Most of us who carry firearms outside our homes know that how we dress is about a lot more than fashion. A number of factors come into play. First of all, even in “open carry” states, there will be situations where your firearm may not be instantaneously available. You may just choose to carry concealed in certain situations or because weather conditions make it necessary.
For example, in my former home state of Minnesota, even though concealment is not required, their bitterly cold and blustery winters (which they are experiencing right now!) pretty much require heavier clothing. This always made getting to my gun difficult. My solution was to wear winter coats or down vests unbuttoned or unzipped, allowing me to access my gun with a simple sweeping motion of my shooting hand.
Unlike Minnesota, Florida does require concealed carry. When I moved here a couple of years ago, I learned very quickly that heat and humidity, which is the rule most of the year, have their own problems. The lightweight clothing that such temperatures require can make concealing a firearm just a little more challenging.
I normally carry a full-sized “duty” pistol, as well as a spare magazine and a tactical flashlight. When I’m dressing casually (which in Florida is most of the time), my “uniform” tends to be a pair of 5.11-style long pants or cargo shorts, topped off with a dark colored T-shirt. Word of advice: Nothing causes your gun to print like a snug-fitting, light-colored shirt.
If I’m going just a bit dressy, I will swap my T-shirt for a lightweight short-sleeved shirt in silk or micro-fiber, worn untucked to allow quicker access. Sometimes, I will wear it unbuttoned over a T-shirt. Here again, when it comes to concealment, loose and dark are the watchwords. Most of my “dressy” shirts also have a complex pattern, and they do a great job of masking even a larger handgun’s shape.
All that being said, functionality is, or should be, at the top of your list when it comes to choosing your wardrobe. Whether winter of summer, your typical “carry outfit” should allow for smooth and immediate access to your firearm. If you can’t get to your gun quickly and easily, you may as well be unarmed.
Once you have your clothing protocols in place, it is imperative that you practice drawing your gun, dressed exactly as you will be when you go out into public. And once or twice is not sufficient; it takes hundreds of repetitions to develop the smooth and consistent draw that can make the difference between life and death … literally. Don’t short-change yourself; practice often — unloaded guns only, please!
Finally, “statement” T-shirts are currently all the rage. Many of the more popular shirts feature humorous, political and even patriotic themes. Others are simply in poor taste. But if your shirt’s “message” conveys hostility, uses truly offensive or racist language or, worse, seems to condone or encourage violence, it can be a real problem for you.
Make sure you consider how your shirt could be perceived by others. A simple test is to imagine you are in court, attempting to assert a claim of self-defense. Then ask yourself how the jury will react when the prosecutor holds that shirt up for them to see.
Remember, just because you have a 1st Amendment right to say something doesn’t mean you should say it.