Since its inception, the Star Wars universe has been a major force on the fashion world. And we’re not talking just about the ubiquity of R2-D2 tee shirts, Darth Vader masks, or Star Wars Halloween costumes. Rachel Tashjian reports for Vanity Fair that Star Wars “both revolutionized the concept of sci-fi costume and anticipated a radical moment in the fashion industry in the late 1970s,” eschewing costuming cliches like silver jumpsuits and Greco-Roman togas to take cues from Japanese traditional dress.
Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, enemies, and warriors were dressed by John Mollo in streamlined but stylized armor, unadorned uniforms, and flowing robes that looked unfamiliar enough to the western eye as to look almost alien. These Japanese-inspired costuming choices coincided with a moment in fashion during which an emerging group of Japanese avant-garde designers – including Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Kansai Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake – were experimenting with what Tashjian characterizes as “surreal and cerebral shapes and bulbous gatherings of fabric that resemble the fresh, outer-world look of Star Wars, with perhaps less threatening results.”
Each Star Wars film both borrowed from and influenced the world of fashion, in a decades-long entanglement that just promises to continue with the latest film, The Force Awakens. While the newest installment in the series ignores today’s version of sci-fi costuming stereotypes, it doesn’t avoid the influence of “today’s most zeitgeisty designers,” borrowing inspiration from the putty-colored garments of Kanye West’s Yeezy line and the color schemes and draped tunics synonymous with Rick Owens. For when you don’t want to step out of the house in your well-worn Star Wars logo tee, these are the higher-end pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in your everyday life – or in a galaxy far, far away.
Whether you think of Han Solo as the roguish captain of the Millennium Falcon, a hero by circumstance, or an unlikely leader of the Rebel Alliance, he’s a rakish character whose style you can’t help wanting to emulate. Solo’s look has always been about as western (or spaghetti western) as you can get in a galaxy far, far away, with rough and tumble boots and a jacket or vest layered expertly over a collared variation on the henley.
Decades after Han shot first, it’s still easy to find high-end pieces that channel the captain’s rugged style. Try a distressed leather jacket like RRL’s Fenton jacket, or go for Solo’s signature vest with a cotton moleskin vest, also from Ralph Lauren’s hard-wearing and workwear-steeped RRL line. Or if it’s Solo’s henley that’s more your style, try RRL’s waffle style for a version that’ll last you through a journey across the galaxy.
While we love our classic Star Wars characters, there are narratives (and style lessons) to learn from the new characters introduced with the latest film. Poe Dameron is one of these new characters, and is a skilled pilot affiliated with the Resistance, the secretive military force founded by Leia Organa to keep an eye on The First Order.
Orange and white, a color combination expertly modeled by Dameron and his loyal astromech droid BB-8 in The Force Awakens, is a pairing you can wear whether or not you’re a decorated X-wing pilot in the Resistance’s Starfighter Corps. Pair a beige topper like Loro Piana’s suede traveler jacket with a layer like Our Legacy’s button-front shirt or even Ray-Ban’s orange aviators, which pay subtle tribute to Dameron’s skill as a pilot.
Rey & Finn
Other characters to pay attention to in The Force Awakens are Rey and Finn. Rey is a Jakku scavenger – and a talented mechanic, pilot, and warrior – who gets drawn into the conflicts playing out across the galaxy by an appeal for help from BB-8. Rey forges a friendship with Finn, who was trained to serve as a stormtrooper for the First Order but chose a more heroic path in helping Poe Dameron escape and then fighting for his own freedom. Both are compelling new characters who offer an exciting new storyline – and an apt illustration of the fact that sand tones are back with a vengeance.
Channel Rey’s desert-inspired style and Finn’s combat-ready clothing with a waffle-knit tee from Kanye West’s Yeezy line, the label’s distressed wool sweater with twill shoulder and sleeve patches, or Belstaff’s suede jacket, which features the label’s signature (and action-ready) quilted shoulders.
Kylo Ren is a dark character you’ll want to pay attention to – and not just because of that unconventional lightsaber. He’s a leader of the First Order and a student of Supreme Leader Snoke, and his goal is to destroy the New Republic, the Resistance, and the legacy of the Jedi to finish the work of Darth Vader. In the past, he was neither Jedi nor Sith, but was influenced by the teachings of both sides. He was an apprentice of Luke Skywalker, but killed his fellow students and drove Skywalker into exile.
You can channel Ren’s dark side and unique pedigree with designer pieces that have a similar penchant for borrowing from conflicting traditions, like Balmain’s motorcycle-inspired sweatpants. Pay a more overt tribute to Ren’s impressive and dramatic robes with a drape-front cardigan from Rick Owens, cut with a long and luxurious silhouette and articulated elbows. Pair them with a futuristic pair of sneakers that nods to Ren’s favored color scheme, like Maison Margiela’s ankle-strap sneakers.
Chewbacca is a Wookie warrior best known as Han Solo’s lovable copilot aboard the Millennium Falcon. He numbers among the rebels who restored freedom to the galaxy, and has been loyal to Solo through changing times, increasingly dangerous conflicts, and ongoing missions. The Millennium Falcon was stolen and ultimately recovered, but as always, Solo and Chewbacca find themselves right in the middle of all the danger.
An over-the-top shearling jacket, like a rugged shawl collar version from RRL, might be the only way to truly pay homage to Chewie’s epic proportions. But a subtler way to channel Chewie, without going the shearling route, is to try a more streamlined jacket, like Gucci’s suede bomber jacket in the perfect shade of brown. Alternatively, go with a retro aviator jacket like Loro Piana’s shearling bomber jacket, which would nod a little more directly to Chewbacca’s skill as a copilot than to his impressive hair.
Luke Skywalker is an iconic Star Wars hero who rose from humble origins as a Tatooine farm boy to become one of the greatest Jedi known to the galaxy, all in a chain of events catalyzed by his uncle’s purchase of the trusty droids C-3P0 and R2-D2. Along the way, he battled the Empire and ended the tyranny of the Sith. Skywalker’s most iconic look is his monastic Jedi robes, though as Chris Elvidge reports for Mr. Porter, Skywalker could pass for a Tibetan monk if it weren’t for his accessories: a floating car and a laser sword.
In Elvidge’s assessment, there’s a timelessness to the art direction of Episode IV: A New Hope “that was somewhat lost in The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, both of which contain costumes that look like they’re straight out of the early 1980s.” It’s Episode IV that Elvidge sees influencing the catwalk today, with pieces like Balmain’s biker-style sweatpants, Sandro’s cotton trench coat, and Maison Margiela’s color-block tee paying subtle tribute.
No roundup of iconic looks from Star Wars would be complete without mention of one of the franchise’s most tragic characters: Jedi-Knight-turned-Sith-Lord Darth Vader. Before turning to the dark side, Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker. Conflicted, he was tempted by Darth Sidious to become a disciple of the dark side. After battling his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vader was left severely burned and came to rely on his iconic black armor and mechanical lungs.
If you still have a soft spot for the Star Wars series’ most iconic villain, you can reinterpret his style for a more modern, wearable look that’s still edgy and futuristic. Try a military-inspired coat that combines an unforgiving black with luxurious materials, like Alexander McQueen’s velvet-trimmed topcoat. Go for an armored look with Saint Laurent’s leather detail moto zip jeans. And wear a dramatically distressed black tee, like AMIRI’s shotgun shirt for a subtle reminder of Darth Vader’s battered interior.