Home PHYSICAL IDENTITY TIPS    


          
S
ome people are so adept at disguises that you might not recognize them even if you were holding their Most Wanted photo right in front of their face.  So here are some tips to consider when you are trying to ID someone you think may be a fugitive but the photo doesn't match their current appearance. 

               After reading the tips below, click here:
Photo Disguises to see how some fugitives have tried to disguise their appearance.  Do you think you would recognize them?
 
     

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS THAT DO NOT CHANGE
Race    Sex    Age    Height    Head Shape    Facial Features

AGE: Obviously, there are ranges in age appearance depending on genetic and health factors, but most people are able to pinpoint a person's age within five years and, certainly, within ten years.

HEIGHT:
Height cannot change (with the exception of the elderly) but some things can deceive or mislead an observer: High heels, Long hair, Hair styles that add height to the head.  Hair that is shoulder-length and longer can make a person appear shorter.  Upswept hair on a woman or a man's style that brushes the hair upward such as a flattop or spiked style can appear to add height because the observer's eye is naturally led upward.

If you are unsure of someone's height in feet and inches, wait until the person is standing near an object, such as a door frame, and visually memorize where the top of his head is against the object.  When he is gone, measure the distance from the floor to the spot where the top of his head stopped.


HEAD SHAPE: Human beings have nine basic head shapes: Oval, Narrow Oval, Moon Shaped, Heart Shaped, Triangular, Bullet-Shaped, Egg-Shaped, Squared and Rectangular.  Look carefully at your subject's photo to determine the head shape.  If necessary, trace the face on the photo.
                 
  

FACIAL FEATURES THAT DON'T CHANGE

EYESA person is generally said to have wide-set eyes if the distance between each eye is wider than an eye socket.  Conversely, eyes that are "close together" are generally separated by a distance that is shorter in width than an eye socket.  People with average eye distance have eyes that are separated by a distance equal to the width of an eye socket.  Eyes can be bulging, open wide, deep set or "squinty."  Eye lids can be hooded, partially hooded or not hooded at all.  Eye lids can be changed with cosmetic surgery, but the odds of changing distance and set of the eyes is extremely slim.

NOSE: The nose can be changed with cosmetic surgery, but the distance between the bottom of the nose and the upper lip is unlikely to change.  This area is usually about one-fourth of the distance between the base of the nose and the bottom of the chin in males and about one-third in females.   The filtrum is the groove that extends from the bottom of the nose to the top of the upper lip.  It can be wide, deep, narrow or shallow.  This area can be concealed by a mustache to some extent, but the actual distance cannot be concealed.  Observe the nostrils carefully as they can be shaped in a variety of ways.  Are they straight across?  Do they form an angle with the sides higher than the center or with the center higher than the sides.  Is the tip of the nose even with the nostrils or does it overhang or curve upward?   Is it wide, thin, pointed, rounded or hooked?

MOUTH: Are both lips thick or thin?  Is one lip thick and the other thin?  

CHIN: Is it rounded, angular, square, jutting, double?  Does the person have a cleft?  Obviously, a beard can partially conceal these features.

EARS: Do they flare away from the head?  Are they flat against the head?  Are they large or small?  Are the earlobes extra large?

CHEEKBONES: When these are prominent, they are a distinctive identity feature.

 FEATURES THAT CAN CHANGE

NECK: Is it thick, muscular, thin, fat?  The appearance depends a lot of the person's weight and physical condition.

EYEBROWS
:
Although eyebrows can be plucked and reshaped, very rarely will men and only occasionally will women bother to do this for the sake of disguise.   Are the eyebrows arched, thick, thin, fat, straight across, angled up from the far side to that closest to the nose?  Do they have irregularities?

HAIRLINE: If the hair is combed back from the hairline, this area is a distinctive identity feature.  Note whether the hairline is straight across, arched or receding. If it is arched, is there a "widow's peak" - a short v-shaped growth of hair in the middle of the hairline?
 

DISGUISES

EYEGLASSESGlasses with small frames like "granny glasses" tend to make the face seem fuller and the eyes closer together.  Glasses with large frames that extend down the cheek tend to make the face appear thinner and the eyes wider apart.

HAIR: If the hair is dyed, the eyebrows, mustache or beard may remain natural.  Long hair may conceal the shape of the head, hairline and ears.  

                                     

HOW TO USE THESE TIPS

To identify a fugitive from a photo, select three of the head shape and facial features above and compare them to the subject.  For example, if the subject has a beard that conceals his chin and long hair that covers his ears and hairline, pay attention to the shape of his eyebrows, his mouth and nose.  Carefully note the description of each.  Write them down when he is not watching, if necessary.  Then compare them to the photo.  Or reverse the procedure and note these features on the photo, then spend some time casually observing the subject in order to compare these features.   If you match three of these unchangeable features exactly, then you have either found your subject or you have found his or her twin.

                        Return to Top