A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, dudes wore dope space jackets. Judging from the just-released and possibly final trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that tradition — like Stormtroopers that can’t shoot straight — continues. And it’s all for the good. Just because there’s a devastating galactic civil war in progress that has already involved multiple planetary genocides doesn’t mean that a man can’t look his dashing best while bull’s-eyeing womp rats in his T-16, or zipping betwixt the lumbering legs of an AT-AT in a snowspeeder, or flying an X-wing into a superweapon’s utility trench. Say what you will about those scruffy, neosocialist Rebel Alliance hippies, but they understood the important branding message of looking rad. How else are you going to get people to sign up for a suicidal war or fly the Y-wing, the scrub vehicle of the Rebel Alliance?1
No one joins the rebellion and is like, “Yo, I’ll fly the Y-wing.” Flying the Y-wing just means you failed your X-wing exam.
Cool jackets are integral to Star Wars and the wider sci-fi/fantasy realm. They’re what separates a pop-culturally important work of imaginative fiction from the Star Wars kid; make your characters look cool or they will come off like nerds. From the trailer, it appears J.J. Abrams gets the cool-jacket aspect of Star Wars absolutely right. Which is yet another reason the Episode I-III prequels were unmitigated space trash. Those movies contain zero dope jackets. Because of the overtly wack2 Jedi focus of those films, every dude was stuck wearing those lame-ass brown monk bathrobes and loose-fitting, rough-spun kimono tunics. Also, pro tip: When a Jedi starts wearing black robes,3 maybe keep an eye on that person. Just a thought.
Meanwhile, look what George Lucas made poor Jimmy Smits wear:
Dear god. The overcoat is bad enough, but the sweater ruffles look like sea anemone crossed with the upholstery from a Toyota Tercel.
Now that we’re done running through what didn’t work and disqualifying these cosmic affronts to fashion, here are the definitive Star Wars jacket ratings:
1. Luke Skywalker’s Battle of Yavin Medal Ceremony Jacket, A New Hope
This look is untouchable. Equally at home in the vast galactic void, the roller rink, or on your princess/sister’s bedroom floor, this maize-colored space-satin-and-polyester lady slayer is the jacket that started it all. Accept no substitutes.
2. Han Solo’s Cloud City Casual, The Empire Strikes Back
Han wears this dark navy space-cotton windbreaker for basically the entirety of The Empire Strikes Back. Smart man. When you’re trying to smash with royalty, you want to look cool, of course, but equally important is looking like you don’t really give a shit if you smash or look cool. This jacket says, “I’m awesome, I know it, and so do you.” Han even wears it while being brutally tortured on Darth Vader’s rack-of-random-car-parts machine. It’s only toward the end of the movie, right before he’s about to be flash frozen, that Han takes the jacket off, probably because of carbonite’s tendency to cause colors to fade.
3. Han Solo’s Hoth Parka, The Empire Strikes Back
Want to look fresh as uncut conflict diamonds while tucking your too-turnt best dude into the sliced-open stomach cavity of a dead bipedal pack animal? Then this military-style anorak with fur-lined hood is for you. Canada Goose — which accounts for two out of every three winter jackets in New York City — legit charges almost $1,000 for knockoffs of this coat.
4. Han Solo’s Jacket, The Force Awakens
Old-ass Han Solo, meanwhile, is — as per usual — still rocking out with a rakish fashion sensibility even if this jacket isn’t quite as awesome as others he’s worn throughout the series.
Han always knew the value of a great jacket. And what are those three metal vials on his left breast? High-caliber bullets? Space whippets? Corellian Viagra? Whatever they are, it’s probably illicit. Smugglers gotta smuggle.
Han-related aside: My low-key favorite part of Return of the Jedi is that everyone in the rebel raiding party sent to Endor, including Luke and Princess Leia, are wearing forest-green camo ponchos and helmets — the better to blend into the sylvan woods — and Han just wears a cowboy-style duster and his regular vest-over-shirt look because, like, whatever. The whole galaxy depends on stealthily turning off the new Death Star’s energy shield? Doesn’t mean you can’t still look great.
5. Lando Calrissian’s Cloud City Cape, The Empire Strikes Back
Not technically a jacket, but whatever, it’s a thick outer garment worn over clothing. It counts. Cloud City was once a minor urban backwater located above the gas giant planet Bespin, populated by millions of workaday, blue-collar industrial schlubs who toiled in the city’s Tibanna harvesting plants. When Lando took over management of the city — allegedly by winning the title of Baron Administrator from his predecessor in a bet — he transformed what was essentially a floating natural gas platform into a top-shelf hotel and gaming vacation experience. That is why he’s allowed to wear a cape as dope as this.
6. Finn’s Bomber, The Force Awakens
Take a look at our man Finn (John Boyega) and his possibly Empire-issued leather quasi-bomber jacket, which is pretty OK from a Star Wars outerwear perspective.
Finn is giving off that vibe of like “Hey, this jacket is OK and hopefully I get a doper one for the sequel.” It actually looks cooler from the back.
7. Bossk’s Yellow Flight Suit and Greedo’s Biker Jacket, Empire and A New Hope (Tie)
You see Bossk for only like 30 seconds in Empire, which meant that owning his action figure was a mark of status among the neighborhood kids. Owning a Bossk figure said “I know Star Wars.” I prefer Bossk’s flight suit to the semi-wack jumper Luke wears in Empire when he goes to Dagobah. Greedo, meanwhile, doesn’t get enough credit for the two-tone biker jacket he wears under his totally unnecessary but very Star Wars–ian vest. The guy — or fish or seahorse or whatever — really knew how to accessorize his skin.
8. Lando’s “I’m a General Now” Officer’s Jacket and Cape, Return of the Jedi
I’ve always been confused at the ease with which various characters got promoted up the ranks of the Rebel Alliance. In Empire, Lando betrayed our heroes to the Empire, which got Han tortured, frozen, and hung on Jabba’s wall like a Rothko. Yes, he had little choice and felt bad about it, and he later helped Leia, Chewie, Luke, and the droids escape, but facts is facts. Then, by the middle of Return of the Jedi, Lando was not only accepted into the rebellion, but he became a general. I guess beggars can’t be choosers; if the rebellion turned away everyone who used to snitch for the Empire, who’d be left to volunteer to fly suicide missions into the new Death Star?
9. Captain Phasma’s First Order Cape, The Force Awakens
This is more about the armor, I admit. But, c’mon. Metal-plated armor plus a simple black cloak with a blood-red hem? Very cool-looking.
10. Ponda Baba’s Orange Biker/Bomber Jacket, A New Hope
Ponda Baba is an Aqualish pirate and thug who you may remember as the alien who tried beefing with a young Luke Skywalker only to get his arm sliced off by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Which is sad. Not because of the arm — those, as we’ve seen time and again, are easily replaced in the galaxy far, far away — but because that saber slice ruined a perfectly fly jacket.
11. Luke’s Dagobah Jacket, The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, so it’s kind of weird Luke so rarely wore a jacket with a poppable collar. Sadly, it’s the weakest sartorially of his non-Jedi kimono jackets, a tan canvas safari number. Which, yeah, he was in the swamp.
Non–Star Wars Special Mention Section
Two other jackets in the wider sci-fi/fantasy realm deserve attention.
Star-Lord’s crimson Han Solo–inspired space jacket:
Jaime Lannister’s “Going to Dorne” jacket:
Whether it’s in outer space or the Seven Kingdoms, cool dudes wear cool jackets.