Whether it’s skin-tight lycra, someone else’s body armour or just a dressing gown, going into space is a monumental job and requires the appropriate attire. You need to balance comfort and ease of movement with functionality and the ability to withstand the harsh conditions on strange planets where you can easily stub your toe on a polystyrene rock or take a tumble down a quarry scree slope. Aside from all that, you want people to remember you; you want to be an icon. For that you need a particular look. I’ve been thinking about some of the best dressed people who ever went into, or were found in, space. For ease, I’ve just kept it to the male side of things. The ladies I’ll save for another time. As usual, you are welcome to disagree with anything that I write. I’d love to know if you think anyone else deserves a place on the list.
So, without further ado, here is the countdown, from 27 to 1, of the dapperest dudes outside of Earth’s atmosphere. It was 26, but when I published this, someone immediately pointed out someone I had forgotten; someone so obvious that I feel ashamed.
27 – Professor Zachary Smith (Lost in Space)
He’s a New Yorker, a psychologist, into fine arts and gardening. What better way to travel the stars than in a turtleneck sweater. Protection against the harshest of gentle breezes on faraway worlds or on-board the Jupiter 2. The wardrobe choice may have something to do with the fact that he wasn’t planning on being away so long. Nevertheless, the velvety-smooth fabric must have been very comforting during the long sojourn in outer space.
26 – Freeman Lowell (Silent Running)
I only ever got one badge when I was in cub scouts. It was for map reading. I aced the test before I even had my uniform and needless to say that didn’t make me overly popular with some of the other members of the pack. I left before they did any more. Mr Lowell seems to have done very well, however. He stuck at it and earned himself many, many badges. Enough, perhaps, that he would not look out of place waiting tables in TGI Friday’s.
25 – Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Sometimes a dressing gown’s all I want to wear when I go out somewhere. Comfortable, warm, with a couple of pockets and the reassuring feeling of togetherness that comes with doing up the belt. It suits the character perfectly as he wanders around having things explained to him.
24 – Commander John Koenig (Space 1999)
From dressing gowns, we move to pyjamas in varying forms. Commander Koenig’s serious nature and intelligence shows in the hard-earned black stripe of command down his pyjama top (sorry, tunic!) Other occasions call for a more silky pyjama feel with a handy belt for hooking your stun gun/knuckleduster thingy to.
23 – Wolff (Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone)
Dressed to kill. Peter Strauss would be higher up this list if it weren’t for the scarf he insists on wearing throughout the film. He wouldn’t look out of place in some coffee bar in Shoreditch. Aside from that, he’s nailing the short-sleeve over long-sleeve combo with nice arm stripes (what is it with space and arm stripes?) slightly dirtied up. He’s regretting wearing white in the dusty conditions, I should think, but seems happy to go with it.
22 – Master Chief (Halo)
There’s armour and there’s this. We never get a look inside the helmet or a clue as to who’s really inside. One thing’s for sure, though. It’s a strong look. It makes a statement. An ‘I’m going to kill you’ statement. That is, as long as peripheral vision isn’t going to be important in killing you. The sun-visor helmet is a nice touch, giving a kind of BMX rider look that feels appropriate.
21 – Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
You can’t beat a man in full dress uniform, unless of course that uniform is as ridiculous as this one. Patrick Stewart does his best with it but you can see in his eyes that he’s regretting the choice. He’s left his cabin now, though, so he’s got to tough it out. He usually looks so good; that’s why he’s here among the others. This is one of those outfits that we all regret, though. I wore a bandanna once because someone else looked good in it. I didn’t look good in it. Not good at all.
20 – The Illusive Man (Mass Effect)
Is it a coat over a tunic? Is it one garment like those awful, t-shirt inside shirt things from Next that are sewn together so they’re neither one thing nor the other? I don’t know. It’s just so… Illusive. He’s rocking the collar up look too. He’s the boss, I suppose, so he can get away with it. Maybe it’s a side effect of Reaper indoctrination. I’m just left wondering if there’s a vest underneath it. It looks cold in that office with such a big window. He’ll lose days in sick leave that could otherwise be so productive.
19 – Professor Nicholas Rush (Stargate Universe)
Just as you expect a University professor to look in the modern era. You can just imagine him leaning against his lectern at Manchester Poly or wherever, trying to look trendy. Also a proponent of the short-sleeve over long-sleeve look, Professor Rush likes smart jeans and a waistcoat to try and add an air of professionalism. I have to say its a good look for him; considered one might say. You can imagine the look of disdain if you turned up late to a lecture or handed something in with tomato ketchup stains on it.
18 – Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century)
White. Very bold. I thought once or twice about buying a white car, then thought about how easily it gets dirty and therefore how much you have to wash it. I don’t doubt that there will be massive advances in washing machine technology between now and the 25th Century but I’m willing to bet that whites will still fade into that yellowy-grey colour like my work shirts. It’s quite tight fitting too, which could lead to some underarm (at best) staining over a period of time. Bold gets you points, however, and I do like the rainbow motif on the arm. Nice to see a bit of support being shown for that movement in mainstream Sci-Fi.
17 – Ra (Stargate)
A man who knows how to accessorise! Big jewellery, low neckline to accentuate it. The main selling point is the finger jewellery. I met Jacqueline Wilson once and she’s a fan of lots of rings. The Sun God, however, prefers golden fingerbobs that must be a real pain to keep on. They must slip off all the time. It takes real dedication to stick with this and so you have to give credit. My cat’s name is Ra also, so that entered into my decision-making process.
16 – Spock (Star Trek)
Like Arthur Dent, Mr Spock spent some time in dressing gowns. He took it to a different level, however. This doesn’t say ‘just got out of bed and can’t be bothered’. Rather it says, ‘I’m in the middle of a full on spa weekend and I’m taking it very seriously indeed’. Spock also gets to wear other costumes during his run on Star Trek besides the standard federation uniforms. There are lots of robes and such that add a different dimension to things. Well done for mixing it up.
15 – John Tracy (Thunderbirds)
Why John, you ask? Why not Scott or Virgil? Well, to be honest, it’s the fact that John even manages to get dressed at all. Cast out by his family, ostracised and pressed into service aboard the lonely confines of Thunderbird 5, John spends months stretching into years with no company but flashing LEDs and the hollow, tinny voices of his so-called family over the intercom. His path is a strange and difficult one, one that would drive a lesser man insane. Yet, to his credit, John orbits the Earth in his floating prison and manages to cling to the trappings of civilisation: he shaves, he dresses, he trims his fingernails and he mans his station with dignity in his dress blues.
14 – Captain James T Kirk (Star Trek)
Starfleet, like every government organisation, has budgets to think about. All that uniform they have to shell out for must create quite a dent. That’s money you could be spending on photon torpedoes or 3D chess sets or whatever. If you’re in Starfleet management, you must have to go out for quotes to uniform suppliers and they’re not always going to be good. The samples might be but there are always issues once you roll it out to staff. The collar’s itchy, the trousers are too tight, when you draw on it with whiteboard marker it doesn’t wash out properly. The problem on Kirk’s five year mission was down to the durability of the fabric. It’s always coming apart; not very hardwearing at all. Fortunately they saw sense in the end and provided the Virgin Atlantic style that really does look the part. Virgin Atlantic put money into their uniforms and it shows. Starfleet finally learned that lesson.
13 – Colonel Cronus (Battle of the Planets / Science Ninja Team Gatchaman)
It’s not the snooker referee/umpire (not sure) gloves that make this outfit for me. I loved this cartoon when I was young. What I never realised was just how this gentleman, head of the Red Rangers, would inspire Roger Federer. He’s created a brand for himself in much the same way as my favourite tennis player. You can see it on his hat. Find another picture if you can’t see it here. Also, it’s a strong brand identity as you can’t possibly miss the red. It’s not a subtle burgundy like Kirk’s or my first car. It’s in your face, fire engine red. I’m part of the RED Rangers.
12 – Lando Calrissian (Star Wars)
Capes are cool. Capes and moustaches are even cooler. He looks way better in Empire than Jedi, I guess because he’s got his ‘Administrator’ on. Every bit of this outfit is smooth. He could probably do the Jedi mind trick with this on. He even kind of manages to talk down Chewie when he’s choking the life out of him.
11 – Londo Mollari (Babylon 5)
Sgt Pepper meets the Duke of Wellington. You can’t tell a drunken story of your past military victories unless you’re dressed like this. I’m sorry, you just can’t. I love the costume department’s work on this as it helps to set up preconceptions in the audience very well. Plus, most importantly, nowhere else in science fiction TV can you feel like you’re watching an episode of Sharpe.
10 – Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Aliens)
I love this story. All the Colonial Marines, prior to filming, were invited to decorate their armour to make it personal to them. James Remar was supposed to play Hicks. Michael Biehn, when he replaced Remar at the last minute, was stuck with the latter’s design. Biehn wasn’t impressed with having a big red love heart painted on his chest but was told he had to lump it. It’s a great costume nonetheless and is precisely what you’d expect bug hunting marines in Space to look like.
9 – Paul Atreides (Dune)
I’m always shocked how much hate there is out there for this costume design. I think it’s wonderful. It looks exactly how I’d expect a stillsuit to look given it’s job. Need the toilet? No problem, your stillsuit’s got it covered. I mean what other costume can you go to the toilet in? I did always wonder how this kind of thing worked in real everyday life. They must smell, right? Also, I’m guessing you don’t take it off to, you know, after you’ve… Never mind, I’d still love to walk out in the desert and give it a try.
8 – Lieutenant Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica)
There had to be a place for Dirk Benedict on this list. Suede flyer coat, boots, cigar, and the hair. Oh my God it’s smooth. When I was young I wanted to be Starbuck. He always looked the part. Also, his jacket has probably the largest press studs I’ve ever seen
7 – Jayne Cobb (Firefly)
This was a tough one to place but I chose to go high because of the realism I see in the costume. Jayne is just the way you’d really expect someone to look in this universe. The logo t-shirts he wears are genius, a mix of cultures that illustrate the world in which the character lives. The rest of his costume is a perfect mix of mercenary, Terminator and slob. Then you add the hat.
6 – Dr Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica)
A smarter man you will not find anywhere in the Galaxy. It is a lovely addition to the show that the costume people thought about what fashions would be like in this Universe. Away from the military uniforms that dominate proceedings, it’s always a relief to have Dr Baltar (real or imagined) showing us what rich people wear.
5 – Kerr Avon (Blake’s 7)
Studs and high visibility stripes, and black. Lots of black. Avon’s costumes sum him up perfectly and that’s why he’s so high on the list. The black clothes make him seem like the old-style villain which is the side he wants everyone to see. There is also the shining silver, the cracks in his façade that reveal the goodness within him.
4 – Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds (Firefly)
Captain Tightpants himself. I read somewhere that the pants themselves were 100 years old. Mal’s outfit is a great creation that sums him up perfectly as the space cowboy he has crafted himself as since the war. I thought about getting the replica jacket more than once but I know it’ll be like the bandanna thing all over again, and the bandanna didn’t come with the hefty price tag that a browncoat does. Nathan Fillion liked the costume so much he even managed to wear it in an episode of Castle. When I’m a famous author, I’ll probably get the jacket. I can just wear it around the house.
3 – The Cat (Red Dwarf)
Cat’s costumes evolved so much over the years. There’s probably no character in space more closely linked with wardrobe. It started off with variations on the zoot suit he wore for his audition but by series 3 he was wearing more than one outfit per episode. In fact, he wore 15 separate outfits in those six episodes alone. Costumer Howard Burden was largely responsible for this explosion in options. In the next few years, things settled down into usually one outfit per episode, but there were some that shrugged off the restrictions. In the episode Nanarchy, he has five outfits.
2 – Han Solo (Star Wars)
This picture says it all: who looks cooler than Han Solo? Of all his outfits, I think I actually prefer the Bespin one. It probably carries with it some unfortunate torture references for Han so I guess he didn’t wear it much after that. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been trying to add some real information about some of these costumes but it’s no easy task. His original costume was designed by John Mollo, who won an Oscar for his handiwork. The look is a western style much like Mal’s. His shirt is Custer-style which you can apparently pick up in western shops today. Glad they left out the cowboy hat. Don’t think that would have worked.
1 – The Doctor (Doctor Who)
When I thought about this, I knew there was only ever going to be one winner. It’s slightly unfair too, as there are so many incarnations of the Doctor. He is, essentially, the same character so I have to treat him as one. Over the years he’s had so many different looks. Think of the Doctor and you could be thinking of frock coats, long scarves, cricket jumpers, leather jackets, bow ties or fitted suits. Wherever your memory takes you, however, you can find something that is there in the collective memories of everyone; even people who don’t watch or like Doctor Who. They can all see an outfit. What’s the first one that popped into your mind? Was it your favourite? The Doctor is an ever-evolving creation, a brilliant invention that can refresh itself at will. How wonderful for the producers. With any other character there would be fan revulsion over changing actors. With the Doctor it’s a national event that makes the front page of newspapers. And with each new Doctor comes a new wardrobe. He is the best dressed man in space, and always there is a pocket with room for jelly babies.
Thanks for reading.