Star Trek fans, especially aficionados of Star Trek: The Animated Series, are in for a treat with the latest offerings from Anovos. They've unveiled their Retro Starfleet Uniform Shirts and they'll come in the bold, out-of-this-world colors seen on the Emmy Award-winning cartoon Trek. So, we're not just talking Gold and Red, but the bluest Blue you've ever seen and -- say it with us -- Command Green, as in forest green.
More specifically, the fabric colors will match the original 1975 versions of the shirts, and, likewise, the Starfleet insignias will be replicated from the original 1975 patches. Further, the pointed collar on each shirt will be made with black ribbed material.
StarTrek.com recently spoke to John Cooley, one of the Star Trek product designers at Anovos. He filled us in on the creation of the Retro Starfleet Uniform Shirts, what differentiates them from the familiar Star Trek: The Original Series-style shirts, and more.
What made now the time for Retro Starfleet Uniform Shirts?
Well, these shirts are something we’ve always wanted to produce, but waited until now to bring them out to celebrate a couple of significant events at the same time. Of course, chief among those was the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, but we also wanted to acknowledge the original shirts themselves. Made by Donmoor for their Star Trek line of kids' clothes, they were the first officially licensed Star Trek uniform shirts ever made and were in stores and on kids in 1975 and 1976, making this their 40th anniversary.
These are actually inspired by The Animated Series. How much fun was it to create apparel based on TAS?
A lot of fun! What really links the retro uniform shirt to TAS is timing. In 1975, Star Trek was king. TOS was on every day in syndication and TAS had just completed its original run and was still playing in reruns through 1975. Star Trek was everywhere and so it was the perfect time for someone to finally make the uniform shirts from the most popular thing on TV. The fun that we had in creating the retro shirts was pushing to see just how close to the original 1975 shirts we could get. We pride ourselves in making our replicas as similar to screen-used costumes as possible. The idea there is to recreate something that people know from TV or in a movie, but most have never seen those things up close. With the retro uniform shirt the challenge is even more intense. By setting out to recreate the original Donmoor shirt we had to remake the first Star Trek shirts an entire generation of Trekkies ever wore. They lived and played in them. In a lot of cases Trekkies I know still own their original shirts. So while the shirts themselves seem simple, the bar is set very high because we’re recreating something that is a physical part of people’s childhood memories and fandom.
What would you say are the major differences between TOS shirts and TAS shirts in terms of their on-screen look? To the naked eye, for example, the retro shirts colors are really rich and deep.
Of course, both shirts are representations of William Ware Theiss’ iconic Star Trek tunic design, and the retro shirts actually take a bit from both TOS and TAS. For instance, the retro shirt has raglan set sleeves, where the uniforms in TAS had square set sleeves more like a standard t-shirt. The collar is also a lot more like TOS in its shape and construction than the exaggerated collars seen in the animated uniforms. What the retro shirts really take from the cartoon is their color pallet. The richer colors used by Donmoor in the ‘70s were the result of looking to TAS for inspiration and realizing that they were already producing fabric in those shades for their clothes.
And then what are the major differences, on your end, in terms of physically manufacturing them?
The differences are interesting. The retro shirt is much simpler in its construction than TOS tunic it’s based on, so we had to shift gears from making a very structured costume with a zipper and hooks and eyes, to figuring out how to take a 40-year-old play shirt and translate that into a modern adult garment without losing the original’s charm. It became an interesting balancing act to get it right. For instance, the insignia patch on the shirt... The original Donmoor shirt had what at that time was the most authentic insignia patch anyone had ever seen. It used crinkly gold leatherette and thick black embroidery, and looked just like it came right off the Enterprise. It was made slightly smaller, and we know now that it’s not precisely what William Shatner wore on the set, but in 1975 and 1976 it was awesome and made the shirt feel “real.” Anovos makes insignia just like what was worn on the sets in 1967. It would have been easy to simply grab insignia patches that we already make to finish the retro shirt – but it wouldn’t have been right. So we worked hard to perfectly recreate the 1975 and 1976 insignia patches, and then we pushed it bit further. Back then, Donmoor only made the Command division patch with the star - which meant that even if you had Spock’s blue Sciences shirt or Scotty’s Operations red shirt you were stuck with the same insignia. We designed new Sciences and Operations division insignia that look as though they were made alongside the 70’s Command patch to correct that oversight once and for all.
We've got to ask... forest green? As Trek fans, how much pleasure did you take in making those a reality?
Ha! The Command green shirt. To understand that we have to go back again to the 1970s and the place where research gives way to conjecture. As near as we’ve been able to piece together, Donmoor was given swatches of colored fabric from TOS when setting out to make their shirts. Command Gold, Sciences Blue and Operations Red were used for the standard duty tunics and dresses. But another swatch was provided, from the green cloth used to make Captain Kirk’s Season 2 wraparound tunics. Nobody told Donmoor that the green fabric was from a costume that used a different design, and so they simply made a green shirt as part of their line. The funny thing is that green is most likely the actual color Bill Theiss intended for Command. The Command dress uniform tunic – green, Captain Kirk’s wraparound tunics – green, even the first season enlisted coveralls – green… Check out “Charlie X”... they’re there. Really, the weird shirt in the Command uniform suite is the gold season 1 and 2 duty tunic, and in season 3 even that shirt took on a greenish cast.
The packaging captures the TAS retro feel as well. Who gets credit for that idea?
Steve Fronczek. He’s Anovos’ design services manager, my design partner and conscience. We’re an inseparable team and often lose track of time and whose idea was what as we work together to either create something new or recreate something 40 or 50 years old. In the case of this particular packaging, we wanted to evoke the feeling that these shirts had escaped their own time and landed at your doorstep. That meant unique packaging and, at the beginning, we only knew that we wanted to use the “jumbled’ Star Trek font that is so indelibly tied to the era between TOS and The Motion Picture. That very stylized version of Star Trek’s name was everywhere you looked back then. It was on toy phasers and party favors, and was the masthead for the Gold Key Star Trek comic books in the 60s and 70s. So, whatever we designed had to have that. As for the art, we both wanted something that looked like “pop art” -- you know, pure “mod” for the packaging, but it was Steve who had the fantastic idea of using something that looked like it jumped out of a 1967 Star Trek comic book. It was genius and just looks right - like “of course” those shirts always came in packaging just like that.
You, John, are going to a Trek 50th anniversary party. Which retro shirt are you wearing, and why?
That’s easy, Green. You have to understand. I was the kid in the green Star Trek shirt. My Mom bought mine in 1975 and I wore it until I outgrew it. I loved that shirt and still have it. That shirt is 41 years old now, and it rests on a teddy bear and occasionally finds its way on to my daughter. In its day that green Star Trek shirt was without question my favorite thing to wear and it will be again. That’s the beauty of it.
The shirts will cost $50 a piece and will be available in sizes ranging from small to 2XL. Visit www.anovos.com to pre-order your shirt.