Every Shirt Color in Star Trek, Explained

Star Trek has so many different shirt colors that it’s hard to keep track. So, what does it all mean?

by Kiona Jones
Star Trek Strange New Worlds Kirk Pike
Image: Paramount

Every shirt color in Star Trek has meaning and I’ll try my best to explain to Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike what that is. You know how some schools and most jobs require students and employees to wear uniforms? Well, Starfleet basically does the same with its officers. In The Original Series, Commanding officers wear gold, science officers wear blue, and engineering officers wear red. But what does that mean for all the different iterations of Star Trek?

Commanding Officers of Star Trek

Image: Paramount

The classic shirt color of those in command positions is gold. Unless we’re talking about Captain Kirk’s green formal top in the “Journey to Babel” episode of The Original Series. (Captains Pike and Kirk revive these prime colors in Strange New Worlds.) Then Captain Picard came along in The Next Generation and the colors shifted to red and black.

Enterprise was later content to put Captain Archer in something that looked more appropriate for a car shop than an important space mission. But who are we to judge?

Discovery has since returned to red with gray sometimes peppered in for more official occasions. Luckily, however, it’s not the color of shirts that make the leader. It’s the person within them and how willing they are to make morally dubious decisions.

Related: 10 Best Star Trek Battles, Ranked According to IMDB

Science Officers of Star Trek

Image: Paramount

The shirt color of science officers has consistently been blue throughout Star Trek. The types of blue may change depending on what series you’re watching. Nevertheless, though, blue seems to be the staple of officers overwhelmed with trying to keep their officers alive from planet to planet.

Dr. Julian Bashir showed up in Deep Space Nine with a brash, overly confident can-do attitude. He was the first doctor in Star Trek to be yelled at rather than doing the yelling. He was also the first one to grow before our very eyes into a competent and dependable professional. But the blue in the collar of his shirt spoke to the tradition of those who came before him. For that, Dr. McCoy would be most proud.

Engineering Officers of Star Trek

Image: Paramount

Speaking of tradition, the Red Shirts have continued to be synonymous with bad luck no matter what Star Trek TV series or movie they’re in. Everyone else is in a sci-fi story with hints of comedy and drama. Meanwhile, the Red Shirts are in a horror movie where they go off to investigate strange happenings and then just never come back.

Lt. Uhura is perhaps one of the only Red Shirts to make it out of a Star Trek series alive. Chief Engineers always do well because they’re part of the main cast and really likable (for the most part, at least). Taking Odo out of a Red Shirt probably saved his life. Then again, the chances of anything taking out Odo were slim anyway.

Hopefully, I’ve successfully explained the meaning of every shirt color in Star Trek. There are a lot of variations that have appeared through the years. All of the Enterprise crew, for example, just looked like mechanics. Even Discovery doesn’t have much variation in how the officers dress. Will that change with future Star Trek projects? Only time – and Paramount Plus budget – will tell.

- This article was updated on September 19th, 2023

About The Author

Kiona has been writing about movies and TV shows for over 2 years now. When they're not hard at work, they're nerding about about the newest Star Trek release or getting into a new book.