need to encourage people to openly speak with me. This can be disastrous, if I am not well prepared for the task. There is always issues of equipment, information I need to commit to memory or my notebook, and the most important factor, my physical appearance.

When I first entered the job market after exiting the Marines, everyone always said make sure you dress nice for interviews and the repetitive task of leaving your resume at businesses. This advice holds for investigations as much as it did for job hunting. I always change my physical appearance to the task at hand. For the average business engagement, this is a no brainer. You wear a suit and tie when meeting with clients. You always wear neat and clean clothing during investigations, well, not always! About eighty percent of the time, I look like I am getting ready to go work in an office somewhere. My clothes are clean and pressed. I typically have a jacket and tie. However, the remaining twenty percent of my time is a very different story. The bottom line is some people well not react well to finding a person dressed for business trying to get information from them. So, you dress down and sometimes down beyond your clothing.

Anytime I go into a less than desirable neighborhood, I wear bluejeans with a nice shirt or sometimes with just an old shirt. It depends if I need to look credible or just look like I belong there. If I identify myself as a private investigator, this is required in many cases, then credibility is important, but I do not want to give the appearance of an attorney or worse a cop. So, bluejeans with a sports jacket works well. However, if I do not identify myself, then my clothing must be in sync with my pretext. I always ask myself several questions. For example, should my clothing be dirty? Should my clothing be old? These types of questions are important when you pretext people in person. Most private investigator approach their tradecraft in this way. However, we should also consider our personal hygiene as well.

A peer once told me, during a discussion on surveillance and undercover work, about when he would buy drugs as a cop he always would go out to his car and rub his hands on the side of one tire. I was a little puzzled when he made this statement, then he expanded. He went on to tell me how early in his career he was making a drug buy and the guy demanded to see his hands before admitting he had drugs to sell. The guy looked at his hands and then declared, “your not a cop, your hands are dirty.” He told me luck had it that he had been working on his house and his hands were dirty and all tore up. From that point forward, he said every time he left home to go out and buy drugs, the first thing he would do is rub his hands on a car tire making his hands look dirty and grimy. Trust me, my peer at the time was buying drugs deep in Appalachia by himself. He later told me if he would have had clean hands that day, he probably would have not just walked away without some kind of injury. His experience is an important lesson for any form of investigator involved in undercover work. Your personal hygiene is just as important as your clothing.

In the past, I have taken a clean pair of jeans and literally stumped on them in the dirt. Drove my car in the summer heat with the windows up and the AC off. All of this, to be dirty and stink when I pulled up to a business to buy something they were not suppose to be selling. The transaction was not illegal, but less than appropriate in the community. My client needed what they were selling to prove a specific point. If I had showed up in a suit or clean clothes, they probably would not have sold the item to me. Why? Because everyone else showing up to buy the item was dirty from work or just because they had bad hygiene. I was new and had to pretext my way in: “My boy told me you got those…” I promise you my so called “boy” would be dirty, so I needed to match the pretext in physical appearance. Its easy to pick ties out, but matching your complete physical appearance to the task at hand can be difficult and you may only get one chance.



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