Masters of Disguise: CIA Offers 5 Ways to Stay Covert This Halloween

With Halloween right around the corner, we thought it might be a good time to talk about our own love of costumes. Of course, we use another term that you might be familiar with: disguises. Both costumes and disguises are meant to hide someone’s true identity, but the purpose behind the two of them couldn’t be more different.

When we think about costumes, we usually imagine something funny or scary. They often involve unique or bizarre makeup and clothing. Disguises, on the other hand, are made with the sole purpose of hiding someone’s true identity. Perhaps one of the most significant differences between the two is that disguises, unlike costumes, are made to be as BORING as possible, to help our officers blend in with their surroundings.

James Bond may look cool in his tuxedo, but do you really think that’s a good idea walking down the street? You would stick out like a sore thumb. When our officers plan for the perfect disguise, they are looking for something that will allow them to disappear into the crowd.

We know better than most people how difficult it can be to craft the perfect disguise. Check out the following tips and tricks to help you along the way.

The basics: Changing your hair, height, build, clothing or age is the first step to a convincing disguise. Why? Because these are the things people usually notice first about one another. Try wearing a ball cap or hoodie to hide your natural hair. Use makeup to add a few wrinkles and a sun spot to look a little bit older. Platform shoes can give you extra height, and layers under your clothing can make you appear larger.

Think simple: If you’re on a mission in a remote part of the world, do you really have time to put on a wig, change your entire outfit, add a fake mustache, and do a full makeup routine? Probably not. Instead, opt for simple changes like adding a hat and sunglasses.

Dual-purpose: When buying clothing or props for your next disguise, look for reversible items that you can use in a variety of ways. For example, a bag with removable straps can be worn as a backpack or carried like a duffel bag. A double-sided shawl instead of a plain scarf can be worn in countless ways in a variety of outfits.

Space saving: Items that can be easily hidden or packed away are very useful for a disguise. Carrying a water bottle? Bring a collapsible one that you can hide in your pocket when empty. A jacket that can be tightly packed will save you the headache of carrying a bulky overcoat.

Be aware of your “giveaways”: No matter how hard you try, there are going to be certain features that will be hard to disguise. Maybe it’s a small limp in your step from an old injury or the nervous habit of biting your nails. Whatever it is, the best thing to do is to become self-aware. Chat with your family or friends to figure out what your unique “giveaways” might be so that you can downplay them while in disguise.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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