We know that in TOS era Star Trek command officers wore gold and operations officers wore red. In the DS9/TOS cross-over episode Trials and Tribble-ations O'Brien explains why Sisko (pretending to be a Lieutenant) is dressed in gold:

BASHIR: Wait a minute, aren't you two wearing the wrong colour?

O'BRIEN: Don't you know anything about this period in time?

BASHIR: I'm a doctor, not an historian.

SISKO: In the old days, operations officers wore red, command officers wore gold.

However, all of the footage of Captain Kirk in the episode shows him wearing green, not gold. Here are two images from the episode, the first shows Captain Kirk with the tribbles:

enter image description here

The second shows Sisko talking to Kirk, and it is clear that Kirk's uniform is a different color from Sisko's gold.

enter image description here

So, my question is Why is Kirk's uniform green in this episode and not gold?

Apologies if this is well known to TOS fans, but my Star Trek knowledge is TNG and DS9 focused. I could not find an answer after some quick searching.

  • 26
    You cut that quote off before the best line: "DAX: And the women wore less"
    – Burgi
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 9:36
  • 9
    It’s called NTSC: “Never The Same Color”…
    – Holger
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 10:32
  • 3
    It's also worth noting that, if I'm remembering correctly, in black-and-white, the "colours" looked pretty much the same. When Star Trek first aired (and really for many years after), black-and-white TVs were still a big thing, because they were cheaper. In fact, one reason for Star Trek's rather garish colour scheme was to help RCA sell more color televisions by giving people something worth looking at! Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:15
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    I'm pretty sure the bit at the end with sisko and Kirk is a different episode I believe it's in mirror,mirror but I'm not sure Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 1:08
  • Well, he has gold braid on his sleeves. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 6:44

4 Answers 4


The Command Tunics in TOS Were Actually Green

The costume designer for TOS was Bill Theiss:

William Ware Theiss - the designer of all the Starfleet uniforms and alien costumes seen in the 79 episodes of The Original Series. His elegant, daring and revealing wardrobe creations for the female guest stars on the series is one of the most memorable and iconic aspects of TOS.

The blog Startrekpropauthority has the full text of an interview with Theiss in 1988. In that article the color of the command uniforms is discussed:

Another quirk involving the original series’ tunics were the colors - in particular, “command.” Trekkies everywhere will swear Spock wore blue, Scotty wore red and Kirk wore gold. Wrong. The three Starfleet colors were blue, red and green. Lime green, to be exact. “It was one of those film stock things;” Theiss states, “it photographed one way - burnt orange or a gold. But in reality was another; the command shirts were definitely green.” As further proof, look at the wrap-around tunics as well as the dress uniform tunics of Kirk’s – all green. They came off as their true colors because they were constructed of different materials than the standard duty command shirts.

There is an additional article on the command tunics. Apparently there was a change from Seasons 1 and 2 to Season 3:

For the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series; Starfleet tunics and dresses were fabricated from a nylon diamond weave double knit fabric that would not shrink during cleaning - which had been a persistent problem with the velour material used for the first two seasons. The actual Command tunic color used in the 3rd season was Lime Green; which photographed as Gold under the lighting conditions of the Desilu soundstage.

Here are some images of the regular command tunic, from two different photoshoots (I believe these are the Season 3 costumes, images from startrekpropauthority):

enter image description here enter image description here

  • 40
    What are you talking about? The dress is obviously white and gold.
    – Zano
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 9:13
  • 7
    Mind. Totally. Blown. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:32
  • 23
    So the DS9 characters said that command wore gold because they learned their history by watching TOS?
    – Daniel
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:15
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    @DanielCook- I was just thinking that. I'm amazed that we had it wrong all this time. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:23
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    The point is that there isn't that distinct a difference if you see them in person - the difference is neither deliberate nor intentional. It's caused by film recording of the light shining on two different fabrics. In-universe, the tunics were gold - Sisko tells us that the in-universe color matches the as-seen-on-screen color, rather than the real-world color. Kirk happens to have a different, but still authorized (it has rank stripes) wrap-around tunic that is green instead of gold.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 18:46

This is not a duty uniform.

This is a captain's casual / off-duty tunic. Notice in your bottom-most screenshot, that the tunic is split down the center with one side overlapping the other, as in a cardigan.

Here is a better screenshot from a different episode:

enter image description here

Compare this to Picard's captain's jacket (worn on occasion in TNG Seasons 5-7):

enter image description here

  • 3
    @MikeEdenfield : He's a casual kind of guy, what can I say?
    – Praxis
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 2:21
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    Interesting out-of-universe note from wikipedia: "The gold shirts were actually green but appeared gold under the lights used on the set. In later series, the gold color was "canonized" in dialog. However, some uniforms – the alternate tunics worn by Captain Kirk, and the command division dress uniforms – were made of a different material which, while the same color, showed up as green even under the lights." Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 2:23
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    You're telling me that when Kirk is off duty and dressed in civilian clothing, he wears a shirt that has captain insignia on the sleaves??? Wow, he's a bigger tool than I thought. : - ) Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 3:48
  • 4
    Not a bigger tool, but a bigger cool!
    – Xen2050
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 9:09
  • 5
    @CandiedOrange his name is Captain Kirk. He puts his name of his clothes so he knows they are his.
    – Gusdor
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 9:21

It's a byproduct of (poor) restoration.

Fabric type does not change how film renders color. RCA was not trying to promote color receivers with oversaturated colors in the programming; they had enough trouble building cameras and receivers that performed consistently.

Film stock of the nineteen-sixties was easily able to accurately render lime green and lime green and gold as gold provided that the cameraman and the lighting director knew what they were doing.

Color TV was as new to production crews as to audiences. Directors tried to get images that looked "natural" on the equipment at their disposal, in some cases all production was done in film, and viewed as film. The color movie production standard was to err on the side of oversaturation, because film stock colors dilute during projection and fade with age. (Acetate film stock also tends to yellow as it ages.)

What was not capable of accurate color rendition were the color cameras used in the film to video conversion and the television receivers. Decisions on what colors should be used for costumes were modified after it became obvious that the original colors did not render well through video.

Variations in custom colors and spots skin tone are due to bad restoration technique. Leonard Nimoy's makeup had a faint green tinge to it and was supposed to render that way in contrast to William Shatner's slightly ruddy makeup. If restorations had been done from film, and directed by someone familiar with the original series, it is likely that the colors would look significantly different everywhere,not just the costumes, the actors, the scenery, everything.

If you look at the backgrounds of the restorations now being broadcast, you will see that all foliage is tinted toward cyan, less yellow, more blue than natural, while all flesh tones have been muted and normalized. This is the result of subjective decisions, not technology.

At the time Star Trek was produced, no one dreamed that the programs popularity would endure, that the series would be a cash cow for decades. It endured not because of the technology used to produce it, but because if the future it tried to portray. The special effects and stilted acting style of the original series are laughable today,but were acceptable to the less sophisticated viewers of that time. What endures are the relationships between the characters and the values and attitudes they portrayed. They showed our better natures becoming norms, not ideals.


People making sweeping generalization here are making a big mistake because you have to qualify which season uniforms.

First and second season velour command duty uniforms - also worn by Chekov and Sulu - were more of a antique gold color while some of Kirk's alternate uniforms were green. There are surviving Star Trek velour costumes from the original series in private collections that prove that fact and you can find pics of them around the web. It was gold; not green.

From the third season they used a double-knit polyester material and these the color was a khaki green which appeared tan/gold on film especially after many film transfers with degradation in the film color. The third season polyester uniforms actually do appear more green in recently restored DVD releases.

  • 5
    "There are surviving Star Trek velour costumes from the original series in private collections that prove that fact and you can find pics of them around the web." Links to pics, or it didn't happen.
    – Lexible
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 1:23

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