Tuesday, November 19, 2013


In Summer of 2012, Profiles in History offered what they described as "William Shatner 'Capt. Kirk' Tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series". Among their claims was "match on overall tunic size to Shatner including double gussets on tunic sides (unique feature to Shatner tunics)".

The three seams can be clearly seen here on Kirk
Interestingly enough, a self-described Star Trek "authority" and the self-appointed king of Trek Collecting each stated on their blogs that "This tunic features a double gusset design; or the presence of three seam lines running from the armpit area down the torso on each side of the costume - a design characteristic that is considered by knowledgeable Star Trek experts to be only present on those TOS command tunics specifically tailored for wear by William Shatner. The double gussets on this tunic, as well as two photos in which this unique construction detail is visible on William Shatner in costume..." Sounds a lot like the auction info, right?

At the time I questioned this element's characterization as being exclusive to Shatner pieces. How, exactly was this established as a fact? How did these "knowledgeable Star Trek experts" know this to be true? And what proof was offered as to the veracity of this so-called "fact"? None, other than showing a couple of screen caps with Shatner wearing a shirt that displayed this gusset detail. I showed a screen cap of an identical shirt being worn by stuntman Paul Baxley. I was then called all sorts of nasty things by the aforementioned bloggers for having the gall to question their research. Almost like they had some sort of personal interest in the piece. Hmmm.

Since last summer, I have regularly been looking at various episodes of TOS for a variety of research reasons – phaser details, comms, sets, props, etc. And while doing this research, I started to notice something that I wasn't even looking for. I discovered that the "double gusset" detail that was so highly touted was not only NOT exclusive but was wide-spread. I saw it everywhere once I sarted looking for it! It is seen in the earliest episodes all the way through to the end of the series.

As is common in TV production, Shatner's shirts were probably recycled for use by other actors – stuntmen, background extras, guest actors, etc. But, in my opinion, that doesn't address the number of times the detail is clearly seen on so many gold uniform shirts, including regulars Takei and Koenig who would have undoubtedly had their own shirts created exclusively for them. Shirts that clearly show the telltale three seams.

Beyond the gold shirts, the three seams can clearly be seen on Nimoy's blue shirt, Scotty's red shirt and on tons of extra's pieces of all colors. The three seams is in no way shape or form a little-used, "Shatner-exclusive" detail. In short, it's EVERYWHERE! I have cited the episodes from which the images were pulled so anyone can duplicate my findings. And I show only a small fraction of appearances.

If people want to make up stuff for whatever reason, I couldn't care less, providing they don't put it out into the world to mislead. But when these so-called "knowledgeable Star Trek experts" declare something to be fact without doing even the most basic of research to either prove or disprove the theory, they show their true colors – it's all about self-interest and they'll ignore things that don't support their POV. This is a continuing theme with some people.

Why is it so hard for so many people to be circumspect in these types of cases? If you think something is so, state your case as to why you feel that way, offer proof (in this case show the detail is EXCLUSIVE only to Shatner uniforms), and let people make up their own minds. Conveniently, the proponents of the "gusset postulate" showed only shots of Shatner wearing the detail while totally ignoring the fact that the detail IS IN NO WAY EXCLUSIVE TO SHATNER PIECES. This was either shoddy research or an attempt to deliberately mislead, I have no idea which. I still feel the shirt was a real Kirk shirt, but this detail should have never been used to support that idea. It's flat-out wrong.

So the next time some self-appointed expert wants to blow smoke, remember caveat emptor and trust no one. Not even me. Do your own thinking, do your own research, and reach your own conclusions.




  1. It's funny you mentioned this... because I remember a while back getting one of Cawley's Phase II (Fan series not aborted Trek) tunics that was represented to have been used in an episode by the Sulu actor... and it had the double gusset... and I remember being pleased as punch - because the way it was constructed helped shape the tunic when worn to give it that "Shatner" fit (you could see where it had been nipped and tucked to give the chest and stomache area conforming look). Then my slight disappointment when I got a Science tunic from cawley which just had the normal side panel... Before PIH made a big deal out of this issue - I had always assumed that they used it in the original series tunics whenever they had a tunic that they wanted to take the time to fit to a particular actor to make look as spectacular as possible since we have seen characters in sloppy tunics - as well as very nicely form fitting ones...

    1. I agree with you. If theories are abound then let me add my own that the third seam is not some special trademark that the wardrobe dept gave to Shatner or to identify it as unique. It's just a method for the wardrobe dept to "take in" and "let out" the outfit between guest stars and extras, and amongst the cast whenever the costumes shrank, or the actors put on or lost weight.

      I read somewhere that said you can tell whether an episode was filmed early in the season or late in the season as William Shatner had a tendency to put on weight as the season went on. Undoubtedly from long days on the set, catered or commissary meals, and an abundance of doughnuts on the crafts services table.

      The problem is that most of the so-called "experts" of TOS are hobbyists who have been in it for a long time. And what many of us accept as facts come from their theories which may or may not be true. They may just be theories which now have become accepted as true.

      Speaking of Cawley, I don't mean to call the man out since he does so much for keeping the Star Trek genre alive in his own way.

      But why is it so hard to establish his claims that he worked on Star Trek TNG and was a good personal friend and assistant to William Ware Theiss? You would think he would have posted huge amounts of photos somewhere if he was a long time "trekker" on the set of TNG.

      Nor does he have any IMDB credits to his name before his own self-produced New Voyages series. It's unusual that anyone who had been working in film and TV since the 80's, especially as a SAG/AFTRA accredited actor, or IATSE crew member, would not have even one credit on IMDB.

      If anyone believes I'm rudely calling him out then I apologize but those same people would also insist on "provenance", and "screen matching" for a 45 year old TV prop. No?

    2. You're absolutely correct, Ben – the gussets serve one purpose: to achieve a nice fit. And whether it was for Shatner, Nimoy, Takei or the gold shirt at the Nav station, they wanted a good fit. Hence, double gussets as needed. Thanks again for reading, Ben.


    3. I'm not new to TOS but new to this community of TOS curating, replicas, etc. and there certainly is a lot of misinformation, contradicting information, hurt feelings, he said-he said/he said-she said, and politics!

      It's unfortunate that there was no official curator(s) for this especially since Desilu (now Paramount) probably never foresaw how big Star Trek would become so instead of archiving props and other production items, they probably warehoused some things and disposed (sold/gave away) of others.

      Contrary to what some believe, film and TV productions do not keep everything at the end of production so there might be floaters out there and, sadly, some things that were just thrown away.

      I'd like to ask you a question and do not hold it against you at all if you decline to answer it since I have seen how quickly things erupt into a war-of-words. However, you seem to be one of the more frank TOS subject matter experts.

      My question is that in the past several years there have been speculation of the actual real-life command colors used in TOS in the 1st and 2nd season when the uniforms were made with a velour fabric which had a tendency to shift color under lighting and on film.

      Then a few years ago a "100% accurate" gold velour fabric, based on William Ware Theiss's collection, was made available to the replica and costuming communities which was said to be exact to the actual velour used back in the 60's. Replica costumers quickly adopted this as the standard.

      However, a few (brave?) people in the TOS community raised some ire when they noted possible discrepancies of color and fabric when the replica fabric compared directly to known screen-used tunics in private collections. Close but no cigar?

      So, just from your opinion as a subject matter expert, how close (or different) would you say this modern replica gold velour (aka "Kirk Gold") is from the actual screen-used tunics constructed by Theiss?

      However, again, I do not blame you for not answering it as any little objection seems to cause a stir in the TOS world like Romulans entering the Neutral Zone - and then people go off like Mr. Stiles!

    4. Sorry, Ben, but I can't help you on this subject simply because I know little to nothing about the details of replica costuming. I know of the material that you are referring to and I've heard it may or may not be correct. But that's it. You'd be better off checking out some of the Trek costuming forums (or contact Skip, who made the first entry, above). Those guys know everything about that stuff. FWIW, it wasn't just the first two seasons' velour gold shirts that changed colors on film – the polyester stuff they went to in the third season changed as well. Best of luck/


    5. Thanks Wrath of Dhan,

      I'm sure we will find out when/if ANOVOS decides to release authentic velour replicas as they seem to have a lot of access to resources for R&D.

      The 1st and 2nd season "it was green" camp vs "it was sparkly gold" will be settled and a lot of hearsay claims shattered along with egos!

      But this also brings another problem down the road. If there are companies, and independent costumers out there making near perfect duplicate replicas it is going to put a lot more counterfeits out there down the road.

      A counterfeit is nothing more than a replica being misrepresented for nefarious means.

      What is to stop someone from sewing a "W. Shatner #3" tag, and a third seam in the gusset of an ANOVOS, putting it through the wash multiple times, bleaching it in the sun, beating it on some rocks and claiming he is the 2nd cousin of a key grip that worked on Star Trek and that this is the real deal? No much, really.


    6. Actually, it was greenish that photographed goldish. Even Theiss himself called it green. I have a Phase II (1976) gold tunic and it's a very strange greenish color that photographs as gold.

      We have nothing to worry about regarding the Anovos stuff. As close as they might get, there's no way that they duplicate a true production-made piece. For instance, they don't even make the exact same zipper that they used back in the day. And if anyone wants to claim they have a Shatner, they better cough up a pretty good screen cap (very hard to do for an ACTUAL piece) as well as a solid provenance. Nobody buys the "I got it from a guy who worked on the show" anymore, thankfully.


    7. I know there is agreement that the TOS 3rd season and failed Phase II command color unis - made of double-knit polyster - are lime/avocado green.

      However, I believe there is some doubt as to what the true color of the velour uniforms in season 1 & 2 were.

      The "it's ALL green" camp cites a rare interview with ST TOS costume designer William Ware Theiss where he stated that it was always "lime green" but appeared gold on television. This camp also points to Capt. Kirk's formal satin green jacket as continuity evidence.

      Then a few years ago James Cawley redefined the command colors again when he said he owned Theiss's old swatches and notes which he inherited and the command color was gold velour fabric in the 1st and 2nd season but switched to green polyester double-knit in the 3rd season.

      Anyone raising doubt ended up in a fiery "you calling me a liar?" type forum argument.

      Disagreement in a forum? No way! ;-)

    8. I can't stress this enough – NOTHING was ever simply green except the captain's wrap. I used the term "greenish" very specifically. The third season/Phase2 stuff, for instance, is really halfway between a gold and a green. It's like teal – partway between blue and green. To ever call any of it "lime green" was strange, IMO. I always wondered if Theiss was simply thinking of the command wrap in that instance. As for the velour, I think it had similar properties to the poly. It looks one color in darker lighting (greenish – look at "The Corbomite Maneuver") and a completely different color in bright light/sunlight (gold). The problem with reference photographs of the fabric is that they are seldom accurate.

      Regarding Mr. Cawley's expertise, I believe that he was the source of the double-gusset fingerprint concept (above) so I'll let his expertise speak for itself.


    9. Yes, I think there has been too much confidence and sweeping generalizations from one article of a written Theiss interview.

      BTW, I just noticed that Leonard Nimoy's uniform had a third seam in the gusset in "Return to Tomorrow"...always consider the source! ;-)

      In other words: consider the source! Lol.