At last count, there are a dozen canon varieties of Starfleet uniform with numerous different colour codings for the various Starship departments, plus the uniforms from alternate realities and potential futures. To say nothing of homebrew and custom uniforms.
The intent of this blog is to provide a quick graphical guide of the evolution of the uniform.
Types of Uniform
In most eras, there are two types of uniform: the standard duty uniform and a formal dress variant. Duty uniforms are worn when on shift at a duty station, such as on the bridge or engineering. Dress uniforms are worn on formal occasions, such as diplomatic functions, weddings, and occasional court apperances.
Some eras have additional uniforms. Service or work uniforms are sometimes worn, typically when performing manual labour or similar work. This was especially true of medical staff, who often had labcoats or different coloured uniforms when serving in the medbay, and engineers. Captains also occasionally have casual duty variants, such as wrap-around tunics or jackets.
Cadets attending Starfleet Academy also typically have a variant uniform or badge denoting their trainee status.
Starfleet uses a variant of naval ranks.
Line officers were assigned to a single posting, typically a starship or starbase, which was their sole responsibility. Captains are generally in command and each is assigned to a starship. Beneath them are commanders, who might be officers working their way to the rank of captain and their own command, or simply be a highly experienced officer. In some instances, a commander might be granted command of a space station, colony, or similar posting. When a commander is in charge of a ship, they are given the rank of “acting captain”. In most eras, Starfleet also has the ranks of lieutenant and ensign, with the latter being the initial rank assigned graduates of Starfleet Academy.
Other ranks typically exist, but were not seen. Lieutenant commanders are often recognized (informally addressed as “commander”, typically by more junior officers). The rank of lieutenant junior grade is sometimes also recognized, falling between the rank of ensigns and full lieutenants.
Above captains and not assigned a single ship were flag officers. Commodores were the lowest flag officers, falling between captains and admirals and commanded multiple ships in field operations. Above commodores were admirals who were in charge of fleets of starships, entire sectors of space, or divisions of Starfleet. Admirals are subdivided into rear admirals, vice admirals, admirals, and fleet admirals in increasing order of superiority. Fleet admirals reported to the Commander in Chief of Starfleet, who was the senior fleet admiral reporting to the Federation Council and its president.
On most starships there are a number of “noncoms” or non-commissioned officers: crewmembers who did not graduate from Starfleet Academy. In some instances these are not distinguished and treated as ensigns or lack a display of rank. At times when differentiation between noncoms was needed they are given the ranks crewman, specialist, petty officer, chief petty officer, senior chief petty officer, and master chief petty officer. Higher ranking noncoms, such as senior and master chiefs, could have decades of experience and included among the senior staff of a starship or starbase, but were technically below a rookie ensign in rank.
In theory, there are also warrant officers in Starfleet: trained specialists whose expertise in a field grants them an informal commission. Despite not having attended the Academy, a warrant officer would have a rank equivalent to an ensign, lieutenant, or higher. However, no warrant officers have been identified as such on the show. In their place Starfleet potentially uses provisional or honorary ranks.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek Enterprise
Description: The uniform of the United Earth Starfleet is a blue jumpsuit. This uniform was worn until the founding of the United Federation of Planets, including the period of the Earth-Romulan War.
Division Colours: A strip of colour framking the shoulders denoted the officer’s department. Yellow was command, red was operations (security and engineering), and teal was sciences (medical and science)
Badge: Circular assignment patches on the left arm denoting ship.
Rank: Rank was denoted with rectangular pips on the upper right breast.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek Beyond
Description: Similar to the Earth Starfleet jumpsuit, this uniform is a utilitarian light grey jumpsuit with coloured patches on the shoulders and cuffs as well as stripes down the chest and pants. The assignment patch on the upper arm remains. This was presumably the first uniform of the United Federation Starfleet.
Division Colours: The patches and stripes denote the wearer’s department: yellow is command, red is operations, and blue is sciences.
Badge: Gold pins of the Starfleet delta were worn on the left breast.
Rank: Unknown. No rank emblems seen on-screen.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek
Description: A minimalistic change from the jumpsuits, this two-piece uniform featured dark trousers and coloured shirt. A raised stripe of piping ran along the upper arms and across the chest.
Division Colours: The shirt denoted the officer’s department. Command wore blue, operations wore tan/gold, and sciences wore grey.
Badge: A raised silver outline of the Starfleet delta was on the left breast.
Rank: The shirt’s sleeve had metallic bands denoting rank.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek Discovery
Description: A tight two-piece blue uniform with metallic highlights on the shoulders and along the sides of the torso.
Division Colours: The huge of the metallic highlights denote division. Gold is command, silver is sciences, and bronze is operations.
Badge: Two-piece metallic insignia badges are worn on the left breast. The colour of the badge matched the metallic department colour.
Rank: Raised bumps on the insignia badge identify an officer’s rank. The captain’s shoulders features additional gold highlights.
Note: Ostensibly, this uniform should be the same as the uniforms seen in early episodes of The Original Series, which takes place at roughly the same time. Tie-in novels state the brighter uniforms were newer diplomatic uniforms being phased in, starting with the exploratory Constitution-class starships.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek The Original Series (the two pilot episodes: The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before)
Description: A coloured turtleneck sweater with dark trousers.
Division Colours: The colour of the shirt denotes division. Yellow for command, blue for science, and tan for operations.
Badge: Assignment patch worn on the left breast. It’s unknown if every ship had its own patch, like in the 2260s, or if every ship had the Starfleet delta.
Rank: Golden braids on the sleeve denote rank. Not all ranks were seen on-screen during the few episodes these uniforms were worn.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek The Original Series
Description: A brightly coloured shirt with black collar with dark trousers.
Division Colours: The officer’s shirt colour signifies their department: yellow is command, blue is science, red is operations.
Badge: In place of the Starfleet delta insignia on the left breast, all ships and stations had their own unique assignment patch; the Federation’s flagship, U.S.S. Enterprise, retained the delta.
Rank: Golden braids on the shirt’s cuffs denote rank.
Note: This uniform was seen in The Original Series and theoretically also shown in the Kelvin Timeline films. In the first two Kelvin films, the black collar is instead a black undershirt and the coloured top is textured with Starfleet deltas. In Star Trek Beyond, the top is a heavier jacket with a high collar.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek The Motion Picture
Description: Muted blue, white, beige, or grey uniforms. These uniforms came as jumpsuits or two-pieces with matching top and trousers.
Division Colours: The colour of the circle behind the unform’s printed insignia denoted the officer’s department. A white circle signified command, orange is sciences, green is medical, red is engineering, yellow is communications and helm/ navigation, while grey is security.
Badge: The Starfleet insignia was printed on the left breast.
Rank: Golden braids along the sleeve or on shoulder patches denote rank.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan onward
Description: A crimson tunic worn over a colour-coded turtleneck undershirt with dark trousers.
Division Colours: An officer’s department was denoted by the colour of their undershirt, shoulder clasp, and a stripe running down their trousers. White was command; grey was sciences, communication, and helm; ochre was operations; light green was medical; dark green was security; and red was cadets and junior officers.
Badge: A metal variant of the Starfleet insignia with a large rectangular backing was worn on the left breast.
Rank: A metal badge worn on a shoulder clasp denoted rank.
Note: A long lasting uniform, this design was used until the 2350s. In later years the belt and turtleneck ceased to be worn and the insignia pin was replaced by a combadge.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek the Next Generation (seasons 1-2)
Description: A tight one-piece jumpsuit with a low collar. The chest, back, and sleeves were brightly coloured, as was a stripe running along the collarbone and shoulders.
Division Colours: The colouration of the upper jumpsuit denoted department. Command was red, operations was yellow, and sciences was blue.
Badge: All officers wore a combadge: a silver delta backed with a golden oval that functioned as a communicator.
Rank: Round gold pips on the upper right breast denote rank.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek The Next Generation (seasons 3 onward)
Description: A looser two-piece modification of the earlier jumpsuit with a high collar.
Division Colours: The jacket’s colour was associated with the wearer’s department: red for command, yellow for operations, and blue for sciences.
Badge: A communicator shaped like a silver delta with a golden oval backing was worn on the left breast.
Rank: Gold pips worn on the right collar denoted the officer’s rank.
Late 2360s (Variant)
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager
Description: Dark trousers and jacket worn over a blue-grey turtleneck undershirt. The shoulders of the jacket were brightly coloured.
Division Colours: The colour of the shoulders denoted one’s department. Red was command, yellow was operations, and blue/ teal was sciences.
Badge: A communicator was worn on the left breast. Initially this combadge was a silver delta backed with a golden oval. In the late 2260s and early 2270s this was replaced with an updated model that substituted the golden oval for a trapezoidal shape.
Rank: Gold pips worn on the right collar of the undershirt denoted rank.
Note: This variant was service dress, or “work uniform”. It was typically worn on less formal posting, such as space stations and colonies where more “hands on” work might be required. When the current duty uniform was being phased out, this variant saw regular use for a year or two.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek First Contact; Deep Space Nine (seasons 5 and onward)
Description: A dark jacket with light grey shoulders and matching trousers worn over a coloured undershirt.
Division Colours: The colour of the undershirt was associated with the officer’s department. Red was command, yellow was operations, and blue was sciences.
Badge: Combadge worn on the left breast: a silver Starfleet delta backed by a gold trapezoid.
Rank: Round gold pips worn on the right collar of the undershirt signified rank.
Where It Was Seen: A uniform worn in several potential futures, first seen in Star Trek The Next Generation
Description: A double-breasted jacket with high waisted dark trousers. Black piping ran along the chest and shoulders.
Division Colours: An officer’s department was displayed by their jacket colour. Red was command, blue was science, and yellow was operations.
Badge: A combadge was worn on the left breast. The badge was a silver outline of a delta backed by two gold trapezoids
Rank: Gold round pips worn on the upper right breast above the black piping.
Where It Was Seen: Star Trek Online
Description: A dark jacket and trousers worn over a coloured undershirt. The jacket has a high collar with a wide band of colour running along the chest and shoulders. In officers, the shoulders above the coloured band are dark grey, while the commanding officer’s shoulders are white.
Division Colours: The undershirt and coloured band signify an officer’s department. Red is command, blue is sciences, and yellow is operations.
Badge: A combadge is worn on the left breast, shaped like a solid silver delta.
Rank: Silver rectangular pips on the right collar.