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DS9 came out during the 6th season of TNG. From the onset of the show, DS9 used uniforms that looked like this:

DS9

However, TNG continued the use of this uniform(taken from episode 10 of season 7):

TNG

Why did they not change over? As a military establishment, the change of uniform would have been branch wide. Was there ever any reason, canonical or not, given for this lack of change? At least when they changed the uniforms in DS9 again later on:

DS9-2

Their was reason to not change the uniforms in Voyager, as there was no way to communicate that change.

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    In the very first episode, Sisko was in the TNG-style uniform. However, that episode also showed O'Brien and other Starfleet members wearing the new uniforms.
    – PiousVenom
    Feb 27, 2013 at 21:11
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    Actual military uniforms vary pretty wildly within a single service (or they used to, I got out in '05) between working uniforms and dress uniforms, or even different classes of working uniforms. I was a submariner and had four different work uniforms and three different dress uniforms. Feb 28, 2013 at 1:23
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    @ThomBrannan: Oh, I agree. I was in the Navy as well. Not sure about subs(but I'd assume it's the same), while underway, it was always coveralls unless in port. Then it was utilities unless on watch, and then it was your whites/blues. I could go with the "different environment" as a valid reason, if it weren't for the fact that TNG movies went to the latest uniform style.
    – PiousVenom
    Feb 28, 2013 at 16:29
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    @CL4PTR4P: Yeah. Sometimes it's just a uniform change. I was wearing dungarees when I joined in the early 90's, and then it changed over to the utilities, and there was a long while where you could see both versions of the same uniform on base. Feb 28, 2013 at 21:44
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    @ThomBrannan: I can't believe I forgot about the dungarees/utilities switch! Very, very valid point, sir. I'd +1 you if I could. But for now, you get a helpful up arrow.
    – PiousVenom
    Feb 28, 2013 at 21:49

7 Answers 7

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It seems it may have depended upon the type of environment where personnel were primarily stationed.

From Wikipedia:

throughout the run of DS9, ship-based Starfleet personnel continue to wear the old TNG uniform design. The new design may therefore have been intended as an alternate 'class' of uniform for the different environment of the space station, as in a scene in "The Maquis, Part I" Commander Sisko can be seen wearing the new style uniform while Commander Hudson can be seen wearing the old style. Sisko also wore the TNG uniform on certain formal occasions and during his first arrival at DS9 from the series pilot episode, Emissary. He would revert to this uniform again when he was temporarily given the duties of "Head of Security" for Starfleet Headquarters. Admirals also retained the TNG style.

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  • The dress uniforms on DS9 were pretty much identical to those on TNG. Otherwise, the station uniforms were essentially a recut of the Starfleet Academy uniforms seen shortly before on TNG.
    – MPelletier
    Feb 28, 2013 at 2:41
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    You are correct, Solemnity - the uniforms worn by DS9 personnel are closer to modern BDUs than a uniform. It is more of an operational jumpsuit, similar in form to the one worn by cadets (see Wesley Crusher's time at the Academy). Once the Dominion War started, all uniforms (regardless of operational environment) switched to an updated version of the more functional jumpsuit style.
    – Omegacron
    Feb 15, 2014 at 17:55
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    This is further supported by the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, which characterizes the VOY/DS9 uniform style as a "Jumpsuit". Apr 12, 2017 at 18:03
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John Wayne's movie, "Jet Pilot" it think it is called, was set during the transition from "United States Army Air Corps" to "United States Air Force". John Wayne's character wore the Army Brown uniform, while his CO was wearing the newer Air Force Blue. Others in the background could be seen in those colors too. Dad was in the Army when I was born, but in the USAF when my 2 years younger brother was born. During that time and up until he retired in the 1970s, I recall lots of uniform variations.

Also, let us not forget that Captain Kirk went from wearing Captain Pike's uniform style in his first episode, to wearing the more familiar version by the his second one, yet in the background, you could still see some people wearing the older style. Charlie Evans wore an older style too. Also, during that time Captains had the green-uniform option, with the deep V-neck, while lesser ranks never wore it.

Did you all notice that in the 2009 movie, Admiral Pike was wearing the uniform that Admiral Kirk wore in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"? No one else had made that transition.

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    Hi Again Jimmie! I'm just going round and checking up on some of your answers! This one is quote good, but people seem to have downvoted it! I can see the analogy you're making, but it might be best to set it up. First, try making your point, something like 'You assumed that uniform changes in the military are always 'branch-wide', they aren't!' Then move on to your evidence (this is the majority of your post now, excellent!) afterwards, explain: So when you see the differences in uniform, this isn't unusual in a military organisation. That way, people will see what you mean!
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 12, 2013 at 17:54
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I would say that from the real-word perspective, it would be in order for the shows to be easily recognizable. From the ST-universe PoV, I'd say it could be due to location and enviroment differencies.

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It would be logical from an operational standpoint for uniforms to vary from location to location, and for updates to be gradually phased in, and obsolete designs to be phased out. changing millions of uniforms purely for color co-ordination overnight seems inefficient and unnecessary, it would be cheaper and logistically easier to gradually change between designs. New uniforms could be issued, when the old uniforms were recycled.

From a tv production standpoint, costumes would not be changed unless there was specific funding available for the wardrobe department. The TNG uniform redesign was $3,000 in season 3, and took place following the hiring of Robert Blackman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation_(season_3)

Ds9 went through several redesigns culminating in the uniform worn in the season 5 episode "rapture".

Evidence of multiple uniform usage can be seen in episodes involving admirals where they still wore the previous season 4 uniform, whilst the rest of the cast were in the season 5 uniform (the flag officer uniform having not been designed yet, it did not make an appearance until behind the lines, season 6) http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Starfleet_uniform_(2370s)#Flag_officer_uniform

The captain's uniform had several variants, Picard and Sisko's uniforms were different. http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Starfleet_uniform_(2370s)

The dress whites are particularly striking, very fancy.

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  • Right, both points. Uniforms are phased in gradually in the starfleet. Like in real world it requires resources and organization. Probably single units or fleets change the uniforms within some weeks or the crews are even allowed to wear old uniforms as long as the uniforms are still good. Even replicators requires much energy and resources! DS9 was a new station, therefore new uniforms for all crew members. Enterprise-D was a operating unit, they changed gradually by opportunity during Generations. Furthermore, new cloths for all actors cost money - like shuttles ;)
    – Peter
    Oct 10, 2017 at 12:44
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Real world explanation: they wanted DS9 to have a different look from TNG. Overall rougher and less formal. In-universe explanation: It's not a style to replace the TNG style but to complement it. As mentioned a lot already, real world uniforms usually have lots of different variations. So that Star Trek has a second, more comfortable variation isn't that surprising. My theory is, initially only DS9 and a few other facitlities used them when they were introduced but by the time of the third season (which is when Generations was released and Voyager launched) the uniform had spread and became more popular. In Generations the crew is wearing both styles side-by-side and half of the main cast switches between uniforms during the film. And by the time Sisko is on earth during the fourth season, only a few facilities used the TNG style still, which was apropriate for more formal institutions like Starfleet Academy or Starfleet Headquarters.

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Also, Voyager's mission was meant to be of short duration to catch a Maquis cell, not an exploration mission where formal first contacts were meant to occur. That may be why they were allowed to wear the jumpsuit style, whereas other crews had to wear the more professional looking one.

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    This feels like fan-fiction. Can you offer any evidence from the shows to back it up?
    – Valorum
    May 17, 2019 at 15:12
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Everyone must remember that Starfleet is a military like organization. There is a command and rank structure. There is proper wear and appearance standards when in Uniform and out of Uniform. Think of the Turbolift scene Saavik in The Wrath of Khan. She was reminding Admiral Kirk that her hair was still within regulation.

Comparing my time in the Army I can briefly layout a few plausible ideas as I went though 5 camouflage patterns of duty combat uniforms, 3 PT uniforms, and 2 dress uniforms barely missing my 3rd.

If using the US military as a basis (since the show was written in the US and Gene Roddenberry himself served in the Army Air Corps), commanders have a bit of regional leeway when it comes to uniform wear. Big Army (Starfleet) decides how our uniforms are worn, but usually not when and leaves varying degrees of leeway with each uniform. During times of transitions both uniforms are usually acceptable until a mandatory wear out date. Sometimes you also have a mandatory purchase date for a minimum amount of the new uniform at the same time. US Soldiers get a yearly stipend for uniforms and buy their own uniforms. Often times uniform stipends don't cover the actual cost for uniforms. For everyday uniforms my experience has been that a transition takes about 3to 4 years from intro to completion at the wear out date for the old uniform. I know it seems overnight but it isn't as it cost the soldiers money to replace all this gear. And while we they have replicators I'm sure the idea of replacing perfectly good uniforms would be seen as wasteful.

Capt Picard was the commander of the flagship of the Federation. As the flagship his crew image is paramount when having dealings outside the federation. He could have decided to prevent the crew from jumping to the new uniform for various reasons. With his prudent command style he could have decided to wait until all the details of the new uniform were ironed out. This was a bigger transition than the collarless uniform transition. Or he simply could have decided he didn't like the look and delayed letting anyone wear it until further into the transition when he was forced by regulation. This happened with me during the first year of the woodland and desert camouflage BDU to digital camouflage ACU conversion. While in the 82nd Airborne Div (The Army's flagship division,) no one was allowed to transition to the new uniform until a new Division Pamphlet 600-2 could be written by division staff and approved by the Division Commander. 600-2 includes more guidance on the local level than what AR 670-1 provides on the Army wide level. This also allowed us to buy uniforms in accordance with mandatory purchase dates and transition to the new digital pattern mostly together and left only a few weeks of mix matched uniforms. Because of this it was a year into the wear of the new uniform before I got to wear it even though I already owned it. It could also be more granular than that. During the last year of the same transition, I was reassigned to Ft Bliss, TX. I had a Company First Sargent that set the duty uniform as he saw fit and had a field day! One week I wore 4 uniforms! Ft Bliss is a desert installation and I wore Digital ACUs Mon and Tues, Woodland BDU on Wednesday, Desert BDU (DCUs) on Thursday for Sargent Time Training, and Class A dress uniform for pay day activities on Friday! FYI during transition to the current uniform from the digital uniform big army stipulated that commands couldn't set uniform demands like this and that both uniforms would be worn side by side without local command prohibitions. Perhaps team leaders set uniform standards by the time of Generations or they were deep in a month long transition. This is what I seem to think. They delayed and were trying to make a quick transition for image.

There are other ways uniforms are phased in. Multi-Cam got phased in on a regional level prior to wear other places. As time went on it was deemed that digital camouflage was a failure. The Army needed an immediate replacement but didn't want to spend the money to immediately phase out and replace equipment that they just purchased with the launch of digital camouflage. So multi-cam was allowed to be worn only in SW Asia combat zones. (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc). Originally it was not allowed for wear in the United States at all unless in transit to those areas or immediate lead up training. Eventually it would be so popular that a variant of multi-cam would be the army wide replacement for digital camouflage in use today. It could simply be that DS9 was in a geographical area assigned to first receive these uniforms for various reasons. It could also explain Cmdr Sisko wore a traditional TNG uniform when he went back to Earth, or why visiting starships sometimes wore the TNG uniform. With Voyager assigned to that area of space it could also explain why they had the DS9 uniform as well. With time all of Starfleet could have begun the transition to that uniform by the time of Generations.

But the reality is we're all trying to force a narrative, they wanted a new look for a new DS9 series. They wanted both DS9 and TNG to have a unique identity. I think the reason to use that uniform with Voyager was because the 80's look of the TNG uniform had ran its course. The black jumpsuit had much more of a 90's feel. It was most likely cost saving to keep the DS9 uniform for Voyager. When the uniform was changed for season 5 of DS9, it was another way to not only introduce a new uniform for the big screen in First Contact, but it was again another way to differentiate between DS9 and Voyager and create unique identities besides the fact it was popular with fans.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Instead of a reason, you've given us a menu. Is there any evidence you can point to that would favour one of them?
    – DavidW
    Mar 25 at 1:31

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