Insignia worn in the pilot episodes of STAR TREK: The Original Series was not yet settled into its final form — as was the case with the uniforms overall.
This article will examine Breast Insignia & Rank Insignia seen in the unaired 1st pilot, “The Cage” [0x01] (as re-cut into “The Menagerie, Part I” [1x15] & “The Menagerie, Part II” [1x16]), and in the televised 2nd pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” [1x01].
These represent the early 2250s – when the Enterprise was commanded by Christopher Pike – through to the mid-2260s, in the early days of Captain Kirk's 5-year mission.
We will also touch upon the Merchant service, which continued to wear the "pilot-style" uniforms through the late 2260s (as represented by officers from the cargo ship Antares in “Charlie X” [1x07]).
A Starfleet officer's breast insignia is an emblem that indicates current assignment type; some further contain a device corresponding to a specific Division.
The only breast insignia seen in the pilot episodes was the Starship insignia (the delta emblem), which it is now understood was worn by all Starship personnel throughout TOS — not just those assigned to the Enterprise.
This usage was present from the start: the script for “The Cage” [0x01] identifies the man wearing one on his Dress Uniform during Vina's dance as
a uniformed space officer (not from the Enterprise).
Starship Emblem — 1st Pilot
Starship insignia for “The Cage” [0x01] were quite small compared to all subsequent versions.
Licensed replicas by ANOVOS – the only current retail offering with remarkable accuracy – are 1 ¾" tall by 1 ¼" wide (although the product information states they are only 1 ⅝" tall).
The backing is a very light gold foil sewn in a dense grid pattern with silver thread (thus giving the background its unique "silver sparkle" look).
The replicas are embroidered with Division devices in black thread, and a ⅛" wide border in yellow-gold metallic thread — although screencaps suggest that the borders on the originals were a thinner gold cord sewn down within the edge of the patch:
Starship Emblem — 2nd Pilot
Starship insignia for “Where No Man Has Gone Before” [1x01] were somewhat larger than those used in the 1st pilot, but certainly smaller than the final TOS patches (which were around 3" to 3 ¼" tall by 2" wide).
This version was proportionately wider than any other, with the width being about 75% of the height.
Although the exact size is unknown, a good estimate would be somewhere around 2 ⅛" tall by 1 ⅝" wide. This was arrived at by using screencaps to visually compare the height of the patch to the bottom hem of the uniform shirt (and/or the distance from the bottom of the cuff to the rank stripe), which is known to be 2"
The backing appears to have been a light gold foil (light enough that some argue it was silver). The border colour was changed to black, while the Division device remained black.
The 3 most common Starship insignia devices were present in both pilots:
- Star – Command
- Globe – Sciences
- Spiral – Services
(a.k.a. Engineering & Support Services)
The 4th device pictured amongst the ANOVOS patches above – a stylised square-cornered "C" for Cadet – was seen only in “The Cage” [0x01], as worn by two fresh-faced young men in blue shirts on the bridge:
Unlike later TOS, it was relatively common to see an officer wearing a device that didn't correspond to the Division colour of his shirt.
That holds true even when ignoring the unfortunate wardrobe department error that transposed all Sciences and Services insignia in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” [1x01], resulting most noticeably in Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner wearing the wrong devices:
For legitimate examples, navigator José Tyler under Captain Pike wore a Command shirt with a Services breast insignia, as did Yeoman Smith under Captain Kirk (and Yeoman Rand in advance publicity photos before the new TOS uniforms were made):
Commercially-available ~½" wide gold metallic trim was used for rank stripes, although the type and specifications changed from the 1st pilot to the 2nd.
Braid — 1st Pilot
“The Cage” [0x01] stripes were likely a military flat braid that contained gilt (i.e.- real metal) threads.
- Officers ranked Lieutenant through Captain wore a single gold stripe.
- Midshipmen (cadets), Ensigns, and presumably Lieutenants Junior Grade (J.G.) wore no stripe.
It took on a distinctly warm "rosy" tone under the lights – sometimes even hinting of copper in shots with excess red bias – although it was certainly gold.
Currently, the author's favourite trim for 2250s replicas is "Metallic Flat Braid 1/2 inch" in Bright Gold from The Quartermaster General, shown here at the bottom:
It contains 5% pure silver metal, and takes on the warm tone of the original. In comparison, the upper braid is simply "Gold" — which is also gilt, but uses less expensive aluminium and remains a paler yellow.
One other type of rank insignia was seen: a stripe of gold metallic "ladder braid" worn by CPO Garison (the
Bridge Chief Petty Officer) on his Services shirt.
It appears to be about ⅝" wide, with each edge being about ⅛" wide. The connecting "rungs" appear to be about ¼", and spaced ¼" apart.
N.B.- It must be emphasised here that Gene Roddenberry was adamant there were no separate "officer" and "enlisted men" categories. (
Every man and woman aboard the USS Enterprise is the equivalent of a qualified astronaut, therefore an officer.) The presence of a Chief Petty Officer explored the idea of placing a non-commissioned officer rank into the unified ladder — an idea that he and Bill Theiss would revisit for TNG in 1987, when a single black pip ("half-pip") was defined as Chief Warrant Officer.
Braid — 2nd Pilot
“Where No Man Has Gone Before” [1x01] stripes were gold metallic "middy braid": a synthetic trim with parallel ribs, each about 1⁄16" wide.
- Captain Kirk – unlike his predecessor – wore two stripes on each sleeve, with the 2nd being spaced ½" to ⅝" above the 1st.
- Other commissioned officer ranks wore one or no stripes, in the same manner as the 1st pilot.
- There was no indication of any cadets or non-commissioned officers being present onboard the Enterprise under Kirk's command.
A clipping from a William Shatner publicity photo shows about 8 ribs in total:
In contrast to the previous trim, the middy braid remained a shiny yellow-gold when lit.
Unfortunately, the author is unaware of any major supplier who sells a worthy replica trim "as-is".
However, the cheaper modern version of "Gold Metallic Middy Braid" – such as Trim 065A (9⁄16") from Vogue Fabrics – can be used as the basis for an imperfect workaround:
The upper sample shows it in its original state, which is ultra-reflective and rather flimsy. The bottom sample has been misted with gold metallic spray paint; this mattes it down to an acceptable level of reflectivity while imparting a small amount of much-needed rigidity.
Regrettably, the ribs are typically about 1⁄24" rather than the desired 1⁄16" — and many merchants will use the same default product photo for all sizes, meaning that the rib width isn't clear at the time of purchase.
- Flag Officers
- It is unknown what sleeve insignia a Flag Officer would have worn in this era. However – based on both the U.S. Navy and later TOS – it is very reasonable to conjecture a larger gold stripe about 2" in width.
- Fleet Captain
- Some fans have imagined that at the time of the 2nd pilot, Christopher Pike as a Fleet Captain may have worn 3 standard stripes on each sleeve, although that is pure apocrypha.
Consistent with TOS standards, rank stripes were placed beginning 2" up from the bottom of the cuff.
However, each was simply sewn on top with a single line of stitching down the centre, overlapping at the inner sleeve:
The trim was presumably removed daily before cleaning the shirts, to prevent its becoming damaged — and here we realise a practical advantage of the cuff vents, which facilitate access to the inside of the sleeve for reattachment!
This may explain why some anecdotes still claim that rank stripes were constantly removed along with Breast Insignia, despite that the later TOS rank braid was sewn semi-permanently into the seam, with a line of machine stitching down each edge.
Starfleet Division colours are ostensibly related to insignia, and will be covered here at present.
Pilot uniform shirts were made of the same velour fabric that was used throughout seasons 1 & 2.
The colours as perceived on-screen are somewhat different than in-person, being filmed under tungsten light and then subjected to certain chemical corruptions inherent in 1960s colour process film. (Even today, lighting & white balance continue to greatly affect final photograph colours.)
- Command – Gold
- The gold velour has been the subject of an endless "green vs gold" debate. Extant costumes reveal that it was indeed gold, notwithstanding that it can be described as a "green-gold" (unlike the later Season 3 double-knit, which was an avocado green that photographed yellow).
- Sciences – Blue
- The blue velour was a little more teal (i.e.- a "greener" shade of blue) than many tend to suspect, as it shifts to a sky blue colour under tungsten light & film.
- Services – Brown-Beige
- The brown-beige velour has a touch of warmth, and some refer to it as "camel". Despite being the most neutral of the 3 colours, it could take on a pronounced "rosiness" in shots that had excess red hue in the film development, but at other times shifted to a brown-gold.*
* Reportedly, Services became red in TOS because it was too similar to the Command gold on colour television — which in 1966 was in less than 20% of American households, but receiving a major push.
Prototype TOS Uniforms
After the 2nd pilot passed muster, an advance STAR TREK publicity shoot was conducted with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Grace Lee Whitney, prior to the final costumes being available for filming.
The Breast Insignia remained the same as worn in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” [1x01].
Yeoman Rand's entire uniform was simply a re-use of Yeoman Smith's from that episode, except that she's erroneously wearing a rank stripe.
Meanwhile, Captain Kirk and Mister Spock wear pilot-style shirts retrofitted with large rounded black rib-knit collars.
On these, the Rank Insignia matched the configuration of the 2nd pilot — but it appears to be some sort of reflective gold Mylar that was never used before or after.
Another utterly unique feature of this shoot was Spock's insignia combination: having switched back to a blue Sciences shirt as per the 1st pilot, but still retaining his Command insignia as per the 2nd.
Although never seen on-screen – and therefore technically not canon – this design's appearance in official promotional material could perhaps be regarded as a prototype that Starfleet was testing out with its Starship (Constitution-class) crews prior to finalising the TOS uniforms.
The "pilot-style" uniforms were also worn by licensed officers in the Merchant service through the late 2260s, as represented by Captain Ramart and his First Officer / Navigator (Tom Nellis) from the cargo ship Antares in “Charlie X” [1x07].
The shirts were altered to be more stylistically in line with TOS Season 1: both men were wearing their smallest reasonable size and the bodies were shortened by about 2", giving a trimmer appearance than the hip-length "easy fit" that was previously favoured by Starfleet.
Of course, their Breast Insignia emblem was entirely different, being Merchant Marine (or freighter) rather than Starship personnel.
Interestingly – although both breast insignia featured a star device (indicating Command) – both shirts were of the same brown-beige that Starfleet previously used for its Services division. The insignia-free shirt furnished for Charles Evans was the same colour.
In-universe, it is probable that the Merchant service used brown-beige shirts for all its personnel, just as some 20th century services use "khaki".
Behind-the-scenes, these "abandoned" shirts were likely the only stock that still had the original ribbed collars. Frugal re-use of old production assets had seen the gold & blue shirts from the pilot episodes retrofitted with black V-neck collars for use as background costumes in early episodes.
Rank insignia was the same "middy braid" type as used in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” [1x01], and followed a similar system: the captain had 2 stripes; his first officer had 1.
- Star Trek: TOS screencaps from TrekCore.