These aren’t the style tips you’re looking for…
but they might be the ones you want.
The Star Wars movies are visually iconic –
full of looks nearly everyone recognizes and remembers.
Sure, you’re not wearing Jedi robes to work…
But if you wanna be iconic and memorable too? You’ll find plenty of inspiration in a galaxy far far away. You just have to know where – and how – to look.
First, let’s talk about the two distinct style philosophies the movies create. Jedi style reflects their values of discipline, order, and honesty. Light colors and soft, natural shapes give them a sense of having nothing to hide. Neutrals accented with cool tones such as blue and purple (a lightsaber is an accessory for our purposes here) use the psychology of color to communicate steadiness and trustworthiness.
Much of the inspiration for Jedi style, particularly in the original trilogy, came from the film Seven Samurai. Historical costumes of monks and warriors from our own world – particularly those in East Asian cultures – have continued to inform Jedi style in the later films.
Sith style conveys power and strength. They tend to reflect their emphasis on passion and emotion with high-contrast color plus black – black with metallic accents or black and red usually. Darth Vader’s black robes and red lightsaber take the style function of a black power suit and a red tie up to eleven.
Another hallmark of Sith dressing is the use of masks and concealing shapes. They make their reactions mysterious and their identities ambiguous. In other words, a Sith gets stuff done through intimidation rather than sincerity.
Original Trilogy Showdown: Luke’s Style Vs. Vader’s Style
Luke “it’s 1977 in space too” Skywalker…for all some of his looks have aged, starts out dressing in a way that’s practical for a farm kid in the desert.
Many of the shapes used in his costumes can be instructive style tips for short and skinny guys like Mark Hamill – wide-shouldered shirts that taper at the waist create a masculine v-silhouette. While most guys aren’t gonna go for a poncho like the one he wears, the principle is useful (think blocky sportcoats).
On the dark side of the arena: from the first moment you see Darth Vader in the very first scene of the trilogy, you’re pretty much hit in the face with the SHEER IMPACT of power dressing. Everything about him immediately lets you know he’s in charge.
Many of the shiny accents read as leather-like, and the rigid, military-inspired shapes add to the intimidation factor. All of this adds up to a character you instantly clock as the bad guy, but only a Sith deals in absolutes – Luke incorporates similar elements into an outfit that otherwise follows the Jedi style playbook in one of the final scenes of the trilogy.
The lines of Luke’s clothing become more defined and the colors darker as he matures throughout his journey, culminating with the scene where he confronts Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
The Black Outfit functions on several levels: it shows decisiveness and power, as well as visually demonstrating the crisis of the choice he’s presented with. But it also illustrates how Luke truly brings balance to the force, leveraging both passion and principle to redeem his father (it’s also an outfit that really intensifies his best features. Take a lesson, blue-eyed guys – even if you’re low-contrast, you can ROCK black-on-black).
Prequels Showdown: Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan
Obi-Wan Kenobi is the great traditionalist of Jedi style. He’s that guy you know who figured out the style rules in his 20s and never changed a thing.
He wears his conservatism pretty well – his outfits are always light and neutral tones and always impeccably neat. They evoke a monastic lawful good mentality with no room for ambiguity, which reflects how he views the Jedi path (at least before Anakin’s turn to the dark side).
Anakin is the bad boy rebel-without-a-cause who subverts the Jedi uniform by wearing more and more leather and ultimately black leather. You can see the start of his progression into Darth Vader in the shapes and cuts, but this isn’t ‘military commander’ power dressing quite yet – it’s edgy biker power dressing.
Obviously, in the movie, this is telling the story of a young man acting out as he’s torn between commitments, but as style lessons go, the balance between edgy and traditional can be inspiring. The flattering v-shape of a Jedi’s garments might be something to look for when buying a leather jacket.
New Trilogy Showdown: Rey Vs. Kylo
For obvious reasons, Rey may not be your first go-to when you look to Star Wars for menswear inspiration, but at the end of the day, Jedi style secrets are unisex. Similarly, Kylo might not be your first choice for an example of Sith style since he’s not technically a Sith, but his costume presents an interesting callback to the iconic looks of the older films.
Rey’s outfits incorporate many Jedi elements such as kimono-like wrap styles, soft belted robes and light colors, but there’s one thing that makes them unique: extreme functionality.
Her first costume in The Force Awakens is a useful lesson in practical accessorizing. Coordinated gear lets her carry a lot of stuff while keeping hands free and looking like an integrated part of the outfit.
In that ensemble and most of Rey’s outfits, dark elements balance an overall light ensemble–shoulder drapery or vests matched to pants, belts matched to boots, etc. Even if it’s junkyard scavenge in the story, it has to look good on film – and that’s accomplished by balancing colors and shapes.
Kylo Ren’s outfits copy Vader’s but are much less imposing – slimmer shapes, softer shoulders. Even though this definitely conveys an important fact of his character – that he’s a guy struggling to live up to a legendary Sith Lord (and metatextually, one of the most iconic movie villains of all time) – there’s a lesson in age-appropriate style there: Kylo knows how to dress for the job he wants without out-dressing his age…or his boss!
Jumping back to Rey, the first looks at her outfit in the new movie reveal that it includes the matte fabrics of Jedi monasticism with darker colors. Judging from the previous movies that’s probably meaningful – but is it a hint of new maturity and balance or a sign of a struggle with the dark side?
Both sides of the Force have their fashion strengths. Much of the comparison comes down to straight-up power dressing vs dressing specifically to convey open sincerity, both of which can be powerful depending on your situation.
Characters’ styles develop as they age, which is an idea you can apply to your own wardrobe. Let your style be influenced by your career and the changes life takes you through.
Ultimately, crafting a personal image is about balancing short-term goals with long-term goals – there’s no shortcut to inner confidence and integrity, even if you can pull off a few style-based Jedi mind tricks along the way. So, is the dark side stronger? It’s worth noting that intimidation takes a Sith Lord a long way…but if you strike a Jedi down, he will become more powerful than you can ever imagine.