Inspired by TheMechanic's fantastic Walking Dead / King County, Georgia Sheriff patch and hat runs, I decided to put together my own Shane Walsh costume, like this:
I figured it would be a simple matter of googling to find the right uniform from a police supply place, place the order, and be mostly done with it. Nope. Finding the exact shirt and pants was quite a research effort... then finding the correct colors has been an even greater challenge. The King County (which is a fictional county, in case you were wondering) Sheriff department uses what looks to be a tan or pinktan shirt (that the official color name from some manufacturers) with brown pocket flaps and brown epaulets. The pants are brown with a tan or pinktan stripe up the leg.
It turns out that this particular uniform doesn't exist in any online inventory anywhere, as far as I was able to discern. It has to be special ordered from a police supply place, and pretty much all of those require the information of the department you are ordering for and what your police ID number is. I can certainly understand their hesitation before making it easy to impersonate an officer of the law, but part of the fun of this hobby is the thrill of the hunt!
I lurked on police uniform discussion forums to get the names of some of the uniform makers used by real police units around the country. I called half a dozen or more uniform makers to see if I could get some more information or purchase from them directly (nope). Pretty much every manufacturer pointed me to the same place: a massive police supply distributor here in Houston that handles many of the local and regional police, fire, and EMS needs from here to Texarkana.
I popped in for a visit with my patches in hand and screenshots at the ready. I made sure that I went at a time when I'd just gotten off from work so I was still wearing my corporate work attire. It never hurts to look your best when making a first impression . It was an amusing experience when the guy behind the counter asked what department I was with after I explained what I wanted. "Uhh, I'm actually not with any department. I'm a part of this online community called the Replica Prop Forum..." Yeah, that was a fun conversation. Thankfully the guy was familiar with the show, as were several of the cops who were there picking up stuff. I showed off my patches and screenshots and that really started to get the point across that I wasn't looking for a Halloween costume and I wasn't looking to go play fake-cop.
Hours go by as I explain my case to every middle manager on my way up their corporate ladder until I wind up in the owner's office. Thankfully he was an agreeable guy and, since he is also a collector of esoterica, understood what I was trying to accomplish. It also didn't hurt that that uniform is not used anywhere in this region... but that also meant their stock was limited. The owner explained that they get a couple of people a month who are not police officers and want police uniforms for one reason or another. They are routinely turned down. I was told that some police supply stores won't so much as sell a pair of shoes to someone without proper police identification. I managed to convince him to work with me, though. I'd like to say I used a degree of social engineering on him, but that implies deception. I was honest throughout, and I think that since I was patient, articulate, and had a clear goal in mind helped put him at ease. Oh yeah, and I had to let them Xerox my driver's license and sign a written form that essentially boiled down to "I solemnly swear that I will be good."
But, after all that effort, I'm quite pleased with the results:
The owner is willing to help me procure a badge, too. The only problem is that none of the blanks immediately available are a perfect match. He's going to check with some other badge makers and see what he can find out, though . The backup plan badge is pretty darn close, though. It would be an exact match for the real life Gwinnett County badge, which the patches (though not the uniform) are based on. Here is a real life patch, for comparison:
Now I just need that badge, the collar pins (I have a good idea on those...) and the duty belt and I will be all set!