I get a surprising number of inquiries about carrying in an office (suit and tie) environment. I spent a few years wearing expensive Italian suits (and a few actual custom suits) while selling to upper-echelon corporate types, so I’m passingly familiar with the problems involved.
There are a number of ways to carry a gun in a suit: belt holster, shoulder holster, pocket carry, bellyband, Thunderwear (aka ‘crotch carry’), and in an ankle holster.
Belt and shoulder holsters can be considered together, as in a corporate environment they share the same major disadvantage: you can never take the jacket off. If you go to your office every day, sooner or later your co-workers are going to notice that you never remove your coat! For a salesman, who doesn’t actually work in the offices he visits, these can be viable. In those cases, the suit needs to be tailored to fit around the gun – and no, going to Men’s Wearhouse to buy your suits isn’t going to cut it. You need a real tailor, who can either make a custom suit or modify an off-the-rack example to fit properly.
Of course, this means you need to wear the gun and allow the tailor to work around it. This can be easier said than done, particularly if you live in a gun-unfriendly city (which is to say, most of them.) The best thing to do is call around and discreetly inquire if the tailor has experience working with legally armed clients. There are always a few, and it pays to seek them out.
(My favorite clothing store back in the day was owned by a mother and son, neither of whom had any problems with concealed carry. In fact, I got to know the son fairly well, as he routinely carried a very nice Colt Model M in .380, aka Model 1908 Pocket Hammerless. It was his opinion that the sleek little Colt was “the perfect gun for the well-dressed gentleman.”)
If, like most people, you need to be more flexible with your habiliments, a close relative of the belt holster is generically referred to as a “tuckable.” This is an inside-the-waist holster that allows you to cover the gun with your shirt – the shirt slipping between the gun and your waistband, then bloused a bit to conceal the outline. This leaves a small leather keeper visible on the belt, but if the belt and holster color are well matched it is difficult to spot. Of course, you end up looking a bit lopsided with a bulge on your belt; proponents argue that blousing of the shirt properly on the off side will help conceal the protrusion, but many people dislike the somewhat sloppy appearance which results. In a truly professional environment, it stick out like a colostomy bag.
One often overlooked method, and one which I relied on most often, is the bellyband — but not in the way most people wear them. Originally designed to be worn just above the beltline (hence the name), it can be effectively employed at the mid- to upper-torso level. At this position the gun is placed under the arm, very much in the same position as a shoulder holster. Getting to the gun is done through the shirt front, (again) using the same movements as one would with a shoulder holster. The shirt button at the base of the sternum is left undone, allowing rapid access to the gun; one’s tie covers the buttons anyhow, so that the arrangement is not detected. Be sure that you do not wear ‘athletic’ fitted shirts – standard shorts only to allow plenty of room to hide the firearm. If you’re the “huggy” type, this might not work out well for you.
The Thunderwear carry is often touted as a solution to many problems, but for those who sit for long periods of time they prove to be quite uncomfortable. They’re also slow to access, and the size of the gun is very constrained. I do not personally consider them suitable for a primary sidearm, though they may be useful for some kinds of deep cover assignments.
Ankle holsters are another special-purpose carry method. They are very slow and cumbersome to access for a primary arm, and are best used to carry a backup pistol. Yes, I know that there are some fancy ankle holster draw moves which are surprisingly fast, but I encourage you to try them in a realistic force-on-force exercise. You’ll quickly learn why I don’t feel ankle holsters are a good choice for general armed carry: they’re slow, require both hands, and destroy your mobility.
Finally we come to pocket carry. With a proper holster and loose-fitting slacks, this is one of the few viable methods of concealing a pistol in a corporate environment. They’re reasonably quick to access, comfortable (if used with a lightweight gun), completely invisible when standing (unless you wear your slacks tighter than a gentleman should), and has the additional benefit of allowing your hand to be on the gun without alerting anyone. You do have to be careful when sitting, as the lump on top of your thigh can easily give you away, but if your legs are under a desk or conference table it isn’t a big issue. If you routinely sit in open chairs, say around a coffee table, you may not be able to get away with this all that easily. It is, however, dependent on the gun’s shape and size.
If you decide on pocket carry you’ll need to shop for slacks with front pleats (provides blousing to hide the gun’s bulge) and deeper pockets (some have shallow pockets from which the gun’s butt can peek out.) I also recommend a medium-weight suit pant, which typically features a satin lining between the pocket and leg. The lining dramatically reduces chafing as the gun moves around and makes sitting for long periods more tolerable.
-=[ Grant ]=-