We take a walk down memory Alpha as we look back at some of our most memorable Star Fleet uniforms!
Star Trek Enterprise
2001’s Star Trek Enterprise (or just “Enterprise” as the show’s opening labels it) worked as something of an origin story for the Galactic Federation of Planets and as such went for a much more stripped back look, ditching the well-known pop-art start fleet uniforms for practical, heard wearing jumpsuits. These work well thematically, but loose some of the visual readability that came with the earlier uniform designs, because of past design’s use of strong primary colours for crew classification (Gold for Command, Red or Engineering and Blue for Sciences) you immediately knew whose job was what, and this is a little lost within the Enterprise jumpsuits
Star Trek Discovery
Taking a leaf out of Enterprises book, the (as of the writing of this) most recent Star Trek series takes place before the televised adventures of Kirk and crew, they also revisited the concept of the Star Trek Jumpsuit design, in effect a flashier, more high-tech looking variation of what was seen in Enterprise – a mostly blue jumpsuit with coloured trim to reflect the crew classification. Adding in a few more Trek design anachronisms such as the Comm badge which also reflects classification. It should be said that this design is more or less only used for the crew of the Discovery, when the crew interacts with the NCC-1701 Enterprise their uniforms come much closer to the original series look
Star Trek: The Original Series
This is where we ned to start forgetting about cannon somewhat, you see, the last two series we spoke about were filmed in the 2000’s and the 2010’s respectively – Star Trek (or TOS) was a middling to low budget television programme filmed in the 1960’s. so accordingly, everything looks very “60’s” the bright pop-art colour scheme of the uniforms re-enforces the strong readability as mentioned before, although there is another meta reason why they were bright primary colours. In 1963 colour television was pretty new and shiny, so new in fact that poor ol’ Proto-Trekkies in the UK watched most of TOS in black and white. Subtle rings around the end of the sleeve of uniform shirts show rank, with Kirk being acting captain he has two gold rings. The 60’s being the 60’s is mostly the reason as to why female crew members are usually seen in liberally high miniskirts, this kind of uniform being standard issue can only come from the mind of someone in the summer of love.
Star Trek (Kelvin Timeline)
When Paramount grabbed J.J Abrams for the Kelvin timeline Star Treks in 2009 he took heavy inspiration from the TOS uniforms, with his cast being reimagining’s of the classic crew. The pop-art is still here, as is the overall “groovy-ness” of the whole affair, but neat, subtle changes have been made to make the uniforms feel more futuristic by 2009’s standards. A texture has been added to every uniform, which acts as a way our eyes can grip onto a design, large blocks of colour with visual information found within it. On a closer inspection the texture we’re looking at is actually lots of tiny Star Fleet insignia!
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
This one is a personal favourite – only ever used for this one film in the franchise – Star Trek had entered the design sensibilities of the 1970’s. 1979 to be exact, where we see the iconic pop-art inspired groove filled designs of the previous decade thrown aside for what can be described as the following: Space Pyjamas, Sexy Dentist Uniform, Saturday Night Fever, Disco Vampire, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and a Sex Monk. Nothing I can tell you can impact your opinion on these designs, they’re absolutely bizarre and that’s great.
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn
We’re not going to focus on the larger costume change for this one, as the change of the standard uniforms stay fairly consistent from Star Trek 2-6, instead we’re looking at Kirk’s new “Field Jacket” uniform. Sporting a cool, almost Akira looking jacket that looks both exciting and practical. The cream ribbing complements the red of the jacket, the design sensibilities for the film series shift with this, giving a lot of the designs a more grounded feeling, crew members wearing uniforms that could have been made back on earth in the 20th century, using visible zips and clips that you can instantly read as having a use, rather than sci-fi technology that would just read as incidental aesthetic choices.
Star Trek 2-6
Starting in The Wrath of Kahn Star Fleet personnel would start wearing much bulkier, naval style uniforms, very reminiscent of the British Army during the colonial wars. This resemblance seems somewhat at odds with the ideology behind Star Trek, but these uniforms became iconic regardless. Visually they certainly do scream “Space Navy” opting for a red button up tunic, they certainly lose the causal comfort presented by the proceeding uniforms and miss some of that visual readability that came with the past designs. Now all classifications are red, with the crew class depicted by the colour of the woollen collar, you now have Grey, Cream and White which are much less appealing. Crew rank is now displayed as medals on the white strap on the shoulder – good luck working out a crew member rank if it’s not a close up shot.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Enter Jean-Luc Picard and the charismatic crew of the star ship Enterprise-E. It’s been a good 100 years since the exploits of Kirk and pals and fashion has certainly moved on. Returning to the use of large areas of primary colours – one thing should be notified – Red is now the colour for a command position and yellow has been moved to security/ engineering. The primary colour cut into a black base gives the uniforms a Russian constructivist quality, something reminiscent of Kandinsky. That visual readability I keep belting on about is back and works wonderfully, the TNG uniforms work in all the same ways as the TOS uniforms, but do show a difference in approach and ideology within Star Fleet. Something else to note – the rank of a crew member is now shown as gold studs along the neck line of the collar.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Commander (and later Captain) Benjamin Sisco wore a slightly updated variation of the uniform seen in TNG, having the shoulders be the classification signifier. The V-neck approach seems to work well for them, at this point in Star Trek cannon the design teams aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel, they know what works all they need to do is add a small twist now and then.
Star Trek: Voyager
The outfit choices of the USS Voyager is an interesting one, because the show ran more or less concurrently with DS9, so their uniforms reflect this.
Although in the episode “Drive” we see some quite stylish racing inspired StarFleet uniforms, sporting a strong use of line to give it a sleek, extroverted look. This design quickly became a fan favourite (as did many uniforms that feature briefly in the series). The design sensibility of these jump suits fits surprisingly well with what we later see in Star Trek Discovery, and even perhaps Star Trek Picard?
Star Trek: First Contact
Circa Star Trek First Contact, the Starfleet uniform started to lose it’s colourful qualities – this time using a mostly black and grey look, with a coloured under shirt to denote the crew member classification. I’ll be honest with you, this is one of my least favourite fashion choices for Starfleet, grey, bland and devoid of any personality.
Star Trek Next Gen: Insurrection
Insurrection gives us a new addition to the Starfleet catalogue – the “Next Gen Dress Uniform” a fancy little gold and white number, gives the crew a much more cruise ship feeling. Another lovely throw back in this uniform is that the enterprise bridge crew once again look like some sort of lost marching band. I approve.
Whats your favourite piece of costume design from Star Trek? Let us know!