“What a strange power there is in clothing.” ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
We’ve all seen them. Every major city in North America – and I highly suspect several across Europe, for that matter – has a hard-core following of extremely dedicated, somewhat over-the-top fans entirely devoted to dressing the part of their favorite characters from their favorite television and film series. Science Fiction and Comic Book Conventions through the Western World are generously populated by devoteesÂ donning tight spandex body suits, leathered body armour, latex facial “prosthetic” applications and, of course, thigh high leather boots.
Your Humble Narrator, of course, is speaking of the phenomenom that is Star Trek.
For over forty years, fans of the iconic science fiction franchise have attended these kinds of gatherings dressed in their alien finery, proudly marching into Convention Centers without fear of ridicule and with more than just a little admiration from their fellow conventioners. While the Star Wars universe certainly has an enormous following in its own right (who doesn’t absolutely love Darth Vader in his seven-foot leathers andÂ masked, heavy breathing finery?), there truly is nothing on Planet Earth to compare with the creativeness, attention to detail and visual variety inspired by the old “wagon train to the stars” homage that was – and is -Â Â Star Trek.
May 8, 2009, marks the official release and debut of the latest in the long-running saga. While the new Star Trek film has been crafted as a prequel to the original 1967 – 1969 Paramount Studios television series, it is still sure to be simply described as a “license to print money” for the studio: there is a built-in fan base that will scrape every last penny they have, stand in line for hours on end, and joyously banter with their fellow enthusiasts in eager anticipation in hearing those words, “Space … the final frontier …” hopefully fill their ears when the lights in the theatre finally and gloriously dim. The celluloid will begin to unravel within the spools of the giant projectors and the inevitable cheers for the (younger) heros of the Star Trek soap opera grace the screen. There are sure to be more than just a few attending opening day festivities dressed from head to toe as their revered chosen champion or sinister alien villain.
Star Trek, of course, was the brainchild of the late writer Gene Roddenbery – a man more known as a writer of television serial westerns prior to attaining global infamy as the genius behind the vast marketing machine that shall be forever warp-powered by his Starship Enterprise. Mr. Roddenberry suddenly left his mortal coil due to heart failure in 1991, and some of his ashes were subsequently carried into space aboard one of the American Space Shuttle missions in 1992. He became one of the first people to officially be “buried”, somewhat, in outer space. He was joined in the afterworld by his wife, Majel Barrett, who is known to Trek fans for portraying several different characters (including the voice of the Starfleet computers) throughout the runs of the original series and the subsequent, more modern spinoffs, in late 2008. There are rumours that plans are afoot to carry the remainder of his ashes, mixed with hers, aboard a future shuttle mission – and “launched” deep into space. Truly, a fitting final chapter for the “First Lord and Lady of Science Fiction.”
The creative genius behind the sensation may be silenced, but other talented writers and artists have picked up the mantle of the franchise and the mission continues, and probably will continue to do so, long into the 21st Century. The original muse may be gone – but the journey continues, especially in the creative expressions of the fans and their adornments and custom-made accessories themselves.
Here is a brief glimpse into the neo-fetishistic world that has been inspired by, and continuously perpetrated by, those rabid, dedicated fans themselves. It would seem appropriate to break the sub-culture down into the most popular reproductions:
By far, the most popular costume and property reproductions seen at movie premieres and conventions has to be a variation on the many themes portrayed throughout the franchise on the Starfleet uniforms. It is impossible to do justice to the staggering amount of private costume designers and dedicated fans who take the time to “re-invent” their favoured uniforms in an unending variety of colors – but the basic formula remains the same. Usually, a Starfleet uniform color indicates which “division” of the “service” the wearer belongs to – although that convention did manage to change throughout the years. In general, however, we can make the following assumptions, based on the preferred colors exhibited by convention attendees in recent years: Gold for Command; Yellow for Engineering; Blue for Medical and Science, Red for Expendable Crew Persons (usually Communications and Security). In all cases, the bottom half or two-thirds of the uniform was always black. Even in the early days of the original series, the uniform was always accompanied, by women and men alike, by an attractive pair of knee-high and, in some cases, thigh high leather boots. An entire industry of Starfleet uniform reproductions has thrived since the late 1980’s, when “the next generation” took to the stars in a brand new USS Enterprise. Some designers, such as California’s Evening Arwen, operated by a trained actress and musical theatre performer named Rebecca Jordan, has elevated the seductiveness and allure of the uniform by giving it a more streamlined, extremely sexy look – and has managed to maintain the integrity of the original design. According toÂ her website, the self-described “little red haired girl” was originally inspired by the imagery so lavishly described in the literary version of Â The Lord of the Rings and started to market costume designs based on some of the characters described within the pages of that timeless epic.Â She soon found, however, thatÂ she was getting demands for Star Trek inspired reproductions, and has not really looked back. Their Starfleet corset designs are truly the most unique available for purchase and are surprisingly affordable – even to the most cash-strapped fans.
Not only has an entire industry been developed dedicated to the look and aesthetic of Star Trek’s most popular villains-turned-allies, but an entire theology, ideology and even language have since been created and popularized by enterprising theorists and linguists. Klingons have come a long way from the somewhat ridiculous, splotchy “orange tan” humanoid look of the original 1960’s television series: current representations almost universally sport a signature, fierce ridged forehead and equally wild ‘Mongolian’ hairstyle. The warrior culture so important to the Star Trek lexicon that represents the Klingons is very prevelant in their attire: full suits of leather and metal body armour smartly accessorized with lethal-looking cross-body ‘Johnny Belts’, vicious blades, heavy leather gauntlet style gloves and, course, reptile-reminiscent thigh high boots (complete with eviscerating toe claws!). While ‘humans’ may find Klingon women oddly erotic while thus attired, I suggest it may be hard to become romantically entangled with a female warrior. Those high brow ridges and sharp, pointed teeth could cause quite the bruising (can you imagine the hickies?) were one to attempt an amorous liason with a fully-adorned Klingon battle princess. Still, those boots are incredibly sexy …
Of all the alien subcultures portrayed in the pantheon of Star Trek characters, it is probably a full Klingon ensemble that will set the passionate costume wearer back quite a few hard-earned dollars. Very little in the Klingon uniform can be purchased off the rack: a true acolyte would need to find any number of custom-costume designers to tailor make their costumes for them. That is, of course, unless they have the dexterity and talent to fully create the “look” entirely themselves. Where does one acquire toe claws for thigh high boots, anyway?
Perhaps no other Star Trek villain has captured the public imagination quite like the cold, ruthlessly efficient cybernetic creatures known as the Borg. They are the true Cyberpunks of the mass media age: fully encased in heavy latex body suits which are attached to a plethora of evil-looking hoses, metal hooks, pinchers and needles. Even the headgear sported by the Borg evokes a feeling of fear and apprehension, with their laser-sighted eyepieces and sharply striking metal prosthetics. Next to Klingons, and certainly running a very close second at the conventions, you are sure to see entire contingents of custom-designed Borg walking in a near Frankensteinish manner towards you – wondering, perhaps, which will be the first of the lot to open their mouths and utter the famous words, ‘Resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.’ While these rubber-clad walking nightmares are sure to make you feel awkward and ultimately uncomfortable, it is impossible not to admire the sheer artistry behind their varied and unique creations. Unlike Klingon uniforms, however, it is relatively simple and cost-effective to invent an entire Borg ensemble if you choose to attend an event dressed as such: Much of the materials convention goers use in their ensembles are store bought, or easy to order from a number of online sources. A latex catsuit or diving wetsuit usually forms the bodysuit base for the costume, and most dedicated practitioners are able to whip up diabolical-looking mechanical accessories (complete with hooks and hoses) that appear to remain true to the original design. No discussion of the Borg would be complete, of course, without mentioning the ultra-sensual, visual pheromone that was the portrayal of two Borg women: The Borg Queen (played originally by Alice Krige) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). One cannot even make a quick, casual appearance outside a convention site hosting a science fiction weekend without counting at least a dozen “Borg Queens” and an equal number of “Seven of Nines” walking in and amongst the gathered crowds. While the heavy-metal imagery associated with the usual interpretation of Borg costumes is always admired by Star Trek fans, it is the less-mechanically attired, sensual, tight-rubber encasedÂ female representations that seem to garner the most (male) attentions.
Naturally, we cannot leave this dialogue without mentioning one of the more sly, secretive and strangely alluring Star Trek representations that manage to pop up at the conventions and film openings. In 1966, the original two-hour pilot for Star Trek was filmed – sans Captain Kirk. The original pilot episode featured a starship Captain named Christopher Pike, and fans of the original series will remember with great reverence that the original pilot was smartly incorporated into a two-part episode two years later, and called The Menagerie.
Perhaps the most famous segment of that two-part episode featured the wild gyrations and manipulations of a green skinned slavegirl from the planet Orion. While that particular scene itself may have lasted all of three minutes on our television screens, it has lasted forever in the hearts, minds and libidos of Star Trek conventioners for four decades. Dozens of green skinned Orion slavegirls, always sporting the trademark green skin and black hair, have sexed-up the lives of many a “Trek Nerd” with their mere appearance at these events. Of course, in keeping with the slavegirl theme, these Orions must be appropriately clad merely in some kind of bikini and hip-wrap only: animal prints seem to be the most popular. Sometimes these slavegirls will wear a collar and will have the good fortune to be led into the event at the end of a leash by her Romulan, Ferengi or Cardassian master (no self-respecting Starfleet officer would dare to show such blatant contravention of Starfleet anti-slavery rules by dragging in an Orion slavegirl to an event!). These girls are typically the Belles of the Ball – and often end up in catty, snidely whispered deragatory snipes with any number of Klingon orÂ Borg women also in attendance: especially if their masters have graciously allowed them to wear six-inch heeled shoes or boots to cover their delicate green feet.
Those that may be planning to take in opening day festivities at any multitude of Star Trek screenings over the next several weeks are sure to encounter more than just a few “appropriately attired” fans anxiously waiting in line to pay respects to their 23rd Century heroes. Hopefully, you won’t be assimilated, invited to a Bat’Leth battle to the death, or insult the sensitivities of any number of cooing green Orion slavegirls gone wild.
But, considering the “eye candy”, you’re sure to have a lot of fun trying.