For fans of Star Trek: The Original Series, the running joke is that if Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to a strange, new world along with a Security officer, it's the poor sap in the red uniform who won't be coming back to the Enterprise in one piece. Because of this, the term "Redshirt" has come to mean someone who is expendable.
Playing on this trope, some friends of mine, Damien Oberlin Siegel and Anthony Kwan, organized a "Redshirt Zombie" cosplay day at the Las Vegas Star Trek convention several years ago. Months before the convention we spread the word through social media amongst other friends we knew would be attending as well, and Damien used her choreography skills to shoot a short demo video of herself performing the dance from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" so that we could watch it, learn it and do it together as a flash mob to dance as Redshirt Zombies.
The event was very successful and we had a lot of fun shambling through the hallways and dealers room, posing for photos throughout the day. We have repeated the Redshirt Zombie flash mob several times since, most recently last year at the 50th Anniversary convention in Las Vegas. As with my Borg costume, I have made upgrades and revisions to my Redshirt Zombie cosplay over the past couple of years, but what follows is a step by step outline for my original process.
I started with a redshirt uniform that I found at a thrift store. Many thrift stores will start to put out their Halloween costumes in late August, so I visit frequently and keep my eye out for new stock. I added a sew-on patch over the silk-screened delta division insignia, for greater accuracy. Since I found the uniform for just a few dollars, I didn't feel bad about strategically adding rips and tears to it in the chest, along the arms, and up the back.
With the tears in the uniform complete, next I took a plain black t-shirt and used fishing line (for durability) to sew on foam and rubber zombie costume parts (also from a thrift store and from an after-Halloween sale) like exposed ribs, intestines, and exposed spinal column. That way, I could don the black t-shirt with the attached Zombie parts and I could put on the uniform over the black shirt to create a more realistic 3-D effect. I found some elbow-length zombie gloves that I could slide underneath the ripped sleeves of the uniform.
For the trousers, I tracked down black polyester slacks at a thrift store and did a bit of hand sewing to duplicate the high cuffs from the look of TOS. I used additional rubber zombie parts like exposed bones and wounds to create a zombified look on the legs. I altered black boots from a thrift store. On the right foot I attached rubber skeleton toes, and used spare leather scraps attached to the top of the toes to make it appear that the boot was ripped open and the skeleton toes were exposed. I kept the left boot as it was, for a lack of symmetry to elicit an unnerving feeling from passers-by.
I realized that I could use makeup for the face, but I wanted to find a solution where I wouldn't need to spend a lot of time applying makeup, only to have to remove it later for another cosplay. So I opted for a three-part mask solution— a headpiece, a mouthpiece, and goggles to hide the division between the head and mouth. I located a Hector Hammond (the villain from the Green Lantern film) headpiece online for just a few dollars, and it looked wounded like a zombie. The forehead was bloated and elongated, and it reminded me of one of the alien bridge crew members from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In my mind for my cosplay, I was a zombified member of that particular alien race.
I unearthed a zombie mouth/nosepiece that wrapped around my own face and slipped over my ears to secure it at an after-Halloween sale, and goggles similar to goggles used in a few TOS episodes. In one of the eyes of the goggles, I cut a hole and wedged in a rubber fake eye, so it appears as if one eye is about to fall out of the goggles. It takes just a few seconds to put on the headpiece, then the mouthpiece and the then the goggles, and I can remove them quickly to eat or drink, and it saves me time at a convention if I want to wear another cosplay later in the day— I have no makeup to remove, so I can go straight to an Andorian, or to Mr. Data, or to a Borg.
My two oldest kids wanted to join me the 50th Anniversary Zombie Flash Mob last year, so they wore their TOS uniforms with some makeup and uncombed hair to capture the zombie aesthetic. Most recently, I've tweaked my Redshirt Zombie with newer, more realistic-looking zombie gloves, and I've experimented with an exposed teeth facial appliance, makeup, a wig, and the yellow contact lenses I use for Mr. Data and Lore.
If you are interested in becoming a Redshirt Zombie, there is a Facebook group with almost 200 members. You can ask questions, share Cosplay and makeup tips, and learn about get-togethers and flash mob events at the Las Vegas, and other conventions.
So, don't beam down with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. But if you do, be sure to watch your back— and fear the Walking Red!
Eric Allan Hall (he/him) has been costuming since 1987. A lifelong Star Trek fan, he's been featured in his Borg costume in the documentaries Trek Nation, by Rod Roddenberry, and in William Shatner’s Get A Life. Transplanted to Utah from the Seattle area in 2001, Eric has attended about 80 conventions since he first started cosplaying – often with his family.