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Penta July 27 2010 05:23 PM

Uniform ideas for Trek
Okay, some brief background: This is something I've done up primarily as a proposal for a play-by-email RPG set post-Nemesis, post-Prime portion of STXI, in 2410. It's not intended to be new uniforms for TV or cinema; in fact I've rejected a number of TV/cinema conventions and possibly requirements of the mediums in question to create what I think are better uniforms. A play-by-email RPG has its own requirements, anyhow, because it's a text medium we're working with, except for the webpage.

There are no illustrations, because this was originally a draft of an email...And also because I can't draw. I can't draw a straight line or basic shapes, to say nothing of illustrating a uniform.

It's hard to dispute taste (the Romans remnd us that you can't, but I'm not so categorical), but if people want to draw up the uniforms as I describe them below, feel free to - I'd be appreciative of someone caring enough. Otherwise, I submit this for comment and constructive criticism. Think of them as in-universe uniforms, please, then apply them to your medium of choice. Also, because it's difficult to improve on a first draft, it mentions new uniforms on a website - yeah, so that nobody thinks I'm advertising covertly, I'm not going to include a link. If you'd like a link, PM me, please.:) Finally, from here on out, []'s indicate margin notes, stuff present in this TrekBBS posting but not in the email draft. Now, back to the email draft.


So the FC/DS9 uniforms have been in use for about 35-40 years ICly as of 2410. [FC was about 2371, no?]

Going by traditional military patterns since about WW1 (I kid you not, you can track it like clockwork), uniforms generally change every 20 to 30 years (ish; the Army Greens class B uniform lasted for 50+ years, but it was a definite outlier - and the USAF had uniforms that were born and died basically within the 1990s, another outlier), so it's past due that SF get all new uniforms if you look at it that way. [You don't want to introduce new uniforms too often, but it never hurts to go back and look at them again occasionally.]

This also neatly fits with Trek itself, uniforms seem to change every 20-30 years in canon, even more drastically than their RL counterparts. (Including doing something relatively insane - each era has different rank pins - one set for TNG-VOY, one for TOS, one for the TOS movies. By comparison, accounting for the addition and suppression of ranks, the US Army has used basically the same rank insignia since the First World War, earlier in some ranks.)

As such, some thoughts on what ideal uniforms would look like. Caveat being that I work and think in text, so my ideas may make no sense for drawing and stuff.


The duty uniforms on the website are not, in and of themselves, bad. They're actually quite good, as I've noted. But if you're going to rethink the uniforms from first principles, you may as well start there, because they're the uniforms everyone thinks of first. For later reference, these are also going to be called Class B uniforms. They're meant for shipboard/starbase usage, or office type environments in "shore postings" where you don't need to look as formal as the Class As. You use Class A (dress uniforms) for formal stuff basically, Class C uniforms for anything where you know you're likely to get dirty/sweaty, but these can still take a pounding.

The system of department colors is admirable and has much to recommend it. Among simmers, I think the basic red/blue/yellow configuration is burned into our brains - even if I wanted to change it, I don't think you could do so successfully. [Sim or Simulation is another term for RPG, given that we don't use dice mechanics.]

So instead you use the colors in new ways.

Details, because I can instinctively tell you how I'd create a good uniform but not necessarily how I'd describe/draw it:

Take a dark colored uniform - my preference would run for dark blues like NASA flight suits/current astronaut uniforms, for the historical associations with the NASA flight crews. Black would look like the Waffen SS (or so much worse) to many a wag, light blue is too bright and shows dirt/stains too easily. Gray...Well, yeah, no, let's not remind anyone of feldgrau or the Confederate Army, neh? White (or khaki) will be used in the class As. If you're thinking "What shade of blue?", I'll try to dig up a color example. [Wikipedia calls it a Royal Blue, but I don't know what to call it.]

Tunic/trousers arrangement. Not a jumpsuit. Absolutely, definitely not a jumpsuit for a whole bunch of reasons. They've some advantages, but are on the whole not the simplest type of garment to wear, while tunic/trousers are easy. Use boots for footwear - laced or otherwise is stylistic on a level even I won't get into, for boots or shoes. [I'm known - maybe feared if I'm honest - for going into extreme detail. However, I do have limits.]

Move rank insignia (more on that after I go through uniforms) from the collar (which works great for TV but would suck (as a practical matter) with a furry species like the Caitians or something, and makes rank hard to tell from a distance, especially if the wearer's jaw gives any sort of shadow) to the shoulders. Make shoulderboards/epaulettes in departmental colors.

Do this uniform up with lots and lots of pockets. Velcro has gotten bad reviews on the Army Combat Uniform (IRL) for not staying shut, but maybe they've improved on Velcro enough that you can use it. Hell, if they have replicators, why wouldn't they? [This is kinda random, what you'd fasten pockets with, but not totally random. Buttons-vs-Velcro (or other options) would have an impact on the appearance and wear of the uniform, after all.]

Fasten the uniform on the wearer with zippers if anything. Buttons are more traditional and cheaper, but could pose problems in microgravity. [Never ever forget that: A. Starfleet is in space; B. Artificial gravity can fail or be turned off; C. You still need to have stuff work if B happens!]

On the right breast of the uniform go nametags for all personnel, officers and enlisted. Not to sound preachy (because I know I probably mention nametags and pockets whenever uniforms come up and it probably sounds obsessive), but while there are good reasons why Trek uniforms in canon do not have nametags/namestrips, those reasons are solely an artifact of TV/movies. In novels, sims, etc, there are no good reasons why uniforms should not have nametags. If there are anywhere past even a dozen officers on a ship, it may get difficult to remember who's who by face alone - and in environments where crews mix, they become essential. [This RPG uses enlisted personnel, as suggested by O'Brien being a Chief Petty Officer. The duty uniforms I referred to above had nametags for enlisted only, despite there being 199 officers out of a crew of 500+, with the balance enlisted.]

You can also put other insignia and devices on the right breast, but the nametag is the major feature.

On the left breast goes the commbadge - which, actually, I would not redesign the look of for general issue. It's pretty iconic. [It is, if you stop to think about it. Most people look at the delta-badge design and go "Starfleet!" even if they don't really know Star Trek, and meanwhile those who do know Trek can probably tell when a character is supposed to be from just by looking at the commbadge.] Above the commbadge should go warfare pins/flight wings. [This sim uses fighter pilots, hence the mention of wings. I never do get into the idea of warfare pins for everyone else, but I suppose it's a possibility.]

Collar can hold additional insignia, such as denominational insignia for chaplains, or smaller wings for aviators, or so forth. [Chaplains - postulated as an idea on any number of sims, including the one this is written for. Even if it is, pardon the term, heresy to some.]

Trousers - here is where I get heretical. Because you can't always see the shoulders, piping along the legs in department colors.

Boots should not be bloused (have the pantlegs tucked into the boots) except for formal situations that for some reason don't call for Class As. [I don't even get into "should it be boots or shoes?" Boots, for uniforms not meant as strictly formal uniforms...And even for formal uniforms, it's worth considering.]

Headgear I've been split on. There are good reasons why not to have it (primarily they're big, blue and have antennae - the Andorians, but also other species), but many a uniform feels incomplete without it; it's difficult to imagine many a uniform IRL without its associated headgear, from police uniforms (think of the classic British bobby's helmet, or the classic hat worn by the NYPD) to virtually any military uniform. So my solution is to make it optional, but if it is worn, it's a traditional combination cap (as seen on RL Navy uniforms, with the gold leaf for instance), with a cap badge that...honestly, I'm going to let others design. [Headgear's never really been used in Trek. I dunno, there are times it works, times it feels like something's missing when there isn't any.]

I'd distinguish enlisted from officers by having enlisted use shoulder-sleeve insignia, while officers have theirs on shoulderboards/epaulettes (pick your favorite term), like RL navy uniforms. No real reason besides "It seems to work, anyway."


The idea behind these redesigned Class Bs is that they are (in no particular order): A. More practically designed; B. Harken back in various ways to wet navies and/or the early spaceflight organizations; C. Lend the air of authority a uniform should; D. Look like they're meant for a (para)military organization, with the need for rapid identification and the like. Notice that I did not include 'Look cool'. This isn't because I don't want all these to look cool! I do! But uniforms that meet criteria A-D will tend to look cool sort of naturally. [I've had extensive conversations about how, if you're designing uniforms for sci-fi, they ought to at least look cool. Coolness is defined differently by virtually everyone, I know that. But you should stretch for it. This paragraph is my "How to achieve a cool uniform without trying very hard".]


[A brief breather. There's (much) more, but I want to stop here so the post doesn't get too long.]

USS Excelsior July 27 2010 05:30 PM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
To have new uniforms in 2410 ignores the future uniforms shown in alternate future scenes and in one of them that uniform was seen in the 2420's.

As for new uniforms as long as they're not meaningless pyjama plain looking uniforms.

Penta July 27 2010 05:45 PM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
[Moving on while this is still in my head, the Class A uniforms.]


Next up, your Class A uniforms.

In real life there are a blizzard of variations that look different, but I'm going to presume only a few basic types per rank category of Enlisted (crewman recruit through PO1), Chiefs (CPO and up), Junior Officers (Ens-Lt), Mid-grade officers (Lt Cdr-Capt, or up to Fleet Captain if we use that rank), and Flag Officers (everybody above the mid-grade officers; admirals and commodores basically).

These I'm basically throwing most of Trek out the window stylistically, because Trek dress uniforms have generally sucked. There's just no two ways around it, they suck, especially from TNG forward - the FC and onward dress uniforms earn points for trying. but still don't pass. The moments you wear Class As are the moments outside of crisis where you most want to harken back to history, because history helps build esprit de corps and makes the solemn occasions that require dress uniforms more solemn. Trek dress uniforms rarely have tried for that. [Trek dress uniforms, even the best ones, have been "okay", especially for TV/cinema, but in need of improvement. When you aren't bound by the requirements of TV or cinema though...They're not really all that good, IMHO.]

It's no surprise what the base color of the Class A uniform should be, regardless of rank: White. Dress Whites are Naval. Dress Whites, frankly, look impressive (and blue as in the new US Army service dress or US Air Force uniforms, while it would also work, has historical and color associations to the Federal Blue of 19th century US Army uniforms, while White is more broadly naval). If not white (for instance if White is a dept color (if gray designates aerospace corps, what color is used for cadets?)), then Khaki, to harken back to the service khakis of World War II. [Aerospace Corps - fighters, bombers, combat transports, similar small craft that aren't shuttlecraft.]

Again, tunic and trousers arrangement. Because this is a space force, we should probably forgo buttons on the tunic, going for zippers instead. Just in case something shuts off the gravity during the ceremonies or something. Footwear should be dress shoes or dress boots, pick one for all personnel. If a species' feet really can't go into footwear comfortably (I can't think of any, but you never know), they can skip it, but again: What species would that even apply to? [I thought more on the question, and couldn't think of a Trek species that is bipedal where they didn't fit into humanoid footwear, but maybe they're out there. More broadly, I could see dress shoes on the Class As...But I think my preference would run towards boots. However, options are good.]

Shoulderboards of departmental color with rank insignia - sleeve stripes as classically used by navies for officers have some appeal, but are not as immediately readable as shoulder insignia, generally. Hence, we'll just go with shoulder insignia. *Perhaps* with a star on the shoulderboards, historically used to designate officers of the Unrestricted Line (AKA those eligible to be in command at sea), for those who are in one of the red, yellow, or gray departments (or at least not blue), who are in the departments which have the best claim to descent from the unrestricted line designation (science and medical/counseling officers would be staff corps officers, not line officers, in naval terms). Just to add an extra touch, although it could be left out if it'd make the shoulderboards look cluttered (or if the Marines use stars to designate general officers). [Yes, this RPG's universe uses Starfleet Marines. Otherwise, the star on the shoulderboards is a touch I wasn't too sure about, even without the Marine complication.]

Like on the Class Bs, enlisted insignia go on the shoulder sleeve, officers go on shoulderboards.

Not so many pockets here, it's a dress uniform and those don't generally need as many.

Nametags on the right breast of the tunic, not namestrips. Above can go personally-earned unit awards. [Namestrips are sewn or velcro'd on, Nametags are pinned on.]

Left breast has the commbadge. Wings/Warfare pins (if any) go above the commbadge. Ribbon rack (or ribbons and medals, or ribbons and miniature medals, depending on formality) goes below. Yes, ribbons, for all they're disfavored by sci-fi uniforms. In 20+ years of being a military geek, I've noticed something: It's possible, if you have the knowledge (and I admit I do not) to quickly read a servicemember's career in terms of achievements, training, deployments, etc. all from the ribbons on their chest. (I can't do that. I know a number of people who can.) This is an old and useful function of military uniforms...going all the way back to special togas worn by officers of the Roman Legions, if I recall right. [I'm a big fan of dress uniforms telling a story in part; ribbon bars do that expertly.]

One change I'm going to make purely out of personal taste: No neckties. None. Neckties are annoying and evil, says the guy who's never had the coordination to tie a knot, to say nothing of a tie. [Hey, if I'm designing, I get to abolish the necktie!]

Trousers should have departmental piping, or be straight white. Headgear should be combination cap for CPO and up through officers, or the classic sailor cap for enlisted, unless (say) your species can't wear headgear. [Headgear seems more necessary for a complete appearance with a dress uniform. It just does, I don't know why.]

If you want to go very traditional, include swords for Chiefs and officers outside the blue-colored departments. (The historical reason for not including the blues: They generally include chaplains, who traditionally are never armed, and they definitely include physicians, who shouldn't be using weapons. Everybody else traces their heritage to a combatant rating/career field.) That would probably be very controversial, but if it were to be included, it'd be something resurrected from the earliest days of Starfleet (or wet navies), so it need not mark any particular plot point. (On an OOC level, I mention swords because, lets face it, even in an age of phasers, Swords Make You Look Badass.:)) [Swords...Yeah, I included this purely to think about. Does the modern USN (or their British/Commonwealth cousins) even use swords on the dress uniform?]

Multiple possible variations under the Class A category:

Mess Dress - for formal banquets, black-tie or white-tie equivalent. Miniature medals and ribbons for black-tie, full-sized medals and ribbons for white-tie.

Formal Dress - for military ceremonies, funerals, etc. Full medals and ribbons.

Service Dress - For office work at places like Starfleet Headquarters, wherever the Federation President's White House analog is (Paris?), etc., positions interacting with the public (recruiters, for example), and similar. "Where you're expected to wear a suit" is a good example for civilians.

Yes, that's complex. Again, I'm working and thinking from text, where these can be described in a paragraph per uniform on the webpage, if you make the uniforms tab deprecate (or whatever the term is) into something like the crew manifest tab does with a page per category (so one page for Class A, one for Class B, one for Class C). Drawing it may all be too complex, I realize. [It's complex, but definitely simplified from RL Class A uniforms.]


[I originally had a section on Class C (utility/working uniforms), but that's very RPG-specific, and so I'm going to leave it out unless requested. Similar with the section on rank insignia, which boiled down to very technical musings, nothing useful. Instead, this will be where I stop. If you've read this far, you definitely have earned yourself a cookie.]

Penta July 27 2010 05:47 PM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek

USS Excelsior wrote: (Post 4273725)
To have new uniforms in 2410 ignores the future uniforms shown in alternate future scenes and in one of them that uniform was seen in the 2420's.

As for new uniforms as long as they're not meaningless pyjama plain looking uniforms.

Yeah, but that gets into the whole issue of timelines...Which is why I've never seen people use them for RPGs, never mind that they don't exactly look great.

USS Excelsior July 28 2010 04:52 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
Maybe future communicators can also work as personal transporters too.

SVD July 28 2010 06:31 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
Question: what makes buttons and snaps not function in zero gravity and not fit fopr space travel?

jamestyler July 28 2010 02:53 PM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
Admirable idea, and I' curious to how it turns out. Will you do (or find someone) to make these into graphics?

I only ask as I was writing something gfor my own amusement (500+ pages of my own amusement, which isn't healthy) and when I write something, it usually comes with sketches. I took it a step further and not only sketched out, but made uniforms based on ideas I had to see how they'd look.

Some base idea's were quite similar, but we're gong in different directions for th end result. So... my curiosity is getting the better of me ;)

Penta July 28 2010 03:45 PM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
sacmtovalleyman: This was originally written after the dog woke me up at 5:30 in the morning...I admit some things I have no idea why they're there, and my explanation for buttons being bad is one of them.

Jamestyler: I can't draw. Even sketches. I lack the hand-eye coordination for anything beyond stick figures. And no money to commission drawings. So, no drawings, unless someone is willing to do them for free.

Herkimer Jitty July 29 2010 05:14 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
Why do the the Class As have to hark back to Earth uniforms?

Azetbur was right, the Federation is a humans-only club.

Anyways, this reminds me of something I did way back in 08' (Holy toledo, it's been that long?)


Penta July 29 2010 05:17 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
Because in any RPG, your players are humans. The characters may be of whatever species, but the players are humans.

Herkimer Jitty July 29 2010 05:25 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
That may be the case, but it seems odd, in my opinion.

I mean... it's the Federation Starfleet. It has a shared heritage... not a singular one.

But, hey man, that's just like my opinion, or whatever.

Sci July 29 2010 05:34 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek

Penta wrote: (Post 4273757)
One change I'm going to make purely out of personal taste: No neckties. None. Neckties are annoying and evil, says the guy who's never had the coordination to tie a knot, to say nothing of a tie. [Hey, if I'm designing, I get to abolish the necktie!]

I love neckties! Neckties are cool. I often make it a point to try to wear neckties with T-shirts and turtlenecks whenever possible, not just suits. :bolian:

Herkimer Jitty July 29 2010 05:42 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek
For some reason, cute girls with neckties really get my warp drive going.

jamestyler July 29 2010 11:43 AM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek

Penta wrote: (Post 4275926)
Jamestyler: I can't draw. Even sketches. I lack the hand-eye coordination for anything beyond stick figures. And no money to commission drawings. So, no drawings, unless someone is willing to do them for free.

I would offer - but I'm awful at drawing as it is and would likely be worse with someone elses designs :confused:

Penta July 29 2010 05:08 PM

Re: Uniform ideas for Trek

Sci wrote: (Post 4278048)

Penta wrote: (Post 4273757)
One change I'm going to make purely out of personal taste: No neckties. None. Neckties are annoying and evil, says the guy who's never had the coordination to tie a knot, to say nothing of a tie. [Hey, if I'm designing, I get to abolish the necktie!]

I love neckties! Neckties are cool. I often make it a point to try to wear neckties with T-shirts and turtlenecks whenever possible, not just suits. :bolian:

You're just strange, Sci. Like I said, I can't tie a tie IRL, so that's most of my antipathy.

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