While some people know this, it is not public knowledge, but last year, I acquired a William Shatner Captain Kirk Tunic. Yes, a holy grail to almost all of us Star Trek prop & costume collectors. It was an amazing find and literally walked in the door of Propworx. (OK, it had help walking in the door).
I traded that tunic to another collector, who is now selling it in Profiles in History. Why? Well, it really is an expensive item as we will see when it sells later this month. And it is too expensive for a collector like me. I am not rich and having such an expensive piece of history is just not practical. You can’t display it unless you build a very expensive display, and you have to insure it. Also, while I love my collection, a Kirk Tunic, while a Holy Grail, isn’t going to make me happy. One week with Damaris’ (my best friend) two little 6 year old boys brings more more happiness than any item in my collection. And so it was ultimately impractical. And what I got for the Tunic is worth much more to me than owning it would be. (More on that later!)
So I got three of the four top experts on TOS costumes to authenticate this costume. James Cawley worked for Bill Theiss, Roger Romage has studied everything TOS since the 60’s and knows the costumes better than anyone I see regularly post anywhere. And Gerald Gurian has spent an enormous amount of time analyzing the multiple costumes he has had access to and does an amazing job with photo essays of TOS costumes.
Each of these experts separately reviewed the tunic and all came to the same conclusion. It is an early First Season William Shatner Kirk tunic.
James Cawley’s knowledge of these tunic is first hand from handling so many of them working for Bill Theiss. James even owns the original patterns from Bill. Many know James from his well known fan film “Star Trek: Phase II”. If you go to his set, James will spend hours talking Star Trek costuming, and his knowledge is impressive.
Gerald and I had a rocky start to our relationship, but have since become best of friends. Just goes to show you that when you share a passion, friendships blossom. Gerald was the one who first noted that the Sulu Tunic we had in the first Propworx auction was not 3rd season, but Phase II. Gerald does more work on authenticating items than anyone. He will spend hours just getting the right screen match. And he has handled and photographed lots of TOS costumes and done extensive photo analysis of them. Check out his blog here.
So, how about some authentication of the Kirk tunic and the high res photos we took at Propworx before I traded this baby off. I am reprinting much of Gerald’s awesome article since I don’t want to re-do all his hard work on my blog!
Here is Gerald’s photo review (Part 1).
Gelrad Gurian was one of three experts who authenticated this tunic. Here are his notes:
Concerning authenticity, there is considerable evidence to support the conclusion that this is not only an authentic TOS 1st season command tunic but also a rare William Shatner Captain Kirk costume.
The texture and construction of the velour fabric in this tunic; both on its front and reverse surfaces, is consistent with that used to create the 1st and 2nd season TOS starfleet uniforms. Below is a direct comparison with a 2nd season blue velour sciences dress (sold by Profiles in History, Auction 37, October 2009). In addition to the matching textures and thread weaves, note the slight “sparkle” effect visible on the front surface of the fabric that is frequently seen when these costumes are photographed at close range with a flash in use.
Below is another direct comparison of this tunics fabric with a different 1st season gold velour TOS command tunic, where matching texture is again observed.
Below is a composite image illustrating the distinct sparkle effect of the TOS velour fabric visible on a different Shatner tunic (a 2nd season Kirk tunic sold by Profiles In History in Auction 17, Dec. 2003) as well as on a Cage Science Officer tunic (sold by Profiles In History in Auction 47, Dec. 2011).
i. The black collar fabric used on this tunic is consistent with that found on other early TOS velour starfleet uniforms. Note the identical “ribbed” knit fabric construction visible in the comparison below with the 2nd season TOS sciences dress. (Third season TOS costumes featured a distinctly different “spring weave” collar fabric.)
ii. The width and contours of the collar on this tunic are also consistent with those tailored for use by William Shatner on his early first season tunics. Each of the lead actors on TOS had subtle differences in their early collar designs. Those worn by Shatner were low riding with a more rounded contour on the front, while the early Nimoy collar rose high to cover his oversize Adam’s apple. The image below favorably compares the collar on this tunic with a Shatner screenshot from “Shore Leave”.
Below are some photos that clearly demonstrate the differences between early Kirk and Spock collar designs.
3. Command Patch – this costume bears the smaller style command insignia patch seen in the first two seasons of TOS on the velour uniforms, composed of gold mylar material. Below is a direct comparison with a screen capture from “Who Mourns for Adonais”:
Below is another favorable comparison with an authentic early TOS command patch that was attached to a Phase II fabric tunic for display in the Star Trek: The Exhibition touring collection. Note in particular the matching contours of the elongated topmost arm of the 5 point star on both patches; typically straight on the left side, with a curved bulge outwards on the lower right side, and not touching the top black border as is commonly seen in the larger 3rd season TOS patches. Here, the lower right arm of the star touches the border thread on both patches.
The overall dimensions of the patch on this tunic are a match with those published previously on this site for 1st and 2nd season TOS patches. Specifically, the following photo presents a view of all Original Series patch dimensions from the pilot episode onwards. The Cage patch size is clearly the smallest of all at 2.25″ tall versus the approx. 2.75″ high 1st/2nd season patch and approx. 3.25″ tall 3rd season patch. The width of all patches is constant at approx. 2″.
4. Patch attachment to tunic – the “zig zag” sewing pattern seen to attach the command patch to the fabric on this tunic is consistent with the pattern observed on other authentic TOS starfleet uniforms. Below is a direct comparison with a 3rd season command tunic.
5. BRAID (Materials & attachment):
i. The braid present on this tunic is also consistent with the design, composition materials and appearance of the braid seen on the Captains tunics in the earliest 1st season episodes of TOS. In particular, the use of gold, dark brown, and tan thread to create the braid design on thin gold mylar, as observed on this tunic, can also be observed in the onscreen braid from “The Enemy Within” in the comparison photo below:
ii. Also to be noted above in both the photo of this tunic and the episode screenshot is the consistent sewing attachment technique which features the use of yellow thread that spans the gaps between adjacent pieces of rectangular braid in the middle row of Captain’s braid.
6. Zipper hardware – this costume features a hidden zipper assembly with metal teeth bearing the brand name “UNIQUE” and the word “JAPAN” present on the metal slider, which is identical to the zipper hardware observed on all three seasons of screen used TOS starfleet tunics and dresses. Below is a direct comparison photo matching the zipper appearance on this tunic to that on several other screen used TOS costumes:
And the photo below from the 1st season episode “Miri” provides on screen confirmation of the use of zipper “tapes” (the side support fabric strips) bearing metal teeth on TOS starfleet tunics.
7. CLOTH PULL
i. This tunic features a black cloth pull for the zipper that is not a frequently encountered feature on screen used TOS starfleet tunics. However, it has been observed on occasion in the past. The photo below shows the construction details on this costume, and confirms the presence of a similar cloth pull on a 3rd season Spock tunic (sold by Profiles In History, Auction 14, April 2003):
ii. Below are some screenshots of William Shatner in costume where it is evident that he is wearing a costume also outfitted with a black cloth pull:
8. THREE HOOK AND EYE CLOSURES
This costume features a total of three hook and eye closures to secure the black neck collar. This large a number of closures is not typically seen on regular TOS tunics (frequently just a single closure; occasionally a pair of them); so it is possible that the presence of three might be some minor indicator of costumes that were created for a Kirk or a starring role character. The closures on this tunic are shown below along with a screenshot of William Shatner from the early 1st season episode “Mudd’s Women” in which it is evident by the visible metal surfaces that his velour tunic has also been outfitted with three hook and eye closures:
9. Captain Kirk Braid screen match to 1st Season “This Side of Paradise”.
As seen in the comparison photo below, the exact braid construction found on the right cuff of this tunic precisely matches that visible in the screen capture from the 1st season TOS episode “This Side of Paradise”; where a close up view of Kirk’s hand operating the transporter controls is the focus of the screenshot. There are literally dozens and dozens of matching characteristics that may be discerned upon close examination of the images – including contours of the gold mylar all along the outside bands of braid, contours on the individual pieces of braid forming the middle band, relative spacing between pieces of braid and main features/contours on braid, prominent thread line locations and thread paths, areas of prominent colored thread and even some soiling / spotting on the velour fabric itself. By any reasonable analysis, this screen match alone with all of its successful points of comparison should be considered sufficient to confirm the use of this tunic on screen as a 1st season Captain Kirk.
10. DOUBLE GUSSETS
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, is shown below.
11. Evidence of significant costume use and manual repairs on the soundstage
As seen in the images below, this costume bears evidence of not only machine sewn construction but also hand sewn work. While the machined elements are reflective of the initial fabrication of the tunic, the hand sewn portions speak to the subsequent repairs and adjustments made “on the fly” – sometimes while the actor was still wearing the garment on the soundstage – and their presence is entirely consistent with screen used TOS costumes.
As a side note, as was the practice on the Desilu soundstage, when a “hero” tunic such as this became sufficiently distressed or well worn to merit its replacement, it would likely be relegated for use by stunt actors or redressed for background use. This practice was certainly known to take place during the production of TOS, where budgetary constraints were famously much more pressing than on later series in the franchise; though the practice of relegating well worn costumes from leading actors to stuntmen has also been confirmed on the most recent Trek series such as Star Trek: Enterprise. Behind the scenes books such as Justman and Solows “Inside Star Trek: The Real Story” and Roddenberry and Whitfields “The Making of Star Trek” famously recount the “dumpster-diving” exploits of Jefferies, Justman, Dwyer, Theiss et al to secure discarded styrofoam office equipment packing inserts for use to spray paint as TOS Engine Room brightly colored wall mounted devices, or cannibalize screen used Eminiar weapons for parts to produce new Klingon disruptors, or employ inexpensive orange shower curtain material to fabricate the biohazard suits seen in “The Naked Time”. Thus it is quite likely that this costume was worn by another actor over the course of its useful life on the Desilu soundstage. But it would not be likely at all that a gusseted “hero” Captain Kirk tunic would be fabricated solely for stunt use and was not worn by William Shatner.
12. Overall size – The overall size of this tunic has been found to match that of a Shatner-worn Kirk costume from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
There is more info to come. Stay tuned for the next post.