J.J. Abrams Reboots The Redshirt
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.
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.
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 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.