Screen Rant

Star trek’s starfleet uniform colors: what they mean & why they changed.

From the 22nd century, a gold Starfleet uniform meant command, until it switched from gold to red between Star Trek: TOS and TNG - why the change?

  • Star Trek's uniform colors have changed over the years to reflect different meanings and visions of the franchise's costume designers.
  • In the original series, blue represented medical and science divisions, gold denoted command positions, and red was worn by engineering, security, and communications divisions.
  • The switch from red to gold uniforms in the 24th century was likely a decision made by Starfleet to move away from the negative association with red uniforms ("redshirt" deaths).

Star Trek 's iconic uniforms have through a variety of changes in color designation and design in the past 57 years for a variety of reasons. In Star Trek: The Original Series ' unaired pilot, there were only two colors - blue for the science and medical divisions and gold for everybody else. Due to the costs involved in mounting a second pilot for the network, the gold uniforms were retained for TOS ' successful pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". After that Star Trek embraced the gold, blue, and red uniforms that were an integral part of TOS ' iconic visual style between 1966 and 1969.

The meaning of gold, red and blue have changed over the years and so too has the way that those colors are displayed on the uniform. This is understandable for a franchise that has been running for 57 years. Each new costume designer will have their own vision for how they think Star Trek 's uniforms will look, and which characters would best suit which color. For example, Robert Blackman adapted original Starfleet uniform designer William Ware Theiss' Star Trek: The Next Generation uniforms for the 90s Trek shows and subsequent movies. Although he redesigned the outfits, Blackman honored the new color meanings decided upon by Theiss.

What Star Trek’s Uniform Colors Mean

In the entire history of Star Trek , blue has always denoted that the officer wearing the uniform is attached to Starfleet's medical or scientific divisions. During the 23rd century, the gold uniform denoted command positions and were also worn by Star Trek 's ace helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) and navigator Lt. Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig). The red shirts were worn by the engineering, security and communications divisions. The red shirts also had an unfortunate association with the countless members of Starfleet away teams that were killed in the line of duty. Meanwhile, Kirk's green uniform was usually reserved for diplomatic functions.

By the 24th century there had been a switch around of Starfleet uniform colors and their relevant associations. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) wore a red uniform throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation , rather than a gold one, so too did his Number One, Commander William T Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Meanwhile, the gold uniforms were worn by everybody with an operational role from security down to engineering, with occasional Enterprise-D helmsmen wearing red uniforms, like Lt. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) in TNG season 1.

Why Star Trek’s Uniform Colors Changed

There's never been an in-universe explanation for the red and gold switch between Star Trek 's 23rd and 24th centuries. It can easily be explained by an operational decision made by Starfleet's wardrobe department to break away from the problematic " redshirt " association. Similarly, the more sober gray uniforms in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the Star Trek: The Next Generation uniforms could have been designed to reflect the war footing that Starfleet had found itself on while in conflict with the Dominion.

The real-life explanation for why Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes weren't dressed in gold is more interesting, however. There are apocryphal stories that Stewart and Frakes didn't look as commanding in the gold uniforms designed by original Star Trek: TNG costume designer William Ware Theiss. It's certainly true that the dark red uniforms worn by Captain Picard and Commander Riker pop better on screen than the gold uniforms worn by the ops team. More interesting still, Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) was supposed to be in science division blue, but it was a bad color for his pallid android skin tone.

Starfleet Uniform Variants In Star Trek

Interestingly, Scott Bakula's Star Trek: Enterprise went back to the color distinctions from Star Trek: The Original Series. Each of the blue flight suits had colored piping around the shoulders reflecting yellow for command and red for operations. The only notable difference was that Lt. Hoshi Sato (Linda Park) had the blue piping of the science division on her uniform to reflect her role as the Enterprise NX-01's linguist and translator. It's thanks to Hoshi's scientific research into alien languages that Lt Nyota Uhura (NIchelle Nichols) can maintain hailing frequencies in her operational position aboard the USS Enterprise.

Other notable uniform variants are the similarly blue uniforms from Star Trek: Discovery which had gold or silver cuffs and side panels for command and operations, respectively. The iconic crimson movie costumes had different colored turtleneck sweaters under the tunics, presumably to denote crew role. Prior to those iconic crimson outfits were the poorly received monochrome uniforms designed for Star Trek: The Motion Picture , which were sometimes referred to as space pajamas. The longer that the franchise continues into the future, the more likely it is that Starfleet uniforms will continue to adapt and change. However, Star Trek: Discovery 's far future uniforms prove that Star Trek 's command red is very much in style almost a millennium after it was first introduced.

What Star Trek Uniform Colors Mean

Star Trek's uniforms have undergone a staggering variety of changes over the years. The famous tricolor coding, however, has remained intact. Mostly.

From its earliest incarnation, Star Trek has used its distinctive uniforms to help stand apart from other science fiction epics. Over time, they became as important to the franchise as the phasers and transporters: particularly the unique "tricolor" patterns of red, blue and yellow. Every series has its own version, and the specific designs vary as a way of making each series distinctive.

The colors themselves have very specific meanings, though that has shifted from show to show and from design to design. Most of the time, it sticks to the basic parameters set by The Original Series , with the colors designating different departments comprising Starfleet. But a few big changes have come and gone as the franchise has evolved over the years.

RELATED: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Season Finale Is a Near Perfect Cliffhanger

The Original Series' Uniforms Helped Star Trek 'Pop'

The two Star Trek pilots -- "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" -- established the basics of Star Trek 's uniform colors. But the tones were muted and understated, and the rapid expansion of color TV in the 1960s demanded something that popped. The Original Series brightened the colors while formally distinguishing what each one meant: red for security and engineering departments, yellow for command and flight control, and blue for science and medical. The Kelvinverse reboot movies starring Chris Pine use the same color coding for their redesigned variants of the classic uniforms.

William Shatner also wore a wraparound green tunic on occasion, as well as a formal uniform composed of green fabric. (The color disparity resulted from lighting and film stock at the time, which made the green fabric look yellow.) Other departments wore color-coded formal uniforms of the same cut. In addition, enlisted crewmen wore coveralls loosely coded to the department where they worked, and variations such as red workout uniforms would crop up as well. No special significance was attributed to their colors.

The Movies Made Radical Changes to the Star Trek Uniforms

The first Star Trek movie opened over a decade after The Original Series ended, and changing times meant a change in the look. The tricolors went out the window starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in favor of muted, neutral tones such as brown, beige, and sky blue. No particular significance was connected to specific colors. Instead, the Star Trek symbol on the uniform's left breast contained a color circle behind the delta, coded to match the wearer's department.

Those uniforms proved too wishy-washy and prompted another redesign. The "monster maroons" made their debut in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan , patterned after classic naval uniforms of the 19th century. Every officer's outer tunic was the same deep red, with the color of the shirt below indicating department and duty. White was for command, light green for medical, gold for engineering, dark green for security, dark blue for operations, gray for science, communications, and navigation, and red for NCOs and cadets. Though radically different, the uniforms made for a winning look and remained with the original crew throughout their movie adventures.

RELATED: Strange New Worlds Finally Lets Its Most Underused Character Shine

The Next Generation Brought Back the Tricolors With a Twist

Star Trek: The Next Generation took the opportunity to return to the tricolors of The Original Series , though the cut and pattern underwent a big change. That cemented the red, blue, and yellow as a definitive part of Star Trek: so much so that the franchise's introduction now features the tricolors streaming behind the starships onscreen.

As with The Original Series , the colors each denoted different departments on a starship, with one key change: red now indicated command and helm, with yellow for security and engineering. (Science and medical stayed blue.) That came partially as an attempt to reverse the infamous "red shirt" stigma, but it also had a very practical purpose: stars Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes looked much sharper in red than yellow.

Deep Space Nine and Voyager Gave the Design a 'Fatigues' Look

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine arrived toward the end of The Next Generation 's run and brought a variation to the now-established uniforms. The tricolors moved to the top of the outfit, leaving everything black below the shoulders and a standard gray shirt underneath. That helped the show distinguish itself visually from its predecessor. The new uniforms were intended to serve as Starfleet's "fatigues," workaday outfits for the more rough-and-tumble world of Deep Space Nine . Star Trek: Voyager used the same design throughout its run, and it also appeared in Star Trek: Generations .

Star Trek: First Contact delivered yet another change, with the gray moving to the outer garment and the undershirt now colored to denote department. Deep Space Nine adopted this design during its later seasons, though Voyager -- trapped in the Delta Quadrant -- pointedly did not. In every case, the colors never changed their meaning, denoting the same departments that they did in The Next Generation.

Star Trek: Enterprise Altered the Look Yet Again

The renaissance that started with The Next Generation concluded with Star Trek: Enterprise : a prequel covering the early days of humanity's interstellar exploration and the founding of the Federation. The officers donned uniform blue coveralls reminiscent of submarine crews. Colored piping indicated the crew member's department: matching the Next Generation 's coding for red, blue and yellow.

In addition to distinguishing Enterprise 's crew from that of other shows, the redesign was intended to connect the "classic" Star Trek uniforms to the fashions and patterns of the modern world. It also made a soft nod to the monster maroons of the Star Trek movies. More importantly, it indicated the political differences between the human fleet and future allies like the Vulcans who had not yet joined Starfleet. The ship's two alien members -- T'Pol and Dr. Phlox -- are markedly not in uniform.

Discovery Bridged the Gap Between Enterprise and TOS

When Star Trek: Discovery re-launched the franchise in 2017, it faced a conundrum for its uniforms. The show was set between the "blue coveralls" era of Star Trek: Enterprise and the classic look of The Original Series (and eventually Star Trek: Strange New Worlds ). The first two seasons found Starfleet still wearing blue, though they resembled more formal military uniforms than the coveralls of Enterprise . Metallic piping on the sides denoted department: gold for command and helm, silver for sciences and medical, and copper for engineering and security.

In Season 3, the crew of the Discovery shot forward to the 32nd century, where they assisted in rebuilding a shattered Federation. That resulted in another series of redesigns, incorporating new variations of the tricolor patterns. Red indicated command, gold was for operations (including helm), blue for sciences, and white for medical.

RELATED: Picard's Enterprise-G Uses 'Old' Designs to Make Star Trek Feel 'New'

Picard, Lower Decks, and Prodigy Continued the Tricolor Tradition

The remaining shows in the latter-day Star Trek renaissance -- Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy -- have adopted the same design philosophy as The Next Generation era. Each series features unique uniform designs patterned around the tricolor formula to denote department. Every series' look is unique, but the specific use of color coding remains true to the era in the timeline: matching the specific departments as used in The Next Generation .

In addition, Star Trek: Prodigy introduced cadet uniforms for its young crew. They were black and gray, without any specific color coding. It helped distinguish the crew from Admiral Janeway's crew, who spent most of the first season in pursuit of them and who wore variations of The Next Generation- era uniforms.

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A guide to the different uniform colors the characters wear in ‘star trek’, i don't think i want a red shirt..

star trek tng

Star Trek: The Original Series premiered in 1966. And in the year 2022, the franchise doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon. Currently, there are several ongoing television series with a new film and series recently announced.

I was a toddler when Star Trek: The Next Generation came out in 1987, making Picard’s Enterprise crew one of my earliest memories. I still love the series (as I sip out of my Chateau Picard wine tumbler). But the meaning of their uniform shirts eluded me for the longest time. Honestly, I thought you just picked your favorite color outfit when you joined a crew. After the “redshirt” trope (where a redshirt team member was more likely to die on a Star Trek away mission) became known, I thought there might be more to it. Apparently, there is a whole color-coded system in place. And the meaning of the colors changed slightly through the various shows.

The Original Series

For the original Star Trek series and the Enterprise prequel that came later, the uniform color breakdowns are:

Red – Engineering, Security, and Communications

Blue – Science and Medical Staff

Gold – Command Staff

Green – Command Staff Formal

The original series is where the redshirt trope comes from. It always seemed like if a random character in a red shirt went on an away mission, then they were not making it back to the ship. The largest group of people wore red uniform shirts, which would make it more likely that a person who died or got injured would have a red shirt on.

The Next Generation

When The Next Generation arrived, the series changed several things from the original, including the uniform colors:

Red – Command Staff

Gold – Operations and Security Staff

TNG , more so than the original series, set the template for most future shows. Even though the uniform styles changed, the color classifications stayed the same in Deep Space Nine , Voyager , Discovery , Picard , and the animated show Below Decks .

However, every season contained at least one character who wore their own take on the uniform that did not line up with the standard Starfleet look. Examples being: Deanna Troi from TNG (to relate to her patients better), Odo and Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine (because of their connection to the Bajoran military), and Seven of Nine in Voyager (because of her cyborg physiology).

Now that we are clear on which uniform color means what, which color would you pick?

(feature image: Paramount)

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star trek blue uniform meaning

D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.

What Do the Different Uniform Colors Mean on ‘Star Trek’?

By jason serafino | sep 8, 2016 | updated: mar 30, 2023, 3:23 pm edt.

The distinct colors have meaning.

Gene Roddenberry may have dreamed of a perfect future when he created Star Trek , but parts of his vision were firmly rooted in the real world, specifically in the physical makeup of the crew of the Enterprise itself.

Roddenberry, along with the show’s producers, decided to take numerous cues from the United States Navy when creating the official ranks on the show, including a captain overseeing a crew made up of a commander, a handful of lieutenant commanders, lieutenants, and several subordinate roles. But it’s the different colors of the Starfleet uniforms that really tell the story of how the Enterprise operates.

Fans know the basics: an array of blue, red, and gold shirts line the bridge of the ship every episode. Those colors weren’t just randomly picked for the sake of diversity, though. They actually correspond to the ship’s various service roles . The gold shirts are worn by the command division, which includes Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Sulu, and Pavel Chekov. Red uniforms belong to the engineering/communications division, including chief engineer Scotty and communications officer Uhura. The blue shirts are worn by the science/medical staff, including McCoy and Spock .

As with everything in Star Trek , though, it’s a lot more complicated than all of that. In addition to the red shirts belonging to engineers and communications personnel, they are also assigned to the security division. What’s the purpose of the security division on the Enterprise ? Well, they’re usually the supporting characters who are immediately killed whenever the crew is confronted by a new enemy. This is something of a running gag for fans of the franchise, as whenever one of the “Red Shirts” is seen on screen, you know they’re not long for this world .

Also, those gold shirts worn by Kirk and crew might not have been so gold after all. According to an interview with Star Trek ’s costume designer, William Theiss, the idea was for the show’s uniforms to be red, blue, and green. In fact, on the set, Kirk’s outfit certainly looked to be an avocado (or lime) green, but the end result was a little different when the studio lights finally hit the uniform.

“It was one of those film stock things,” Theiss said, “it photographed one way—burnt orange or a gold. But in reality was another; the command shirts were definitely green.”

This might come as a surprise to Trek fans until you remember that Kirk actually did wear green on a few occasions, including the times he was in formal dress and his seldom-seen alternate green get-up, seen in the clip below.

These alternate uniforms were all the exact shade of green Theiss describes, but they were made from a different material than the standard Enterprise shirts and apparently had no issue retaining their natural color scheme when lit on set. The gold shade may have been a production mishap, but the color has since entered the Trek canon as the official hue of Kirk and his command staff. So, in the Star Trek universe, Kirk wears gold; in the real world, though, the bridge of the Enterprise was designed with a completely different color palette in mind.

It gets more confusing when you look at the later Trek series, like The Next Generation , which had the command staff in red and operations in yellow—basically the reverse of the original series. Then, of course, the movies switched costumes and colors with nearly every entry, including the powder blue monstrosities worn in Star Trek: The Motion Picture .

Roddenberry’s eye for detail was unique for sci-fi TV at the time, and everything on the Enterprise had a specific purpose. Despite some production fumbles, ill-fated redesigns, and inconsistencies later on, the colors that make up Starfleet’s uniforms tell a story that many viewers probably never even noticed.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.

Star Trek: What Ranks Do Each Color Shirt Represent?

It's time to take a deeper dive into the importance of Starfleet fashion, and how it has changed over the years.

Over the many years of thriving Star Trek TV shows and movies, there has always been special attention shown towards the overall design of the science fiction genre defining franchise. Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator, even had a specific set of design rules for what the Federation ships were supposed to look like , ensuring that they would be instantly recognizable as Federation just from a quick glance. The importance of recognizable themes stayed strong, from the fairly logical design of the warp and transporter technology , all the way to what is potentially the most important visual aspect of the show: the costumes.

While there have been various changes made over the years (although, not as drastic a change as that of Klingon appearances ), the Starfleet uniforms stay fairly similar. With the expedition of The Original Series, the colors used by the officers have stayed fairly consistent, each representing a different job aboard the ship. So what exactly do these colors mean?

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One of the most recognizable to anyone who is away from the age-old Star Trek joke about the poor officers who are donned in red. However, the idea that wearing a red shirt in the franchise is a death sentence is not only a myth , but is something that changed drastically after the official color changes occurred at the start of The Next Generation. In The Original Series, the red uniform was the most used aboard the ship, and was worn by those in engineering, security, and communications. The most notable of red wearing characters was chief engineer Scotty, and the groundbreaking Uhura (played by the late Nichelle Nichols ).

After the uniform change made in TNG, the red shifted meaning. It was now reserved for the command staff, including Captains such as Picard, Janeway, and the morally questionable Sisko , as well as high ranking officers such as commander Riker, who was second in command during the TNG days. This change was present until the Kelvin timeline films and the more recent Strange New Worlds series, which both reverted to The Original Series color designations due to their timelines coinciding.

The blue uniform color was the one designation not to change after the great uniform change of 1987 (when the pilot episode of TNG came out). The blue uniform was for the science and medical staff. It was worn by officers such as the incredibly iconic lieutenant Spock from The Original Series , the ships' science officer, as well as the early Dr Julian Bashir on board the space station in Deep Space 9 , although this was later changed to green.

Gold, or yellow depending on the desired grandness, was the color of command officers during The Original Series as well as Strange New Worlds, and the Kelvin timeline films . Kirk was most notable for wearing this, a bright yellow uniform which was actually, due to the late 60s limitations for color film, slightly green in real life. This was because the yellow didn't record well, so the yellow-green had to be made and worn to make it look golden yellow on screen. Gold was also reserved for just the captain on board the ship, rather than those in command positions. This explains why Kirk wore gold, and Spock, his second in command, did not.

Yellow/gold then shifted in during TNG onwards to represent the operations and security staff, as well as engendering. The disability-positive representing Geordi LaForge is most notable for wearing this color for this time, being chief start of engineering.

The uniforms that were actually supposed to be green, rather than the greenish yellow, were rarely seen during The Original Series and were the formal attire for command staff. Kirk is seen wearing the color on multiple occasions. During TNG, the green was replaced by the longer dress robe-like red uniforms often donned by Picard. Green also replaced some medical officers during the Voyager and DS9 series, which characters such as the Holographic doctor donning the jungle green uniform. This change, despite being fairly obvious to some, often goes unnoticed with casual fans, as it is much less dramatic than the red and gold color switch.

There are plenty of other variations on the classic Starfleet uniform, which has gone through multiple iterations over the years. They range from the brightly colored uniforms found within The Original Series and the early days of TNG to the more dulled down, subtly dark variations of the TNG movies and the much grittier DS9. However, they have always kept a small pop of color in there to help audiences instantly know what this character's role aboard the ship was. Even Enterprise , which was set before the foundation of the Federation, used color as a visual indicator of role, following very subtly the Original Series color coding, with the small shoulder rectangles of color on their otherwise fairly plain and similar uniforms.

MORE: Star Trek: The Strange Rules Of Transporter Immortality

‘Star Trek’ uniform colors, explained

Ever wondered what those iconic Starfleet uniform colors mean, and why wearing red is a really bad idea?

star trek blue uniform meaning

Everyone knows the iconic Star Trek uniforms. The brightly-colored outfits amazed viewers seeing color TV for the first time in the 1960s and helped to define the unique aesthetic style of the Star Trek universe, becoming an instantly recognizable feature of the shows.

The 23rd Century

star trek blue uniform meaning

In The Original Series , there were three uniform colors . Each color represented a certain duty division aboard a starship or station. Gold, as worn by Kirk and Sulu, denoted the command division of Starfleet, which included most ranking officers and administrative personnel. Blue, as worn by Spock and McCoy, denoted the sciences division. This included researchers and medical staff. Red, as worn by Uhura and Scotty, denoted the operations division which covered a wide range of specializations such as engineering and security. Each color choice was bold and striking, meaning viewers could immediately tell what position any new character had in Starfleet.

The Original Series gave rise to the infamous phenomenon of “redshirts.” Security officers wore red shirts and would regularly put themselves in harm’s way. Enterprise crew clad in red were massively more likely to be killed than their counterparts in the other divisions. A redshirt’s life could be painful and short — they would be blown up by alien weaponry, plunge head-first into bottomless chasms, or even have all their red blood cells surgically removed by malevolent cloud creatures. Around 26 officers in red uniforms died during the course of the series’ three-year run. In the season two episode “ The Apple ,” four unfortunate redshirts are killed navigating a jungle deathtrap, being struck by lightning, shot by plants, and falling onto landmines. Even by the cruel standards of the show, this ranks as a bloodbath.

Strange New Worlds — set very shortly before The Original Series — keeps the same uniform colors, but adds a new one. A white uniform denotes someone working as a member of medical staff, but these were seemingly phased out in favor of standard blue uniforms by the time of The Original Series .

Star Trek: Discovery , a prequel series set a little further prior to The Original Series , introduced a new color-coding system. All uniforms were made of dark blue fabric, with division denoted by metallic stripes on the shoulders. These stripes were gold (command), silver (sciences), and copper (operations). These clothes were super-sleek but looked too much like Navy uniforms, and it could be hard to tell at a glance who was part of what division.

The 24th Century

star trek blue uniform meaning

By The Next Generation , the uniform colors had changed . While blue still denoted science and medical, the meanings of red and gold were inverted. No reason was ever given in-universe for this, but the real-world explanation is that Next Generation actors looked better in certain colors — Brent Spiner as Data, for example, was deemed to look far better in gold than in red or blue. The change also came partly as a result of the Star Trek movies of the 1980s, where all Starfleet personnel were shown to wear red uniforms (the fabric for the costumes took better to red dye). Kirk had been seen wearing red for the movies, so it was felt that audiences would come to associate red with command.

Whatever the century, series, or ship, Star Trek just wouldn’t be the same without everyone clad in brightly colored pajamas. Too many modern science fiction shows have their actors wear drab, dark, soulless uniforms. Strange New World s is proudly carrying on the multi-colored tradition set way back in 1966.

Matthew Doherty

About the author

Matthew doherty.

Matthew Doherty is a writer at We Got This Covered. His work has also appeared on WorthPoint and The Collector. Matthew loves to write about anything TV and movie related, but has an obsession for all things Star Trek. In his spare time, he is writing a science fiction novel that will be finished at some point in the 22nd Century.

Read more stories from Matthew Doherty

What Do The Star Trek Uniform Colors Mean & Why Are They So Important?

Star Trek cast posing in their red uniforms

"Star Trek" is definitely a technicolor wonderland of a show. That sense of eye-catching brilliance trickles down from the background scenery to the props used by each cast member, all the way to the uniforms the show's central crew wears as a part of their duties. 

It's easy to notice that the crew of the Starship Enterprise wear tunics in varying shades. Those colors are quite important — they denote which job class each crew member belongs to. Those classes were devised by series creator Gene Roddenberry and costume designer William Ware Theiss, and are intended to resemble the classifications used by the United States Military on noise-heavy aircraft carriers. 

Sometimes there are differences allowed for dress uniforms; the command staff, for instance, will wear green uniforms during formal occasions. And these rules aren't hard and fast ones; across the whole universe of "Star Trek" series, films, and other ephemera, the colors various officers wear on the show and the meanings behind them change depending on when the scene takes place in the show's general timeline. But these are the color codes that most often denote each character's job on the ship, and the ones used during the original "Star Trek" series to explain who is who and what they do.

The term 'red shirt' gained a negative connotation

Even if you're not a "Star Trek" fan, you've probably heard jokes about how often red-shirted officers are introduced to the show, only for them to quickly die during away missions. For a period of time, the term "red shirt" became a dirty word in the "Star Trek" world; it's gone on to take on a larger cultural significance, indicating that a person is a disposable background element easy to get rid of. And yet many of the show's red-toting characters are the franchise's longest-lasting individuals. The class encompasses the engineering, security, and communication staff positions on the Enterprise. Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan) are among the most prominent crew members who wear scarlet hues. To wear red on the bridge is definitely a high honor.

Are 'red shirts' more doomed than their counterparts? Mathematician James Grime weighed in on the subject during a talk at New York's Museum of Mathematics in 2017. A simple statistical calculation revealed that 10% of the show's red-shirted denizens die during the original show's run — compared to 18 percent of golden-shirted characters. "There is some truth in the old 'Star Trek' myth if you look at security officers ... 20 percent of security officers died. So I think the moral of the story is, if you're on the starship Enterprise and you want to survive, be a scientist," he said.

Ironically, crimson red was eventually used to denote a position of authority on the ship; the uniforms that debuted in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" place the crew in scarlet togs, with no color divisions to mark them.

Blue denotes a scientific mind

If you're feeling blue during your time on the Enterprise, then you're probably logically-minded. Throughout much of the original "Star Trek" series, blue uniforms were given to the show's science and medical officers. That's why Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett), and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) can be seen sporting blue tunics throughout the series' run. The designation of blue uniforms hasn't changed much during the course of various "Star Trek" series; blue and purple shades are used to indicate ship medics in such continuations of the universe as "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Blue was also the chosen shade for the crew uniforms in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," with splashes of brown, oatmeal and white. This change didn't go over well with the cast. Their rebellion against the baggy uniforms went beyond their alleged unsightliness; costume designer Robert Fletcher sewed shoes into the bottom of each uniform, forcing the actors to ask their assistants for help in completing simple tasks such as going to the bathroom. A change was promptly made for the next film, and the red Navy-style uniforms stuck with the whole movie franchise until "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was launched.

Golden shirts denote power

Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), meanwhile, sports a gold-colored shirt. These are the outfits worn by those in command: largely, captains and other figures of authority. In other iterations of the show, gold tunics are worn by members of the ship's security staff. In any event, it's a uniform that denotes power.

But those shirts weren't actually intended to be golden at all; in reality, they were pale green tunics that were filmed as golden or orange-looking thanks to the sort of film the show used. According to an interview conducted with Bill Thiess in 1988 for Star Trek Prop Authority , it wasn't the show's intent to present Kirk and other captains as wearing gold at all. "It was one of those film stock things; it photographed one way – burnt orange or a gold. But in reality was another; the command shirts were definitely green." Unfortunately, thanks to that mistake the look has stuck, and Kirk's uniform is more often remembered as golden instead of green.

Whether they're sporting green or dodging danger in red, there's one thing officers on the Enterprise definitely know how to do – look stylish in a timelessly classical way.


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    Star tattoos vary in meaning depending on the number of points, shading and incorporation into other tattoo designs on the same area of skin. Blue star tattoos in particular are associated with an urban legend about LSD.

  3. Why Are There Four Stars Under the “C” Patch on NFL Uniforms?

    The four stars under the “C” patch on some NFL uniforms indicate the number of years the player has acted as one of the team’s captains, according to Players may be assigned or voted into the captain’s role, and for each year of se...

  4. Star Trek's Starfleet Uniform Colors: What They Mean & Why They

    In the entire history of Star Trek, blue has always denoted that the officer wearing the uniform is attached to Starfleet's medical or

  5. Star Trek uniforms

    Uniforms come in gray, white, gray and white, blue, brown, and beige. The Star Trek delta still remains the symbol for all Enterprise staff members, but the

  6. What Do Star Trek Uniform Colors Mean?

    The first two seasons found Starfleet still wearing blue, though they resembled more formal military uniforms than the coveralls of Enterprise.

  7. What Do the Different Color Shirts Mean in 'Star Trek?'

    A Guide to the Different Uniform Colors the Characters Wear in 'Star Trek' ; Red – Engineering, Security, and Communications ; Blue – Science and

  8. What Do the Different Uniform Colors Mean on 'Star Trek'?

    The blue shirts are worn by the science/medical staff, including McCoy and Spock. As with everything in Star Trek, though, it's a lot more

  9. Star Trek: What Ranks Do Each Color Shirt Represent?

    The blue uniform was for the science and medical staff. It was worn by officers such as the incredibly iconic lieutenant Spock from The Original

  10. 'Star Trek' Uniform Colors, Explained

    All uniforms were made of dark blue fabric, with division denoted by metallic stripes on the shoulders. These stripes were gold (command)

  11. What is the significance of the different colored uniforms in “Star Trek”?

    Quick Answer: Star Trek uniforms represent different occupational fields within Starfleet, the organization which represents most of the franchise's central

  12. What Do the Star Trek Uniform Colors Mean?

    The basic colors that outline Star Trek as a whole are an array of blue, red and gold. These colors line the bridge of the ship in every episode

  13. What Do The Star Trek Uniform Colors Mean & Why Are They So

    Kirk (William Shatner), meanwhile, sports a gold-colored shirt. These are the outfits worn by those in command: largely, captains and other

  14. What do the Star Trek uniform colors symbolize?

    Blue - people who collect data on things and keep other people alive - Sciences, Medical. TNG is mostly the same buckets, but they swapped red