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Old July 27 2010, 04:23 PM   #1
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.]
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