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How to Make a Starship Trooper Roughneck Costume

Updated October 24, 2018

Some fans enjoy "Starship Troopers" for its bug-zapping sci-fi adventure, others for its controversial political commentary. Whatever the reason, the image of a "roughneck" -- especially the those in Paul Verhoeven's 1997 film adaptation -- defines the series. Roughnecks are mobile infantry space marines that wear heavy armour, so a do-it-yourself costume entails quite a bit of work, but the variety of the costume allows you freedom to take creative license.

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  1. Select a plain short-sleeved black T-shirt for the costume's undershirt. The shirt should fit snugly and tuck into your trousers.

  2. Use a pair of plain, straight-legged grey work trousers for the bottoms. Cargo trousers work here as well, as do plain grey slacks with no patterns or textures.

  3. Secure the trousers with a pair of clip-on fabric suspenders in drab green or grey colour. Most thrift stores and military surplus stores sell suspenders.

  4. Find a matching lightweight grey jacket for the top. Thrift stores are your best bet here. Select a plain, flat-front zippered jacket with as few pockets as possible. Cotton or polyester windbreakers fit the bill.

  5. Cut two rectangular strips of black fabric with the scissors, each about an inch wide, and sew them with needle and thread to the jacket's shoulders, spanning from the collar to the top arm seam. Cut the shape of the Mobile Infantry's winged insignia from white or silver fabric and sew it to the right front breast. The winged insignia depicts two triangular wings protruding from the blade of a dagger. For the jacket, it should measure about 3 inches tall and 2 inches wide.

  6. Use a pair of black infantry combat boots for the shoes. Find these at a local military surplus store, or at military surplus stores online. Five-buckle overshoes will give your roughneck footwear an even more authentic look.

  7. Use simple motorcycle body armour for the chest and back plates. Hockey shoulder pads could work in a pinch, or if you're building around Halloween time, you can likely find generic space marine armour made of light plastic or foam. Paint the armour drab green or grey on both sides using plastic-adhesive spray paint.

  8. Select a motorcycle helmet with built-in visor for the roughneck costume's helmet if you're going for a by-the-book look. Mask the visor with scrap paper and masking tape and spray paint the helmet to match the body armour. You can take a simpler visorless route -- featured in the "Starship Troopers" films -- with a simple G.I. Issue helmet, available for just a few dollars at virtually any military surplus store.

  9. Find a webbed chest rig in drab colours from a military surplus store. This consists of two vertical shoulder straps connected to a webbed belt. Accent the belt with ammo pouches and canteen holsters.

  10. Add green plastic military-issue canteens, a black knife belt and plain black gloves for extra detail.

  11. Complete the look by making a replica of the roughnecks' standard-issue weapon, the Morita Mark I rifle. For reference, this weapon is based on the real-world Ruger Mini-14. Use a plain, large machine gun toy -- such as an electronic light-up toy or a water pistol, but the bigger the better -- and paint it dark grey or black with plastic-adhesive spray paint.

  12. Tip

    Study the "Starship Troopers" films and other media to get a good look at the roughnecks' outfits. As the roughnecks are a unisex unit, this costume works for both men and women. You can forgo the jacket and wear just the black short sleeves for a look authentic to Verhoeven's film. Feel free to customise your costume; from the book and film series to animated interpretations and video games, the Starship Troopers roughneck uniform has had more than a few iterations.


    Spray paint in a well-ventilated or outdoor area and wear a face mask to protect yourself from fumes. Save the Morita rifle accessory for private costume parties to avoid any public scares.

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Things You'll Need

  • Black short-sleeved shirt
  • Gray trousers
  • Gray jacket
  • Scissors
  • Black fabric
  • Needle and thread
  • White or silver fabric
  • Combat boots
  • Five-buckle overshoes (optional)
  • Motorcycle or other body armour
  • Drab green or grey plastic-adhesive spray paint
  • Helmet
  • Masking tape and paper
  • Chest rig
  • Ammo pouches
  • Canteen holsters
  • Canteens
  • Knife belt
  • Black gloves

About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.

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