Force of Fashion: The Stories of Jedi Armor

The wardrobe of Jedi goes deeper than cloaks and tunics -- and their armor often carries great history and symbolism.

Force of Fashion focuses on all things wearable in a galaxy far, far away — and right here at home! — with behind-the-scenes studies on some of the most iconic costumes of the saga, and the biggest highlights in Star Wars fashion today.

For ages, the Jedi were known as the benevolent protectors of the galaxy. Rarely did these luminous beings don armor, for their way was peace and light; so when they did, it usually meant that something monumental was going on. The Jedi wrapping themselves up in any kind of war can, and has, spelled certain doom for their position as a positive force for good, but what’s not often spoken about is how this change can be documented and reflected in the garb that they choose to wear.

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Starting with the Clone Wars as an example, the beefed up armies of the Separatists meant that, in many cases, the Jedi could not feasibly show up in just robes. While many Jedi simply began wearing more combat-ready robes, like shorter tunics and tabbards, generals like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker adapted fitted, armored pieces to their ensembles. Their similar sets of armor only starkly differed in color, with Kenobi’s white, and Skywalker’s charcoal black. The two Jedi also temporarily ditched the flowing sleeves of their under-tunics for fitted sleeves and, of course, both varied from their usual costumes in color, with Skywalker going off the beaten path of earth colors with a bold red long sleeve top under an exceptionally dark blue (or black) tunic.

It’s a little overdramatic to state that a costume change would lead the Jedi down the wrong path entirely, but it’s also hard to argue that militarizing a group of magic space monks was a good idea in the first place. Despite the armor’s likely intention of looking similar to that of the clone troopers that the Jedi led, Anakin’s gleaming, dark chest plate is a near-exact mirror of the paneled plate he’d later wear as Darth Vader. It’s almost an ominous feature when you consider what happens to the Jedi, and the role Skywalker plays in their demise.

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 - Ashoka

Echoes of the Clone Wars live on after the end of the Jedi through former Padawans like Kanan Jarrus and Ahsoka Tano. The inspiration for the Jedi came from a number of places, and at the end of the Clone Wars, those impressions remained with those that still lived; Ahsoka’s armor reflects this inspiration through her chest plate and heavy waist piece, which contains panels of armor that call back to the Sangu of the samurai (the “skirt” piece, knee pads and leg guards that helped protect their extremities).

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Kanan’s history with his own armor is where things start to get interesting. Left to venture out on his own after his Master’s heartbreaking death during the Clone Wars, Caleb Dume found inspiration during his brief time as smuggler Janus Kasmir’s partner in crime. The two met on Kaller, where Caleb was on the run from clone troopers, and Kasmir taught Caleb everything he knew. While Caleb went on to repay Kasmir by knocking him out and ditching him, the boy who would become Kanan Jarrus was far too much of a softy to let go of Kasmir that easily. Adapting a name undoubtedly inspired by Kasmir, Kanan’s shoulder armor is also likely a nod to his time with the charismatic Kalleran. Kasmir’s massive shoulder armor strapped across his chest via a large, brown belt, and Kanan’s — with slight additions — is nearly the same.

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Speaking of Kanan, on the last season of Star Wars Rebels, we discovered that the Inquisitor was once a Jedi Temple Guard. Turn back the clock to The Clone Wars and these daunting figures of protection might seem even more familiar, especially for one Anakin Skywalker. During his desperate attempt to redeem Ahsoka Tano after she is suspected in an attack against the Temple, Temple Guards break up a fight between Skywalker and Barriss Offee. A dedicated sect of the Jedi, Temple Guards are Jedi Knights who forgo every aspect of their identity in service to the light side of the Force. Their distinctive masks and glowing white robes are a unique divergence from your standard Jedi fare, and their devotion to the Force was even deeper. After being blinded by Darth Maul during last season’s finale, Kanan fatefully found a mask belonging to a Temple Guard, and put it on. Going into Season Three, he’s since replaced it with a visor piece that serves as a nod to Captain Rex.

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Armor is almost never a good sign when it comes to the Jedi: it’s a sign of a war so great that the Jedi must join the ranks in order to settle the chaos. But in Kanan’s case, his armor — the very thing that protects him — is probably the greatest silent storytelling mechanism involving his character. Kanan practically wears his history on his sleeve, and as he delves deeper into his relationship with the Force, it’s going to be interesting to see how much figurative and literal armor he sheds (or builds) in order to deal with it.

With their origins greatly inspired by real-life warriors of times gone by, and the fact that they come in all shapes and sizes, the possibilities for Jedi armor are endless. As exciting as that sounds, Jedi armor is also a great indicator of wartime struggle, and a great sign for any enemy of good that wants to gauge how dangerous they are to the galaxy. As ever, trust in the Force, and the use of it for good, is better than any armor the Jedi might wear — but desperate times call for desperate measures, and their history with armor is a telling reminder of what paranoia and darkness can lead to.

Catrina Dennis is a writer and Star Wars die-hard. In her spare time, she tells stories, yells very loudly about soccer, and hosts a few very cool podcasts. Catch up with her on Twitter @ohcatrina.

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