There are few things as iconic in the Star Trek franchise as its uniforms. Since the bright gold, red, and blue hues boldly burst onto television sets in 1966, they've been indelibly linked to its storylines of adventure and exploration in outer space. The uniforms have changed greatly since the Star Trek Original Series, sometimes becoming more functional, sometimes more flattering, and sometimes more ugly as more movies and more television shows are released.
With so many different uniform options, how can we decide which ones are the best? Sometimes their variations are extreme, like going from spandex single piece jumpsuits to sophisticated separates, or from bright colors to muted monochromatic shades, but all of them reflect the characters that wear them and the time period they wear them in. We've stuck to the main uniforms from all the series so far and excluded variants worn only a handful of times. Here are the ten best uniforms in Starfleet, ranked. Engage!
10 Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Sometimes the leap to the big screen for a television series means a bigger budget, and with that budget comes bigger special effects, better locations, and improved costumes. And sometimes it results in the uniforms from the first Star Trek motion picture, featuring the cast of the Original Series in some of the strangest uniforms ever to appear in Starfleet.
The popping hues of blue, red, and yellow of the original Starfleet uniforms were replaced by an incredibly neutral color palette of beige, brown, and cream, ensuring that no one stands out according to rank, department, or station. The bell bottoms and Doc McCoy’s chest hair really root these uniforms in the 70s.
9 The Next Generation
The uniforms were basically one spandex sheath, which often seemed too tight for its wearers, causing them to hunch and generally look uncomfortable, and the wide neckline didn’t help. While they may have looked more “futuristic” than the original uniforms, once they became separates, and made from different fabrics, they looked a lot better.
For the time period, they’re supposed to be from, the uniforms from Enterprise aren’t completely horrible. They’re functional and act as a utilitarian amalgamation of the flight suits modern astronauts wear combined with early Starfleet uniform concepts. Since Enterprise was set before the Original Series, they needed to show the progressive nature of Starfleet ensembles.
The problems with the Enterprise uniforms are confined to the fact that they’re fairly basic looking, that the lines located at the shoulders denote the division of departments, and that the colors follow typical Starfleet designations but are difficult to ascertain at a glance. Nothing about them screams “Star Trek” the way the other iconic suits do.
7 Star Trek: Discovery
Set a decade before Captain Kirk and Co. embark on their five-year mission, and a century after Enterprise, the uniforms of Star Trek: Discovery try to combine the aesthetic and color palette of both series to varying degrees of success. They adopt the blue of the flight suits worn by the crew in Enterprise, but in two pieces with a lot more metallic piping.
Gone are the iconic division colors boldly displayed on the shirts worn in the Original Series, replaced with more subdued paneling on the sides of the uniforms. They don’t look terrible, but they do inject some inconsistencies for the timeline, given what Captain Pike wears in Season 2, and given what Kirk wore in the “The Cage” episode of the Original Series.
6 The Original Series
Who can deny the impact of the uniforms worn in the Original Series? Sure, they were just black pants and a black top with a colored v-neck sweater worn over the top, but what they lacked in fine detail they made up for in bold simplicity. Starfleet rank, division, and designation were all plainly displayed, and apart from the female members of the crew having to wear mini-skirts, everyone looked equally resplendent... or corny, depending on your point of view.
The series took some liberties with its uniforms over the years—especially with Kirk’s variants—but consistently the command division always wore gold, engineering and security personnel wore red, and science and medical wore blue.
5 Star Trek Reboot Movies (Kelvin Timeline)
The direction of the uniforms in the Star Trek films by J. J. Abrams, also known to follow the Kelvin timeline, seems to be a natural progression of the iconic uniforms from the Original Series. They have the same colors for the various crew designations (blue, red, gold), with accompanying black pants and shoes.
The biggest difference in the uniforms is that the reboot versions are slightly textured and have the option for short sleeves where appropriate. They also have a dress variant which, when added with the daily wear options, makes for an all-around smart looking assortment of uniforms that combine the iconic look worn by Captain Kirk and Co. in the 60s with an upgraded aesthetic.
4 Star Trek II-VI
After the disastrous beige onslaught that was the uniforms of the first Star Trek film, the subsequent movies featured a much more formalized version comprised of a red single-breasted jacket—which Kirk tended to wear open—with white collars/braiding, a belt, and black pants.
These uniforms were bold, with a far more militarized design than any before or since. Plus, they featured in The Wrath of Khan, a film beloved by Trekkies the world over. Even though they didn’t help in distinguishing the crew divisions very well, they gave an elevated look to a maturing crew. They occasionally popped up in the occasional Next Generation episode, such as the one featuring Scotty, to much fanfare.
3 First Contact/Late DS9
One of the biggest and most successful departures from the Star Trek uniforms introduced in Next Generation came in First Contact, which also had some crossover in the last season of Deep Space Nine, presumably introduced by Worf on his journey back to the station, and to some extent Voyager. The uniforms were used in all subsequent films.
With their monochromatic aesthetic, the division of designations was no longer the main focus, conveyed instead by the undershirts worn beneath uniforms that had grey shoulders and black bottoms. While Trekkies may have still wanted more visible color in their uniforms, this was a way to have functionality without sacrificing style and character.
2 Early DS9/Voyager
The early seasons of Deep Space Nine and Voyager gave us a uniform that was the inverted version of the one seen in Next Generation. Instead of black shoulders and black bottoms sandwiching a designation color on the torso, the shoulders became the way to highlight division colors for the crew. They seemed a natural progression from the changes TNG made to the uniforms of the Original Series which favored full color.
With these uniforms, the colors are still prominent, but they aren’t overbearing. The black bottoms give a sophisticated look, and the single open neck jumpsuit design creates a streamlined aesthetic. Voyager, lost in the Delta Quadrant, with a crew in some of the best uniforms in Starfleet.
1 Next Generation Seasons 3 - 7
The Starfleet uniforms from Next Generation Seasons 3-7 are some of the classiest, functional, and flattering uniforms of the entire franchise. Their basic composition was black shoulders with either red, blue, or gold designation colors on their torso, matched to black bottoms that reached a triangular angle at the waist.
The strange wide neck of the earlier seasons was replaced with a formal collar, and the unflattering spandex sheath replaced by a looser, more form-skimming fabric. They had the bold colors of the Original Series, married to a more futuristic and sophisticated design aesthetic to create the ultimate Starfleet uniform.