Did you know that if you’re reading this story there’s a 92.47% chance that you are a Star Trek fan? My name is John Cooley, I’m a Trekkie, and I work for ANOVOS. We make stage-accurate replicas of props and costumes from Star Trek. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been swapping messages with friends who work for companies like mine — that live in and around Star Trek. How and when did we become fans? Friends like Ben at Eaglemoss (The Official Starships Collection) or Chris of The Wand Company (The Bluetooth Communicator), and the people in CBS and Paramount like Holly and Dave. You know what we have in common? We all LOVE Star Trek. Every last one of us was a Trekkie first, and someone who works near our favorite thing second. I wonder sometimes if the average fan realizes that almost everyone who works for these companies and so many others — from someone building a set for the new series, to someone working in the archives — does it for that same reason, because we love Star Trek so much.
Case in point? Yours truly.
At four years old I already loved watching Star Trek, and one day my Mom gave me a command green Donmoor Star Trek shirt. I lived and played “Landing Party” in that uniform shirt far past the time I outgrew it. I retired it and made a folded, framed display out of it, but never forgot how it felt to look down at my chest and see a Starfleet insignia there. Wearing that shirt made me feel like an actual member of the Enterprise crew, and that was a feeling I was determined to have again.
So I became really focused on Star Trek’s costumes — especially the uniforms. I learned as much as I could about Star Trek‘s costumes and their designers. I guess it was how I expressed my fandom. Others collected model ships, and toys, or tried to re-create phasers and communicators, while I was in my Dad’s garage making Starfleet insignia pins. Wood, plastic, cardboard, whatever I had at hand using still pictures from old sci-fi fan magazines (like Starlog) for reference. They were crude attempts at best, and the bar had been set really high when I was a kid in that green shirt. From a kid’s point of view it looked like it came from the set. The collar was shaped right. It had raglan sleeves, and that insignia patch looked just like Captain Kirk’s.
I kept trying.
Fan patterns, tailors, seamstresses… I tried a lot of the same costuming choices that Trekkies had before ANOVOS with limited success. Nothing ever felt, or looked, exactly like it was on the screen. Then ANOVOS came along, and suddenly any Star Trek uniform I had ever wanted seemed possible: The Original Series, Next Gen, even The Wrath of Khan. There was only one thing missing. As much as I’d wanted a screen-accurate Starfleet uniform, I’d also always wanted to wear my little green Star Trek shirt again.
As luck – or fate – would have it, I joined ANOVOS in 2013, and almost immediately asked if they’d be interested in re-creating those original Star Trek shirts. You see, they had been the very first officially manufactured Starfleet uniforms ever made, and so, in a way, they were the ancestors of our replica uniforms today. My bosses were skeptical, but only a couple of months after I had joined the company they allowed me to casually run the idea past John Van Citters at CBS Consumer Products. He said it was an interesting idea, and thought that my shirts might be something fun to bring back during the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. I was reallllly happy, and then realized that was another three years away. Fine. we had work to do to anyway.
We approached re-creating those first Star Trek shirts like we would any other replica. Between other projects, our Creative Services Manager, Steve Fronzcek, and I compiled as much research as we could. We worked from my original 40-year-old shirts — I actually had two as a kid (my green one, and a gold shirt) — and from any surviving materials we could find. We worked hard to match colors and materials as precisely as we could. We even had fabric custom dyed just for these replicas. When we could have just used insignia patches that we already make for our other Original Series uniforms, we instead re-created the original 1975 insignia. And where the original Donmoor shirts only had a command insignia (regardless of department color), we went a step further and made Sciences and Operations emblems in the same style as those old patches. Finally, we handed off our research (and an original shirt) to our Soft Goods Director, Maegen Hensley, who ensured that our recreated shirts were as perfect as they could be while scaling them up for adults.
So, here we are, its July as I write this. It’s the 50th Anniversary, and our replica Retro Star Trek Uniform shirts are being made and packaged now, as you read this. My particular fan journey has come full circle, but it never ends. We’re working hard on uniforms for Star Trek Beyond while looking forward to the new series. And, I’m wearing the first production sample of our retro uniform shirts to roll off the line.
Not coincidentally, it’s green.
Star Trek: The Original Series– Retro Starfleet Uniform Shirts are available to pre-order at www.anovos.com.
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