Starfleet Fashions: Semper Exploro!

Today, we are going where no fashion blog has gone before: directly into nerdiness.  We’ve talked about future fashion in science fiction once before, but that was a look at overall fashion senses in different visions of the future.  This time, we want to take a look at one fashion future in particular, and the timing of this blog should give you a hint…

Scary leather is apparently IN for the summer of 2259.

Scary leather is apparently IN for the summer of 2259.

Yep, “Star Trek” fashion.  But not just any “Star Trek” fashion…  The Original Series was packed full of insane visions of future fashions for civilians, especially some amazingly crazy, but often incredibly sexy, women’s clothes.  But we’re interested in SUITS, something you don’t see much of in “Star Trek.”  And after the Original Series, fashion takes a decided backseat.  But one thing that always showed up, and changed a ridiculous amount of times, were the venerable Starfleet uniforms.

"Semper exploro" should maybe be "semper mutans vestem" in this case...

“Semper exploro” should maybe be “semper mutans vestem” in this case…

The Federation Starfleet goes through more changes of clothes than Carrie Bradshaw does in “Sex and the City.”  We could go on forever about all the variations in uniforms, but let’s take a look at the main highlights across the nearly 50-year franchise…

2135 – Late 2100s

Jumpsuits, jumpsuits, jumpsuits.  And zippers galore.  When “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001-2005) came on the air in 2001 as a prequel, the producers wanted a “Right Stuff” feel for the early pre-Federation Starfleet, so to NASA fatigues they went.  There were some clever uses of Windsor-knot ties in the Admiral uniforms, and these have the distinction of being the only “Star Trek” uniforms with pockets, absurdly enough!

Duty uniform, Command Division

Duty uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform

Flag Officer uniform

Dress uniform

Dress uniform

Early 2200s – 2240s

We love these.  They were deliberately designed for the prologue of the film “Star Trek” (2009) as an homage to the space uniforms of ’50s and early ’60s sci-fi, like “Forbidden Planet.”  The belt is a great touch.  But you’d better be in shape to wear one of these, judging by how form-fitting they are!

Duty uniform, Command Division

Duty uniform, Command Division

2240s – 2265

Oh, dear…  Bland colors, really obtuse zippers on the side of the neck, and very cheap-looking fabrics.  These early uniforms, made for the two “Star Trek” pilots in 1964 and 1965, were the bad side of that retro sci-fi look we liked.

Duty uniforms, Command Divison

Duty uniforms, Command Division

2265-2270

Now we’re talking…  Velour?  Check.  Bright, primary colors?  Check?  Bell-bottom pants?  check.  Insanely short skirts on the female uniform?  Check, and kind of ridiculous, but what the heck.  These are the classics, the uniforms from the Original Series (1966-1969) and the Animated Series (1972-1973).  Do they look a little like pajamas?  Sure.  But they’re functional, simple, get across rank, Division and assignment in an incredibly elegant, simple fashion (gold for Command, blue for Sciences, red for Operations, with a modified version of the U.S. Naval rank stripes on the sleeves, and different emblem shapes for assignments).  And how can you not love the high, black leather boots?

Male duty uniforms, all divisions, and CO's "wraparound" uniform

Male duty uniforms, all divisions, and CO’s “wraparound” uniform

Male and female duty uniforms, all divisions

Male and female duty uniforms, all divisions

2270-2278

Oh, no…  The dreaded “penguin grays.”  Sometime in the 1970s, everyone somehow forgot how colorful the Original Series was, and came up with these abominations for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979).  Bland, drab pastel colors, and that bizarre belt buckle (supposedly a “life support monitor,” for some reason)…  And SPANDEX EVERYWHERE.  Stephen Collins, who played Captain Willard Decker in the film, once said of these things that…  Well…  Let’s just say that sitting was a painful proposition for the male actors.  We like the Admiral uniform, though, and they get points for sheer variety of uniform types.

Duty uniforms

Duty uniforms

Flag officer uniform

Flag officer uniform

2278-2350

Our favorite of the bunch, these maroon, Teutonic beauties were made for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), in order to grab a hold of the color of the Original Series, as well as bring a certain “Horatio Hornblower” naval flair to the franchise.  These were easily the most well thought-out uniforms, with a detailed series of rank insignia, service pins, a huge array of Division colors (seen in the collar and insignia straps), special away team jackets, and separate designs for enlisted crew, medical staff, engineering staff, and more.  This was the first time in the franchise that Starfleet actually felt like a real, breathing military organization.  So popular were these, they were used again in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989), “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991), and the prologue of “Star Trek: Generations” (1994).  They also showed up in flashbacks throughout the series set in the late 24th century, featuring an alteration of the undershirt from a turtleneck to a crewneck somewhere around 2325.  Heck, they’re so good, even in the fictional “Star Trek” universe, they were in service for an insane 72 years!

Duty uniforms and Flag Officer uniform (foreground), multiple divisions

Duty uniforms and Flag Officer uniform (foreground, note the gold striping), multiple divisions

Duty officer uniform, open, Sciences Divison

Duty officer uniform, open, Sciences Division

Duty officer uniform, crewneck variation, Engineering Division

Duty officer uniform, crewneck variation, Engineering Division

Enlisted crew uniforms, Trainee and Security Divisons

Enlisted crew uniforms, Trainee and Security Divisions

2350-2365

You’d think they would have learned their lesson from the 1979 model…  Made for “Star Trek: the Next Generation” (1987-1994), they went back to the spandex, complete with an ugly zipper line in the front.  We like hiding the Starfleet emblem in the color pattern of the uniform, and the return to a three-color division system.  But otherwise, ugh.  And according to Patrick Stewart, they were murder on backs since they compressed everyone into them!  Don’t even get us started on the cheerleader-like “skant” uniform…

Duty uniforms, Operations Division

Duty uniforms, Operations Division

"Skant" variant uniforms, all divisions

“Skant” variant uniforms, all divisions

2365-2373

An improvement, to be sure!  This was an effort to take the earlier TNG uniforms, and make them look like actual uniforms, as well as make them a lot more comfortable to wear for the actors.  The male uniforms switched to wool, and the zipper was moved to the back.  No longer form-fitting, and with a rank collar, these were much more dignified.  The “casual” jumpsuit variant, on the other hand, introduced for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999), and also used in “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001), is dull, dull, dull.  These things had stirrups slung under the boots to keep them taut, leading “Voyager” actor Robert Beltran to remark, “they just make you sag…”  Not a good idea.

Duty uniforms, all divisions

Duty uniforms, all divisions

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Jumpsuit variation, all divisions

Jumpsuit variation, all divisions

2373-2390s

Still jumpsuit-like, but far more staid and uniform-like.  We approve.  The grey shoulders look good, as does the ribbed fabric.  Created for “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996), and also used in “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998), “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002), and the later seasons of DS9, there’s not much to say on this one, except that we love the Admiral uniform’s Federation Seal belt buckle.

Duty officer uniforms, all divisions

Duty officer uniforms, all divisions

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Dress uniform, Sciences Division

Dress uniform, Sciences Division

Alternate 2250s and 2260s

Made for the new “Star Trek” (2009) movie and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013), these are straight-up an updated version of the classic Original Series uniforms for the “Alternate Reality” the new movies take place in.  The fabrics look very high-quality and comfortable, and the inclusion of the Starfleet emblem in the fabric is a very nice touch.  Wonderfully retro and futuristic at the same time.  And the dress uniforms are great, straight out of a 23rd century West Point!

Male duty uniform, Sciences Division

Male duty uniform, Sciences Division

Female duty uniform, Operations Division

Female duty uniform, Operations Division

Flight jumpers

Flight jumpers

Dress uniforms

Dress uniforms

There’s more than these, of course, from the infamous evil “Mirror Universe” uniforms (bared midriffs galore), to uniforms from alternate realities and possible futures, but we’ve gone on long enough!  We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the fantastical, because next time we’re coming back to Earth.  See you then!

Advertisements

Fashion of the Future!

To say that styles and senses of fashion changes a lot over time is…  Putting it mildly.  You would be hard pressed to prove to someone who had never seen an American before that both of these groups of people’s clothes were produced by the same culture:

We hear the powdered wig look is IN this year.

Of course, we’re talking about a separation of over two centuries here.  Surely it’s not as dramatic a change over a shorter period of time…

Pictured: 1820?

Well, clearly one’s sartorial sensibilities changes incredibly quickly over the years, even year-to-year!  Some fashionistas pride themselves on guessing what the popular trends will be “next winter,” usually saying something as groundbreaking as, “blacks will be in.”  But what about the winter after that?  Or 10 winters from now?  Or 100?  There’s only one place where guessing the fashions of the future comes into play, and that’s in the world of science fiction.

Futuristic fashion is no new subject.  While the Pre-Industrial world was fairly static, the incredible pace of change the Industrial Revolution brought with it made it painfully obvious that nothing was sacred any longer.  Futurism suddenly became a very popular subject, and speculation started to run rampant.  And it was obvious that what was once considered impossible or improbable or just downright offensive would be perfectly common and acceptable very soon…

A women's swimsuit from the '20s, which would have likely elicited astonished, scandalized shrieks from lookers-on just ten years earlier.

Fashion was clearly going to be a part of this.

The earliest attempts at guessing the sartorial looks of the future were a bit…  Whimsical.

Vanity Fair in 1939, predicting fashions of the 21st Century. ...What? You don't have one of these in your wardrobe?

The world was changing so much and so quickly that it was assumed that we would completely reinvent the fashion wheel every few decades.  However, an examination of fashions of the past show a simple fact: while the aesthetics change a lot, the basic ideas behind the styles do not change quickly at all.  The modern suit has changed in very minor ways over the past 150 years, mostly in the fine details.  We didn’t suddenly stop wearing blazers and put on lamé jumpsuits.  Futurists have a nasty habit of dressing their denizens of the world of tomorrow in one of two ways: absurdly outlandishly or just like they dress now (but with more zippers, for some reason).

Science fiction’s Golden Age (1930s to the 1950s) stuck to the same outlandishness when it came to fashion in the future.  Silver spacesuits and giant shoulder pads were the norm.

"Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" really knew how to wear a... Um, suit?

The ’60s and ’70s went the other direction, for obvious reasons.  People were regularly dressing like they were from another planet in real life, so not much effort was required to make people in the future look unusual…

Quick, which of these is from "Star Trek," and which is from an actual '60s fashion show?

But a funny thing started to happen to science fiction around this time: people began to take it seriously.  Even while “Star Trek” was dressing alien girls in gogo boots, it was exploring the human condition in ways traditional television had never tried before.  Films like “2001” came out, and treated the future with dead seriousness, actually trying to accurately predict what the future would look like.  Some films, like “Logan’s Run,” remained outlandish, but that was usually a deliberate choice, not a misguided effort to guess the future.  The shift has since resulted in a plethora of films and television shows that offer intriguing visions of things we might actually wear in the future.

1982’s “Blade Runner” presented a dark, polluted and overpopulated vision of the near-future, where some Noir sensibilities had creeped back into fashion over the decades.

1986’s sequel to “Alien,” “Aliens,” borrowed from the nefarious Wall Street yuppie of the time to create the smug, besuited company men of the all-controlling Weyland-Yutani Corporation, while otherwise using a stark, cold, colorless and boring style for civilian and military costumes, reflecting a clearly Spartan, technocratic culture.

The ’90s television series “Babylon 5” very cleverly hinted at what was happening to its future version of Earth with sharply-lined, stand-offish, even Fascistic clothing designs, which makes perfect sense when the show’s human government degenerates into a Fascist dictatorship halfway through the series.

One of the more interesting recent examples is “The Fifth Element,” whose entire wardrobe was designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.  It takes place in 2263, and Gaultier designed an ENTIRE cultural fashion sense for this future version of humanity, which seems to portray a decidedly more sexually liberated culture that has become very fond of color over the centuries.

Really, we could go on forever.  Will any of these particular visions come to pass?  Unlikely.  But we’re looking forward to seeing whatever the sartorial future might hold.

We’ll leave you with just one more example, that will be relevant very soon.  The 2015 sequence in “Back to the Future, Part II.”  Anyone think we’ll be dressing like this in just three short years?