No Country for Old Men: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men (2007)

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men (2007)

BAMF Style is delighted to present another post from the masterful pen of contributor “W.T. Hatch”. Enjoy!

Vitals

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell

Terrell County, Texas, Summer 1980

Film: No Country for Old Men
Release Date: November 9, 2007
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres

Background

The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell first won election as the sheriff of Terrell County, Texas, when he was just 25 years old. A World War II veteran, Bell saw firsthand the horrors of that particular conflict and likely sought solace in serving his community back home. Still on duty in the summer of 1980, what is truly surprising about Sheriff Bell – and the other law enforcement officers in the movie – is how little gear they carry while on duty when compared to today’s law enforcement professionals. Bell, for example, carries just his trusted M1911 pistol sans protective vest, handcuffs, baton, pepper spray, taser, or even a spare magazine.

What’d He Wear?

Terrell County is an enormous area of some 2,300 miles with a population of just 1,600 people in 1980. Ed Tom’s department is very small in comparison to the county’s size requiring him to actively patrol, investigate, and enforce the law from his squad car, horseback, and on foot. From a pragmatic standpoint, Ed Tom’s uniform choices reflect the scope and breadth of his responsibilities. Viewed through a more symbolic lens, Ed Tom’s duty uniform colors match the barren Texas landscape because Bell is as much a part of the land as his job as a lawman has become a part of his soul. Sheriff Bell’s clothing evokes both the traditional image of a Texas county sheriff but also pays tribute to his wartime military service. Indeed, the combination of light brown shirt and dark brown trousers – complete with the aforementioned M1911 pistol – are strikingly similar to the M1937 uniform issued to U.S. Army personnel in WWII. (See BAMF Style articles on Major Reisman and Wardaddy Collier for more information.)

Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) accompanies Sheriff Ed Tom Bell on horseback.

Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) accompanies Sheriff Ed Tom Bell on horseback.

Ed Tom wears a tan-colored cotton long-sleeve shirt with white plastic buttons made by Flying R Ranchwear. The shirt is simple in appearance but does have a subdued Western yoke design on both the front and back. The shirt has two functional chest pockets, a seven-button placket and a single button at the wrists.

Wendell: "It's a mess, ain't it, Sheriff?" Ed Tom: "If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here."

Wendell: “It’s a mess, ain’t it, sheriff?”
Ed Tom: “If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.”

In keeping with his minimalist approach to law enforcement equipment, Bell wears a Terrell County Sheriff patch on either shoulder but no American flag, name plate, awards, or other accoutrements more commonly found on a contemporary police uniform. Above his heart, however, Ed Tom wears a gold star shaped sheriff’s badge. The metal device is 2.25″ long and affixed to his shirt with two pins and backing damits. The words SHERIFF and TERRELL COUNTY are embossed on the badge.

"You know Charlie Walser's got that place out east of Sanderson? You know how he used to slaughter beeves, hit 'em right there with a maul... truss 'em and slit their throats?"

“You know Charlie Walser’s got that place out east of Sanderson? You know how he used to slaughter beeves, hit ’em right there with a maul… truss ’em and slit their throats?”

Ed Tom wears a pair of dark brown denim jeans in a straight leg cut. These pants have four pockets and are closed by a zipper and brass button. Brown denim is the perfect color and material for a West Texas sheriff. The dark color hides the inevitable windblown dust and denim affords protection from the harsh landscape.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Bell uses a tooled dark brown leather belt, albeit in a lighter shade then his trousers, with silver hardware to carry his sidearm. The belt appears to be the popular Western-style Ranger belt that is appropriate to the character and movie’s location. In an uncharacteristic clothing choice given his age and profession, Sheriff Bell does not wear a separate gun belt, instead using a small brown leather holster to carry his M1911 pistol.

"Oh... now that's aggravating."

“Oh… now that’s aggravating.”

Like virtually all of the movie’s male characters, Ed Tom wears brown leather cowboy boots, the details of which are mostly hidden by his pants.

Sheriff Bell favors a white-colored straw cowboy hat with a simple, thin brown leather hatband perfect for the West-by-God-Texas summer heat. In addition to providing much needed shade, the hat cools the wearer with three small ventilation holes on each side of the crown. A true Texas gentleman, Sheriff Bell generally removes his hat while indoors, greeting a lady, or delivering bad news to the bereaved. The exact manufacturer is unknown, but Ed Tom likely wears a Stetson or Resistol brand hat.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Ed Tom is not much of a man for accessories, eschewing even a wedding ring. He does, however, make use of black plastic frame reading glasses whilst enjoying his breakfast in the local diner and attempting to make sense of the day’s news.

"Here last week they found this couple out in California. They rent out rooms for old people, kill' em, bury' em in the yard, cash their social security checks. Well, they'd torture 'em first, I don't know why. Maybe the television set was broke."

“Here last week they found this couple out in California. They rent out rooms for old people, kill’ em, bury’ em in the yard, cash their social security checks. Well, they’d torture ’em first, I don’t know why. Maybe the television set was broke.”

On his left wrist, Bell also wears a gold analog watch with a blue-and-white round dial and hash marks in place of numbers. The watch has a matching gold metal wrist band.

"You go see Charlie, he still can't reach up with his right hand for his hat... Point bein', even in the contest between man and steer the issue is not certain."

“You go see Charlie, he still can’t reach up with his right hand for his hat… Point bein’, even in the contest between man and steer the issue is not certain.”

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men (2007)

How to Get the Look

Ed Tom Bell’s uniform is ideal for chasing psychotic killers across the Texas landscape… or equally fitting for a day of hiking, horseback riding, or other outdoor and safer activities.

  • Tan cotton long-sleeved shirt with Terrell County Sheriff’s Department patches and white plastic buttons on the sleeves and placket
  • Brown denim duty pants with four buttons
  • Brown leather Ranger-style belt with silver hardware
  • Brown leather cowboy boots
  • White straw cowboy hat with leather headband
  • Gold-colored metal analog wristwatch with round blue-and-white dial
  • Black plastic reading glasses

Fans should be aware that Tommy Lee Jones’ screen worn costume is available for private purchase here.

The Gun

Ed Tom is an aging man who views the past as a simpler and better time. While he is cognizant of the changes in his world, Bell attempts to emulate his predecessor sheriffs’ approach to keeping the peace. In his opening dialogue, Bell reflects back on the “old time sheriffs” – many of whom did not feel the need to carry a firearm and wonders how they would fare in modern society. Bell’s selection of a Colt Series 70 Combat Government Model is indicative of his military past, attempt to carry on traditional sheriffin’, and a nod to the ever-present violence he is charged to keep at bay.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Although Bell never fires his weapon throughout the movie, he is certain in the knowledge his target will go down, and stay down, when hit by the venerable and reliable .45 caliber round.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

To learn more, ride on over to the Internet Movie Firearms Database writeup on the weapons of this film.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie and Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, written only two years before the film’s release.

The Quote

And then I woke up.

3 comments

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