On July 20, 1969, NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins successfully completed the Apollo 11 mission which culminated in Armstrong taking that fateful space walk on the moon’s surface, telling those listening, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong’s legendary accomplishment is chronicled in Damian Chazelle’s latest film, First Man (opening today), which the Hollywood Reporter has called a, “sober, contemplative picture [with] emotional involvement, visceral tension, and yes, even suspense, in addition to stunning technical craft.”
Although the six American flags which have been left on the moon since Apollo 11 have been confirmed to have turned white due to alternating days of searing sunlight and 100° heat and days of numbing-cold -150°, there’s no mistaking the technicolor impact that the mission had on various facets of industries.
Since the days of the space race, designers like like André Courrèges, Paco Rabanne, and Pierre Cardin, have attempted to sartorially predict what the future held for society – whether forecasting the daily uniforms for the masses — or more esoteric fare for those on the fringes as drastic changes occur in society.
Dubbed “space age” in their terse assessment by fashion critics, these looks have permeated couture houses in as futuristic silhouettes, and have been more overt homages to NASA by contemporary designers.
Here’s a look at some of the space age fashion over the years
André Courrèges’ Spring collection
Andre Courréges is thought to be the Godfather of space age fashion; notably employing geometric shapes into his 1960s silhouettes and being the first designer to incorporate plastics and PVC into his works.
As WWDnoted, “His spring collection of 1964 radically redefined fashion with looks that were futuristic at the time, including dresses with cutouts; short, A-line skirts; poor-boy sweaters; slim pants, and goggles and helmets inspired by astronauts.”
Emilio Pucci’s Braniff Airlines uniforms
American flight courier, Braniff Airlines, prided itself on being different than it’s competitors in seemingly ever facet of commerce; whether it was their bright yellow paint jobs on their airplanes, having Andy Warhol as a prominent brand enthusiast, or choosing Italian designer, Emilio Pucci, to design the uniforms for their flight attendants.
Colorful, whimsical, and utilitarian — like the space style helmets so a woman’s hair wouldn’t blow out of place when on the tarmac – Pucci’s designs were certainly unlike anything people had seem at the time.
Rudi Gernriech’s Vinyl collection
For the cover of the December issue of TIME, designer Rudi Gernriech is shown flanked by two models, Peggy Moffitt and Leon Bing, who are adorned in candy-colored dressed with contrasting transparent vinyl inserts. So too inspired by space like Andre Courrèges and Paco Rabanne, Gernriech opted instead to explore a “future” where women were free to explore there sartorial garb in any way they saw fit. This lead TIME to call the designer, “the most way-out, far-ahead designer in the US” due in large part to a vinyl collection he had created for Wards Brentshire Designers which featured a number of bright-colored looks with contrasting outerwear.
Reed Crawford’s “Dollar Princess” hat
British designer, Reed Crawford, earned a reputation for making hats with decidedly contrasting features like combining fur with plastics. He ratcheted up this off-kilter combination when he created his “Dollar Princess” hat; a visor-like abstraction made from a number of milk bottle tops which gave the impression of a space helmet.
Pierre Cardin’s Cosmocorps collection
In speaking about his intent for his futurist-leaning Cosmocorps collection, Pierre Cardin said, “the clothes I prefer, I invent them for a life that doesn’t exist yet – the world of tomorrow.”
But it wasn’t only womenswear which benefited from Cardin’s genius. So too did he envision unisex pieces where the lines between male and female garments were completely indistinguishable thanks to flowing tunics topped with domed felt hats.
Paco Rabanne for ‘Barbarella’
Director Roger Vadim’s 1968 film, Barbarella, starred Jane Fonda as the titular hero/astronaut sent out on a 41st century intergalactic quest not unlike Luke Skywalker’s journey in Star Wars. He turned to Spanish designer, Paco Rabanne, to handle certain key looks.
Of course, Rabanne had earned a reputation of dressing starlets of that era in what could be described as “space age armor” — resulting in chain-mail minidresses which were equal parts sexy as they were uniforms for female empowerment.
As a result of his work, Coco Chanel would famously quip, “He’s not a couturier. He’s a metal worker.”
Giancarlo Zanatta’s Moon Boots
In 1978, the Tecnica footwear brand registered the Moon Boot silhouette based on a design from Montebelluna-born designer, Giancarlo Zanatta. At the time, the original iteration boasted Cordura uppers and the now ubiquitous foam/rubber soles which attempted to mirror the footwork of Apollo 11 astronauts.
In the early 2000s’, newer iterations of the silhouette appeared on the runway — at Anna Sui’s Fall 2002 show — and were reinterpreted by design houses like Christian Dior, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Pucci, Timberland, and Columbia Sportswear Company.
Ralph Lauren’s Polo NASA jacket
Although the year 1992 in a contemporary context will evoke colorful thoughts of Polo’s now iconic Snow Beach collection, the brand also designed a flip on NASA’s vintage white flight suit. Eschewing any collaborative references in favor of its own personal branding, an orbital patch appears on the right sleeve and is mirrored by an American flag on the left.
Givenchy’s Fall/Winter collection
With Y2K looming, Alexander McQueen offered up a futuristic take for Givenchy at their Fall/Winter show which was in stark contrast to what he had presented a year earlier which was a mixture of lace, ruffle, and fur. In this Tron-inspired collection, hallmarks included LED lights, glow-in-the-dark prints, molded clear plastic body casts, and circuit board patterns.
Louis Vuitton’s “Core Values” campaign
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for its “Core Values” campaign, Louis Vuitton chose Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride — the first American woman in space — and Jim Lovell — who guided Apollo 13 back home after its mechanical failures — as the models for the “Icare” luggage (named for Icarus; the mythological man of flight).
“Malle Mars” by Louis Vuitton
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar landing, Louis Vuitton continued the space trend created by the Annie Leibovitz-led photoshoot with its custom-made “Malle Mars” trunk.
The bullet-shaped metallic piece of luggage opened in sections to reveal utilitarian tools an astronaut might need, as well as more upscale items like cutlery and dishware for when space food needed a little classing up.
The one-of-a-kind trunk was put on display at at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History.
Raf Simons Astronaut Boot
Featuring a silhouette that had multiple tongues, a pouch on the back heel area, and a strap, Raf Simons’ attempt at conjuring up a futuristic shoe was a departure from earlier footwear attempts like his Vandal High and Multi Lace Sneaker which felt much more traditional in their approach.
Tom Sachs’ Mars Yard Shoe
In May 2012, Nike partnered with artist, Tom Sachs, on an extremely limited NIKEcraft capsule collection which was launched in conjunction with his SPACE PROGRAM: Mars exhibit, which featured fabricated lunar modules and actors in space suits in an installation meant to emulate a Mars landing.
The culmination was a collection aimed to recontexualize what a rocket scientist looked like; with the highlight being the Mars Yard Shoe which was designed with NASA mechanical engineer, Tommaso Rivellini, in mind. The initial iteration featured a tread meant to provide traction on the simulated Martian terrain in Pasadena, California, while the uppers utilized vectran ripstop material used in the Mars Excursion Rover airbags.
Raf Simons Leather Holographic Space Sneakers
Not quite a moon boot, and not quite a high-top sneaker, Simons’ further interest in space culture was realized three years after his initial iteration. Key elements included holographic paneling at the heel and hidden eyelets.
Christian Dior’s Fall collection
According to the Wall Street Journal’s, Christina Passariello, Raf Simons took inspiration from astronauts for his 2014 show with Christian Dior. Specifically, a range of jumpsuits and baggy pants seemed to indicate he was experimenting with utilitarian garb on an interstellar vessel.
Extra Butter x Saucony’s “ACES” Grid 9000
Drawing inspiration from President Kennedy’s remarks which initiated the space race, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” Extra Butter teamed up with Saucony for a reworked Grid 9000 inspired by the ACES (Advanced Crew Escape Suit) worn by astronauts.
Saucony had previously been Hyde Footwear, and had been the manufacturer of the boots that were used during the first space walk. As a likely partner, they conjured up a silhouette with an orange upper, reflective 3M pieces, and NASA-inspired Extra Butter patches which were interchangeable on different parts of the shoes.
Omega Snoopy-branded Speedmaster
Snoopy was chosen as the official mascot of NASA’s Apollo program in the 1970s, while Omega provided the missions’ astronauts with watches.
To commemorate the safe return of Apollo 13 – whose crew members endured six days of space hell aboard a badly damaged ship – the Swiss watchmaker utilized the iconic cartoon dog upon the sub dial and on the watch’s reverse, with the first 14 seconds of the main dial highlighted in reference to the precision 14-second course correction that ensured the craft’s safe return after one of its oxygen tanks exploded.
Supreme’s Spring Summer collection
Perhaps lost amongst the graphics/photos featuring luminaries like Malcolm X and Neil Young that year was a mock-up of an astronaut with the Supreme emblem reflecting off his visor.
Versace Fall collection
It seemed rather apropos that the same week that the father of space aesthetic, André Courrèges, and futurist rocker, David Bowie, both passed away, Versace unveiled a collection with prominent orbital motifs like constellation patterns on jeans and bomber jackets.
“The message I want to send is to look at space not as an escape, but as a clean, fresh place, and to make everyone aware of the importance of living well in a clean, eco-friendly world,” said Donatella Versace.
Opening Ceremony Fall collection
At New York Fashion Week, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim decorated Pier 90 with space mobiles which highlighted the core collection that included illustrations from the archives of Syd Mead — the visual artist behind Blade Runner and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
As Voguenoted of the duo’s though process, “it was [Mead’s} guidance that led them to think about the future not in terms of what will change, but in terms of what won’t. In a nutshell, Mead got them thinking about how people actually live and what they actually need from their clothes. It’s rare to see a futuristic collection that’s neither dystopian or utopian, but rather, as this one was, merely humane.”
Been Trill’s Space Pack
In conjunction with British retailer, Selfridges, Been Trill released a “Space Pack” which included reflective materials on jackets, graphics of the escape pod used on Apollo 13, and spaceships.
Supreme’s Fall/Winter collection
Supreme continued the astronaut theme a year later with a more prominent graphic on a monochromatic hoodie with red branding hits for “Supreme” and “NASA.”
NOAH’s “Abandon All Hope Space Pen”
NOAH’s take on the Fisher Bullet Space Pen featured the ability to write in an anti-gravity setting and during extreme heat thanks to an airtight ink cartridge and precision-fitted tungsten carbide ballpoint.
Sankuanz Men’s Fall collection
Chinese designer, Shangguan Zhe, used Paris Fashion Week to further expand upon themes of survival which had permeated his past works. This meant given rise to a new form of “hazmat suit” which featured utility straps breathing-tube attachments, military-style jackets and boots, and DuPont fabrics and fibers actually found in NASA space suits.
Zhe said of the collection, “Sometimes, the function and aesthetic of a garment is a mere illusion. You will eventually get wet on a rainy day. Your style will eventually look outdated, embarrassing, and ridiculous. To quote Ludwig Wittgenstein: ‘Sometimes problems are not solved by answers, but by the disappearance of problems themselves.’”
Chanel’s rocket launch
For Chanel’S Fall 2017 show, Karl Lagerfeld created his own space station inside Paris’s iconic Grand Palais. This included a faux launch — complete with smoke — as models walked to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” Not surprisingly, the looks mirrored the presentation with key features like metallic boots, spacesuit printed dresses, space shawls, galactic prints, and slicked back hair with headbands as an homage to Jane Fonda’s Barbarella.
Tom Sachs’ Mars x NIKEcraft Mars Yard 2.0
When it was announced that Sachs was revisiting the Mars Yard silhouette, he wanted it to be clear that it was an update/improvement, not a reissue. This meant replacing the vectran fabric with a more durable polyester warp-knit tricot mesh, which was eminently more breathable and flexible, and updating the desert-minded sole for stability on surfaces like tile and steel.
Coach’s Pre-Fall Space collection
Following Chanel’s “blast-off” cue, Coach got in on the space race with a retro take on NASA’s aesthetics and iconography, saying that the collection was inspired by, “American dreamers and explorers who believe that anything is possible.”
Rocket ships adorned sweaters (a sly homage to The Shining), patches were on bags and wristlets, and the brand unveiled a space helmet-clad dinosaur on smaller accessories.
Stereo Vinyl’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection
Korean streetwear label, Stereo Vinyls, created a collection titled “Is Anyone Out There” which was inspired by the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes launched by NASA in the 1970s. Drawing from the International Space Archives, key pieces included track pants, bomber jackets, and a collaboration with Converse which replaced the usual branding with an image of a planet.
Alpha Industries’ MA-1 Tight Apollo jacket
Alpha Industries and NASA seem like perfect collaborators given their united desire to turn utilitarian garb into stylish pieces for everyone’s closet. Straight forward in their approach, the silver-toned jacket was peppered in patches and a NASA emblem appears front and center on the chest.
Heron Preston x NASA
Heron Preston has proved his willingness to collaborate with unlikely sources. At Paris Men’s Fashion Week in 2016, he illustrated his desire to create zero waste-themed apparel and accessories by joining forces with New York City’s Department of Sanitation.
Furthering this ability to bridge the gap between fashion and culture, Preston linked up with NASA to commemorate the organization’s 60th anniversary, and to also draw attention to the idea of “space waste” which further aligned with his collection in 2016.
Highlight pieces included parkas, metallic astronaut jackets, and high-tech trousers.
NASA x VANS
While the initial thought was that NASA and Vans would simply be combining forces for only a reworked version of Old Skool silhouette, it was revealed that a string of other shoes were included like Sk8-Hi 46 MTE and classic Slip-On in colorways like “Galaxy/Black” with removable American flag patches on the rear.
NASA x monkey time’s Oversized T-shirts
Focusing on the specs of various successful space missions — like Columbia and Apollo XI — Japanese brand, money time, opted for a subdued, monochromatic designs that read “National Aeronautics and Space Administration.”
Nike Air Force 1 Low & Air Huarache
Utilizing NASA-inspired colorways on both the Air Force 1 Low and Huarache which may have been lost on some, the theme is further enhanced with astronaut graphics on the insoles which depict an astronaut planting a Nike flag on the lunar surface.
Mercer Amsterdam’s NASA sneaker
Limited to just 96 pairs worldwide, Mercer Amsterdam commemorated Apollo 11’s achievements for mankind with a leather low top with hits of blue on the side and at the heel, red laces, and coordinates of the Kennedy Space Center where the vessel was launched.
Tom Sachs’ Nike Mars Yard Overshoe
Boasting a Dyneema upper with drawstring and Fidlock buckle closures on top of light blue SFB sole unit, Sachs’ latest collaboration with Nike is meant to address inclement weather both on Earth, and should interplanetary travel suddenly become possible.
In an exclusive interview with Highsnobiety, he told us, “The Mars Yard Overshoe, its nickname is the March Yard — for March, the worst month of the year. It is wet, your feet are wet the whole month of March.”
For more space content, here’s what critics are saying about ‘First Man.’