The ability to easily disguise oneself is a crucial skill which must be possessed by all private investigators who handle surveillance assignments.

Disguise is actually also one of the easiest investigation skills to learn, since it can be accomplished without much effort at all.

A knowledgeable and prepared detective will always have the ability to change their look quickly, and without fuss, at least 2 or 3 times within the course of a field assignment.

The scope of this article will provide some basic recommendations on simple ways to change your look when working undercover.

Disguise for Investigation Work

This skill is defined as the ability to not only hide one’s true appearance, but more importantly, to change looks quickly in the field.

The ability to instantly create a different look is a real advantage during any case where the detective must follow the subject for extended periods of time.

Even if the subject is really not paying attention, multiple views of the same person following them in a variety of situations is bound to attract attention. If the surveillance target is already suspicious, even seeing the detective more than once will immediately blow their cover.

A basic knowledge of altering one’s appearance will allow detectives to follow their subject in public, without attracting any undue attention or arousing any suspicion whatsoever.

Luckily, the practices involved in altering your look in the field are very easy. 

Methods of Disguise

Professional investigators in the field can not enjoy the benefits of time or privacy to change their look. They must be able to make changes while in pursuit and without calling attention to themselves.

In my own career, I have discovered many easy ways to do this which have never failed me on a single case assignment:

Bring a couple of hats which can be easily put on or removed. Having one with a built in ponytail can really make a drastic change in look.

Bring sunglasses and simulated prescription eyewear for an easy appearance change.

Putting on or taking off clothing can really change your look fast. Wearing multiple layers is always a good idea, when feasible. If not, take a few extra garments in your equipment bag. A hooded sweatshirt is a must have.

A folding cane or arm sling is a great prop to follow your subject into a medical facility.

A uniform top is terrific for following the subject into an office complex or business.

Having multiple investigators grouped together, but then acting as unacquainted individuals, will provide a textured pattern, as opposed to simply a group or an individual. Groups always have the benefit of interacting with one another to appear natural in any environment.

Disguise Strategies

Remember that appearance-changing props should be natural and easily utilized. Going to extremes is usually contraindicated, since these may attract the attention of the subject or other bystanders.

Look for ways to get the most “bang for your buck” in the shortest time frame. I suggest sticking to hats, glasses and shirt changes.

Remember that the props which must remain, such as slacks and shoes, should be as forgettable and ordinary as possible.

This goes doubly for the props you change out.  Do not pick any item which will draw attention to yourself. It is the goal to remain as “ordinary” and “background” looking as possible.

With a bit of forethought, a private detective can arrange to have up to 4 or 5 different looks that will be convincing enough to allow pursuit of their surveillance target for many hours, in a variety of settings.

Prepare ahead and best of luck.

Private Investigator > Private Investigator Skills > Disguise