Why Picard’s special uniform is surprisingly important

The stardate is 45047.2, the actual date is September 30, 1991, and the episode is “Darmok.” The Enterprise-D has been tasked with attempting to build The Children of Tama despite extreme difficulty in understanding their language. If you were alive when that episode first aired, you were likely very distracted for one very simple reason: the captain was wearing an open jacket. 

Yes, while everyone else was still in their normal uniforms, Captain Picard was tooling around in a suede coat with black, leather shoulders. And while the leather would ultimately be replaced with microsuede, we’d start seeing Picard in this outfit more and more often. The question is, where did this new jacket come from, and why? 

It turns out that Sir Patrick Stewart himself was interested in making Picard stand out, according to StarTrek.com. Robert Blackman, along with Stewart’s input, set about making this new jacket to do exactly that. There’s justification for a captain-specific uniform both within the continuity of Star Trek, and in real life: For example, on Star Trek: The Original Series, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) got his own wraparound tunic uniform. In real life, it’s not uncommon for certain air carrier and submarine commanders to have a uniform specific to them.

But what makes this new uniform really interesting is the psychological component, as far as Picard himself. We’ve spent years with everyone but Troi perpetually wearing the same thing, and it’s noteworthy that Picard, of all people, is the one to stretch his wings and wear something different. The reason, as it happens, is related to a rather dark incident with the Borg.

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