Chronicling Star Trek’s Nonsense Uniform Changes
It’s normal enough for any organization to undergo a few uniform changes over a year or thousands, which is great for Star Trek’s costume designers because they clearly like to have fun with it. Sometimes, though, the changes are so excessive or wild as to be confusing at best and universe-breaking at worst.
Starting with the earliest franchise in the Star Trek timeline, otherwise we’ll be twisting the space-time fabric of our brains, the Star Trek: Enterprise crew wore dark blue jumpsuits that kind of made them look like auto mechanics that wandered onto the set of a Michael Jackson video with piped triangles signaling their division (red for operations, gold for command, and blue for sciences) on their shoulders. Triangles are way futuristic, guys.
In the glimpses we get before the Abramsverse veers off into its own timeline, it appears the 1980s revival era soon died off, replaced first with gray jumpsuits with colored shoulder patches and then a few decades later with colored long-sleeve shirts. Just to make things confusing, they’ve changed the colors to blue for command, gold for operations, and gray for sciences. It won’t be the last time.
Shortly thereafter, in the early seasons of Discovery, they went back to that stylish dark blue, this time with metallic designs indicating gold for command, silver for sciences, and copper for operations. Apparently, vests were big that year.
The Original Series
In The Original Series, set just a few years later, they returned to those comfy sweaters, this time in the original gold, red, and blues (though the gold shirts were actually green and just looked gold on TV), with miniskirts for the women because the network demanded sexier costumes after watching a troublingly nerdy pilot.
The Motion Picture
The crew got a whole new uniform just a few years later again for The Motion Picture after its designers apparently hopped on the minimalism bandwagon: jumpsuits in soothing shades of gray, blue, and brown, with shoes attached to the pants. Tragically, there were no butt flaps.
The Wrath of Khan
The designers quickly realized their fashion blunder but perhaps overcorrected for Wrath of Khan, where everyone got bright red jackets and indicated their division with colored undershirts: white for command, yellow for some operations, gray for other operations and some sciences, and green for other sciences. Isn’t this dangerous? Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of color-coding if you have to memorize a new color code every few years?
The Next Generation
The Next Generation initially wore color-blocked jumpsuits with black pants and shoulders in the classic colors, except red became the color for command and gold for operations because Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart are winters. Gold is just not their color.
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The Next Generation Version 2.0
Those Spandex suits were the bane of the actors’ existence. They were hot, smelly, and most importantly, so tight that they started giving them back problems. Stewart’s chiropractor even suggested suing the production, so starting in season three, the jumpsuits were replaced by two-piece wool outfits.
Deep Space Nine
This is where things start getting confusing because they start overlapping, so we’re going to jump ahead a bit to Deep Space Nine, when the colors of the costumes flipped so they had colored shoulders and black bodies, apparently just for funsies. Deep Space Nine overlapped chronologically with The Next Generation, though, but for some reason (the reason is “so people could tell which show they were watching”), the Next Generation crew didn’t get the new uniforms until a year later. Maybe there were supply chain issues?
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Meanwhile, a whole new uniform design for the Generations movie was dropped at the last minute, leaving designers to scramble to find uniform, well, uniforms from past productions that fit all of the actors. They mostly failed, which is why some characters had different uniforms even in the same scenes.
Just a few in-universe years after all that confusion, First Contact gave everyone a new uniform with gray shoulders and colored undershirts. It was seen on Deep Space Nine the same year, and it became the official uniform going forward … with one exception.
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The crew of Voyager continued wearing the original Deep Space Nine uniforms throughout the entire series even after everyone else switched to the First Contact uniforms, a decision that spawned endless fandom debate but was, again, probably just a convenient method of differentiating the series.
Ope, wait, nope, we’re back to colored shoulders by the time of the events in Picard, with just enough differences to make everything inconsistent.
Aaaand none of it matters because by the time we catch back up to Discovery season three, everyone’s in blue suits with colored stripes, but after the designers realized the characters matched the walls, they gave them Original Series–style colored jackets for season four. Talk about living long and prospering.
Top image: CBS Paramount Television