I find myself in a strange and unique situation, well…unique for me anyway. After 40+ years of being a die hard Star Trek fan, collecting all sorts of books, toys, games, and videos, and attending numerous conventions – I am 5 weeks away from Creation Star Trek Las Vegas, the first convention at which I will don a Trek uniform costume.
This 45th anniversary celebration will undoubtedly be the largest Star Trek con I’ve ever been to. It’s also going to be my first in nearly 15 years as I’ve shifted my focus to concentrate on raising a family and earning a living. Now I have a 13 year old son who’s just as big a Trekker as I. He will be coming with me and appearing in costume as well, as fans at this con attempt to set a world record for the largest single gathering of people dressed as Star Trek Characters.
Much attention around our house has recently been devoted to acquiring all the materials, notions, and other components from which my wife plans to lovingly construct our costumes. As insignia, rank braids, etc. have begun arriving, many memories of my childhood are flooding back – motivating me to blog about some of my earliest costuming experiences and the mishaps that accompanied them.
Stardate: 1975.2: After finding my 8 year old self in possession of a homemade Star Trek uniform tunic with a houndstooth pattern on the material (see my last post for details) I knew the only way to go from there was up. I desperately wanted to look like my heroes from television and the only reliable resource at my disposal was the dealers’ room at the annual New York CIty Star Trek Convention. My family attended that con in ’75 but I cannot remember if there were uniforms available for sale. If there were, they must have been prohibitively expensive because I definitely recall not coming home with one! Fortunately, I did bag my second complete set of U.S.S. Enterprise insignia patches with a view toward getting one of them sewn on another shirt.
The humble author in a homemade uniform tunic. Circa 1975
I think I must have been like thousands of other kids my age – pestering my mother to do something, anything to assist me in my quest to have a cool Star Trek shirt. Her second attempt was definitely an improvement over the houndstooth, of which there are no photos (thank the maker!). But here I am in all my glory sporting the first Trek shirt I owned that I was proud to wear… even if it was the wrong color and was missing the customary black collar.
It was wintertime when we went to that ’75 ST con and my long-sleeved homemade shirt made its debut very soon afterward while the weather was still cold. Needless to say, I also wore it as often as possible that whole summer! But when I returned to school that fall I made a new friend who had his own custom made Trek uniform shirt. As we got to know each other better, I came to find out he was as big a Star Trek fan as I and it was through him that I eventually became aware of the first commercially available (to my knowledge anyway) line of licensed Star Trek shirts for kids. They were from Donmoor and were just about the coolest thing I had ever seen!
My friend got his blue “Sciences Division” Donmoor shirt for Christmas that year as I recall. I was so impressed and, at the same time, so jealous! I had to have one. I really wanted the Command gold (which I would eventually get) but my first one was Support Services red [insert “redshirt” jokes here]. I think I received it as a birthday gift in January of ’76. We didn’t go to the annual NYC Star Trek convention that year but I had my shirt so I was pretty happy anyway. Sometime shortly after I got the red one, we found the gold one at a local department store and I was walking on air.
Donmoor Star Trek shirts - photo courtesy of John Cooley
There are actually two horror stories associated with my beloved Trek shirts from this time period. Having grown into a somewhat obsessive perfectionist adult, I must say that the first horror story was the Donmoor shirts themselves! They were initially available only with short sleeves. Eventually long sleeve versions were introduced and I don’t think they even had the rank braids – but they also had black cuffs at the ends of the sleeves! Furthermore, the colors were wrong – these shirts were far too dark. After a fair amount of research I believe I have found out why.
Donmoor Color Samples - photo courtesy of John Cooley
Apparently, Donmoor requested and was given swatches of all the original series uniform colors. Since they were designing a product for children and anticipated a fair amount of wear & tear and multiple washings, they darkened these shades considerably so that eventual fading would produce something close to the true original colors. My new found friend and I discussed this more than once and we decided we didn’t care – these were still the coolest Star Trek shirts either of us have ever owned!
The second horror story involves my Command Division gold “Captain Kirk” shirt. It was, after all, the one I had been wishing for since I first started watching Star Trek. Once I owned the Donmoor version, my red shirts were mostly relegated to dresser drawer duty unless the gold one was in the laundry.
My school friend and fellow Star Trek aficionado was a huge fan of the TOS episode “Shore Leave”. He was of pure Irish decent and simply loved the Finnegan character. Knowing that I was equally fond of the Kirk character, he once suggested that we should learn all the stunt moves from their outdoor fight sequence in that episode. How cool! We watched it as many times as we could (there were no VCRs in homes yet but it was on fairly often in syndication – we probably saw it three or four times over the course of the school year). By late spring we could do that fight move for move in our sleep. We even used to joke about growing up to become Hollywood stunt men. One day we decided to wear our prized Star Trek shirts to school – his blue and mine gold. We re-enacted that fight on the athletic field much to the delight of all our friends. Unfortunately, the lunch aid who saw us was convinced we were really fighting! Being only 9 or 10 at the time I hadn’t given much thought to dirt and grass stains, a multitude of which I collected that day. But when the principal was sent out to “break up the fight”, he grabbed me by my sleeve and ripped the stitches.
Uggh! Even with all the imperfections I now recognize as an adult, that shirt was priceless to me as a kid. And it was ruined. My mother tried valiantly but the stains never fully came out and the repair job on the ripped sleeve was obvious. Years later, probably in high school, my friend would tease me about ruining that shirt – he’d say, “You should have had it ripped across the front if you really wanted to look like Kirk!”.