Patrick Stewart has a few questionable opinions about Star Trek. He likes Jean-Luc Picard best as an action hero, for example, and tried to take the character down a more emotional route in the series Picard. But one thing he’s absolutely correct about is that the early TNG Starfleet uniforms really sucked.
Alright, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration. But even the most ardent Star Trek fan would agree that this is one of the ugliest uniforms in the franchise’s long history. Still, there’s at least one Trekkie who loves the Starfleet uniform from the early days of the Star Trek series, because they’ve just paid $76,400 for an original, Stewart-worn version of the 1987/88 costume that the actor himself despised.
Sharing the news on social media, TrekCore explained that the outfit was sold at auction on Propstore, adding that the winning bid was “a lot of latinum!” While Quark (or any good Ferengi) might question the decision to spend such a vast amount of money on the memorabilia, we respect it. The Starfleet uniform, ugly as it might be, is a physical piece of (wearable) history from the Star Trek timeline, and that makes it pretty much priceless.
Stewart himself, of course, hated this early version of his Star Trek captain‘s uniform and lobbied for it to be changed. He found it extremely uncomfortable, especially when sitting down, and it was this that led to his famous shirt-tug, dubbed the ‘Picard maneuver’.
Beyond Stewart’s loathing, what makes the costume all the more valuable is the long, confusing, and contentious history of Starfleet uniforms in the Star Trek movies and TV shows. Each era has its distinct style, reflected in the uniforms worn by the Star Trek characters.
Some of these are particularly controversial (such as the neutral-tone choices for The Motion Picture, and the primarily grey outfits seen in later seasons of Deep Space Nine), but generally, fans tend to adore the grand, red Starfleet uniforms from The Wrath of Khan to The Undiscovered Country, and the red/yellow/blue variations worn from TNG season 3 onwards.
While the uniforms from TNG season 1 and 2 aren’t beloved, they are instantly recognizable. The low collar and tighter fit are its calling cards, as is the awkward position of the pips. It just looks uncomfortable, and claustrophobic in contrast to the thicker, slightly looser iteration introduced with season 3.
Of course, another reason for the distaste aimed at the early TNG uniforms is that, at that point, the show hadn’t hit its stride. A lot of fans will skip the first two seasons of TNG on a rewatch, as it mostly serves as a wonky prototype for what the show would eventually become. When season 3 began, fans witnessed an almost instant uptick in quality, and the show cemented itself as one of the best TV series of all time from that point onwards.
The uniform, which also changes between seasons 2 and 3, is therefore a visual representation of that shift in quality: a symbol of the show’s two eras. Given all that context, who could ever turn down the chance to own one of these infamous and iconic uniforms? We’d all jump at the opportunity… unless you’re Patrick Stewart.
For more Star Trek fun, check out our guide on the best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order, and see what’s in store for the upcoming Strange New Worlds season 3 release date. Or, find out why we’d have loved the Quentin Tarantino Star Trek film, and see what else is new on Paramount Plus this month.