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Film Studies 101
The Evolution Of The Star Trek Uniform
Fashion aboard the USS Enterprise

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J.J. Abrams Reboots The Redshirt

Star Trek (2009)

The sets for the 1960s Starship Enterprise are so blocky and low budget that there was no quibble when J.J. Abrams upgraded them for those gleaming, iPod-like interiors. But while many aspects of the old Star Trek universe were abandoned, the red shirts and Spock’s familiar blue uniform were a reassuring nod to long-time fans. And because that uniform is so simple and iconic, very few changes were even necessary. Costume designer Michael Kaplan (who’d also worked on Blade Runner and Fight Club) added charcoal grey undershirts and did away with the cropped trousers and booties of the ‘60s, but aside from that the basic elements remained the same.

The biggest point of contention was the Starfleet minidress. In the ‘60s they were eye candy and in the ‘70s they were dated and sexist, but in the 21st century they’re a fan favourite among cosplayers and convention-goers. The 2009 movie brought them back as an optional uniform, with Uhura wearing a minidress while many other female crewmembers chose trousers instead.

Star Trek (2009)

One popular fan theory suggests that all the uniforms are unisex. This handily excuses the perceived sexism of the “female” uniform, and is backed up by scenes in The Next Generation where male extras were seen wearing what are clearly Starfleet mini-dresses (not, it has to be said, very often and never, it has to be said, in the case of leading manly men like Riker). Uhura’s personal preference for this style is well-documented, since in Star Trek VI a 60-year-old Nichelle Nichols is seen wearing a customised miniskirt uniform while the younger crewmembers are all dressed in trouser suits.

Star Trek Enterprise

Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine might have abs of granite, but even they couldn’t carry off the overly bedazzled Original Series dress uniforms. There, the reboot sensibly went for a more sedate charcoal grey number, with Admiral Pike wearing a paler version reminiscent of The Motion Picture (but not, thankfully, too reminiscent). Overall, the new uniforms were the most coherent of the series. Black undershirts for everyone, with cadets wearing a maroon version of the officers’ dress uniform, and ribbed turtleneck sweaters inspired by the 1980s-era films. The coolest detail is that the everyday shirts have the Starfleet insignia embossed into every inch of the fabric on a miniscule scale.

Star Trek uniform detail

Star Trek Into Darkness brings three additions to Starfleet’s rebooted uniform: wetsuits, jumpsuits with windows at the shoulders to reveal the shirt colour underneath, and pale grey dress uniforms that bear an unfortunate resemblance to those worn by officers aboard the Death Star. The wetsuits are intriguing, signalling that either we get to see an underwater action sequence in the new movie (a lot of the posters do show characters looking pretty wet and also pretty, wet), or some other activity that requires everyone to dress like a cross between a Tron character and Captain America. Either way, they fit in well with the movie’s slick aesthetic, and even include a nod to the regular uniforms in the form of colour-coded detailing. Wherever they’re boldly going, at least they’re going in style.

Star Trek Into Darkness

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Your Comments

1 Star Trek - Into Dark Charcoal
Maybe Empire will reboot the article, make it all look better in the new article, and call the old article the Prime Version. More

Posted by KHeasman76 on Monday May 13, 2013, 16:10

2 RE: The Missing Generation
Typically, Empire puts up a great piece that nobody else is addressing, and the forum responds with complaints about what's not there without a word about what is. This is fascinating stuff; good work Gavia. More

Posted by David Somerset on Saturday May 11, 2013, 23:35

3 The Missing Generation
It does seem strange to include the classic TOS uniform from television and to miss off the three TNG uniforms that were shown in four films from Generations and First Contact until Nemesis. Including those outfits would have covered off TNG/DS9 and Voyager without even venturing away from the cinematic theme. More

Posted by jaideco on Saturday May 11, 2013, 14:31

4 So...
Is this the evolution of Trek outfits, but only if Kirk and friends are involved? More

Posted by rich on Friday May 10, 2013, 23:54

5 ST TNG DS9 VOY????
Where is TNG, DS9 and VOY???? You can't skip them and those ones are even more impotrant that 2 new motion pictures! More

Posted by Max Krause on Friday May 10, 2013, 17:47

6 Where is the section on TNG and DS9 style uniforms !
You can't have a Star Trek uniform "chronology" without them. More

Posted by koit on Friday May 10, 2013, 17:21

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