Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth: Double Vision

Michael B. Jordan, in GQ
Someone suggested the other day that a double breasted suit or coat might make a great addition to the PI wardrobe.

I am not a small man. I’m not huge, but by no means small. My shoulders are wide, waist within reason (slowly spreading, but still), and I stand six feet nothing. My body type is, in theory, perfect for a double breasted suit. I’ve just never been a fan.

GQ has a fantastic 9 photo spread this month of Michael B. Jordan, that loveable QB from the Dillon Lions (Friday Night Lights), wearing a series of double breasted suits and coats. He, as one would expect, looks fantastic. The key seems to be in the tailoring.

For a double breasted jacket, one should spend some time with a tailor. The coat should fit snugly, and it shouldn't be too long. Bring in the waist line and accentuate the shoulders. Look for no fewer than six buttons (three on each side) and a peaked lapel. These details draw attention to the shoulders, which is what the DB suit is all about.

Since the DB covers up more neckwear than a single breasted coat, it’s best to pick a spread collar shirt to show off that fantastic tie. And since the DB just seems more formal than the standard suit-coat, it’s perfect for a bow-tie. (Had to get that in)

Accessories - This is a perfect opportunity to throw in some color. Again, the abundance of material in the DB hides most of your tie, so have some fun – tuck in a colorful pocket square.

If you’re going to don the DB, then you must pay some attention to the pants. I usually stick with flat front, straight legged trousers, but for the DB one needs pants that hold it together. A simple pleat and a substantial cuff are required, otherwise the outfit looks top-heavy. Jeans are another thing altogether and I’m not sure the juxtaposition would work, but – hey – if the shoes, shirt, tie and pocket square are perfect, - maybe???

Final thoughts: As I said, the DB coat is not my personal favorite, but I’m willing to try. I’ve been perusing the aisles at FLIP, looking for a double breasted coat to add to the wardrobe. We’ll see…

Monday, September 26, 2011

Invisible Man

We at [FIND] love the romantic (if cliched) image of the PI, the spy, the International Man of Mystery: he is a "he," he wears his fedora low over one eye and his trench coat collar buttoned high and vertically, and he smokes unfiltered Gauloises. Saxophones cry out at his every step (in shiny black wingtips), and the mean streets he treads glisten with ceaseless night rain and its bottomless reflections.

The myth of the PI (or spy) is a story of longing. The noir hero came of age in an era of financial collapse, Fascism, Communism, and world war. He was the hero we wanted then, willing to dirty his hands in the service of Good...and he dressed the part.

Who knows? He and his fedora might have melted perfectly into the murky night in occupied Paris or Cold-War-Era Warsaw. Or maybe even in 1950s Chinatown.

Today, he's as useless as a Crown Vic when it comes to surveillance.

[FIND] lexicon:

Cover for Status - an activity, outfit, and/or manner that provides a false pretext for being in a certain place, so that agent may conduct surveillance without arousing suspicion

Cover for Action - an activity, outfit, and/or manner that provides a false pretext for doing something, so that agent may conduct some type of covert activity without arousing suspicion

In the modern-day PI universe, a guy in a fedora and trench doesn't disappear into the scenery so well. The unsexy truth of it is this: to fade into the background, a PI's gotta set aside fashion and mystery and shoot for dull. To become invisible, or at least to seem so ordinary as to become de facto invisible, (s)he's gotta look like exactly what you'd expect to see in any given environment. A guy sitting in a car with tinted windows arouses suspicion. A guy standing by a work vehicle wearing a hard hat and manipulating some combination of survey tripod, orange cones, and clipboard does not warrant a second glance.

Creating a plausible cover for status means blending in seamlessly to a range of situations—wearing an outfit that makes people forget to see you, doing things that conform to people's idea of what a person in that outfit should be doing, and having a simple story or act ready to go when you're questioned. Magnetic vehicle signs with a fake company logo can complete the story, but make sure the phone number isn't a dead end...or your personal cell phone number.

Cover for action gets a little more complicated, but the same idea applies: have a good reason to be there. Need to get a quick look inside a new house without pulling a B&E (lawbreaking is NOT recommended)? Drop by and welcome the new neighbors to the 'hood with a lovely fruit basket from the local church or neighborhood association.

In the end, "cover" is the operative word: it's about camouflage, urban or otherwise. You can hide almost anywhere by looking as if you belonged there. Ghillie suit seldom, if ever, required.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interrogation - Backwards and Forwards

Police inquisitors, detectives, and interrogators have long been taught that one method of getting to the truth is to have the subject recount events in reverse order. The theory appears sound: people like to fill in the blanks in a story with constructs, thoughts or images that did not actually happen, to make a tale run smoother. Remove the linear nature of storytelling and the tendency to confabulate should decrease. The theory is so sound, in fact, that police forces in Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Norway, and Spain, to name a few, have been using reverse recall as a matter of policy for years.

I attended a seminar on interviewing where the speaker actually said that this method of interrogation was the most useful way to elicit a truthful statement from an interviewee. “They don’t have the time or the creativity to make things up in reverse-recall,” my instructor said.

Well, as with many a fine theory, when put to scientific rigor, it falls short.

A brief story in September 2, 2011 issue of The Economist details a study by Lancaster University which basically debunks this theory. The researchers showed a short film depicting a cell phone robbery. Two days later the subjects of the test were separated into three groups: 1 – recall the events freely then in reverse order, 2 – recall the robbery in reverse order first then freely, 3 - (control group) recall the events freely both times.

The researchers found that the control group recalled the events correctly 48.7 percent of the time. The group that began with reverse-recall and then recounted the story freely scored 42.2 percent accuracy. The group that started with free recall then reverse-recall scored a pathetic 38.7 percent. I think it’s important to note that eyewitness testimony has already been proven to be less than reliable on several occasions. Seriously, none of the groups achieved even 50% correct recall.

The most interesting finding, however, was that the number of mistakes made among the three groups was roughly the same, but the group that recalled events in reverse order first, actually made up (pure confabulation) recollections 600% more often than the control group.

The majority of the confabulations were observed during the reverse recall portion of the exam. This flies directly in the face of what I’ve been taught in seminars and classes about interview and interrogation.

Why people, people who have no reason whatsoever to lie, make up events when using reverse-recall is a mystery. The Economist says that this study, “…does, however, point out the dangers of taking even logically plausible ideas on trust, rather than testing them.”

Those of you who testify as expert witnesses in court proceedings might want to check out the study here. It could come in handy one day.