Wednesday, April 21, 2010

20 Identifiers to Consider

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to identify people based on just looking at them and their stuff? If you want to be able to "blend", consider how the following identifiers tell the world something about you:
  1. Your passport. A good reason to hold dual citizenship.
  2. Your tattoos. No tattoos are optimal if you want to be incognito. Prison tattoos, gang tattoos, and military-related tattoos are clear "give aways" about your past/present.
  3. Your clothing. The reason costumes are an integral part of undercover work/movies/etc is because the clothing you wear tells quite a bit about you.
  4. Scars. Again, these permanent marks can tell your history, especially to those who know what to look for.
  5. Sexual identifiers. Earrings, clothing, other jewelry can be used to identify a person's sexual preferences.
  6. Jewelry. Besides the above mentioned use of jewelry, wedding rings send a signal, watches, and other jewelry also tell the world something about you.
  7. Religious wear. Everything from head scarves to religious jewelry to coptic tattoos can signal your religious preferences.
  8. Mannerisms. Often times I can identify what country people are from simply by their mannerism. Each locale has certain types of mannerism that are kind of common throughout the populace.
  9. The way you carry yourself. I can identify former Marines with a high degree of accuracy simply by the way they walk and carry themselves. Ditto for victims of domestic violence. Drug users can be distractingly twitchy.
  10. Indicators of your hobbies/work. Bowlers have unusual thumbs, gardeners usually have dirt stains on their hands, violinists have marks on the side of their necks, and many occupations leave people with callouses on their hands.
  11. The kind of car you drive (sometimes a dead give away about your income level/profession/political leaning/etc) and your license plates (does the registration lead straight back to you?).
  12. The way you smell. You probably can't do much about this as your "smell" depends on your environment and what you eat but it can be a dead giveaway that you are from somewhere else.
  13. Your level of awareness. When people appear to be hyper aware, there is usually a reason for their behaviour--they may have been in a combat zone, been recently released from prison, are on the run/hiding from someone, etc. The majority of people are relatively oblivious to their surroundings so if you see someone who isn't, that's your clue.
  14. Biometric identifiers. DNA, fingerprints, your retinas...again these are things you can't do much to change. Keeping these items to yourself is a good idea.
  15. Cultural markers--turbans, bindis, henna designs--there are a number of items that announce to the world something about a person's cultural background.
  16. The way people talk. Accents, level of formality, word choice, and other verbal indicators of a person's background can provide clues to the person you are talking to.
  17. Dental work (or the lack thereof). This can range from areas where very little dental work is done (missing teeth, rotting teeth, and teeth sticking out every which way) to areas where dental work is of the utmost importance (braces, veneers) to location specific dental items ("grills" in the ghetto to silver dental inlays in Central America).
  18. Your face. Another something you can't change easily. This includes your race, the look of your eyes, the shape of your face, your gender...obviously with good theatrical makeup/props or a good plastic surgeon this could be changeable.
  19. Your body. It the person you are looking at ultra fit or ultra fat? What does their musculature look like. The person's body can give clues to their health and their lifestyle.
  20. What the person's hands are doing. People's hands give away a lot about them--are they pissed off? Nervous? Hiding something? Reaching for something like a weapon? Picking their nails? Signaling someone?

Take a good hard look at yourself in a mirror. What are you projecting to the world? If someone was hunting you, how would you change the aforementioned things about you so as to disguise your identity?


  1. I think you would enjoy the book "Snoop", by Sam Gosling.

  2. Good post. One thing. We all have our blind spots. Instead of looking at yourself in the mirror, you should get others to evaluate you. A prime identifier for women is shoes.