Star Wars' New Stormtroopers Drew Inspiration From Two Unusual Sources

When George Lucas launched Star Wars back in 1977, the film had an authentic, lived-in look and feel that went a long way towards selling the world he created. Updating that for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one of the challenges was to maintain that well-worn vibe, but also account for 30 years of fashion evolution. According to costume designer Michael Kaplan, he drew inspiration for the new stormtroopers from two very different sources to accomplish this: Apple computers and Nazi Germany.

Vanity Fair has been all over The Force Awakens, and when talking to Kaplan, who has worked on tons of legendary movies, from Blade Runner and Flashdance to Fight Club and Star Trek, they went into great depth about his process for updating the Star Wars wardrobe. We’ve caught glimpses of the new stormtroopers, and while they’re easily recognizable as such, they have a new, streamlined look that, upon closer examination, is much, much different. Kaplan describes his thought process as:

What would Apple do?

By this he’s referring to the computer giant’s tendency towards continual reinvention. While they’re products obviously share the same lineage, all you have to do is look a first generation iPod and compare it to the latest model, and while you recognize them as the same in some regards, in others, they’re very, very distinct creatures. That’s the approach Kaplan took to the costume designs, simplifying and reforming, building on what was there, and increasing efficiency.

Oddly enough, Kaplan took similar inspiration from the look of the Nazi war machine from World War II. When it comes to the Empire, their general aesthetic has always borrowed heavily from fascist regimes, especially the Nazis, and that continues. Kaplan calls the look very:

Slicked back and very hard-lined.

The latest trailer for The Force Awakens shows off a few snippets of Kaplan’s new designs—while he says he dug through George Lucas’ archives looking for inspiration, he didn’t use any existing costumes. In the upcoming movie, it’s not just the look of the Empire that has evolved, but the entire structure as well, and it is now known as The First Order, which is, in itself, a rather fascist sounding moniker.

Where The First Order came from isn’t clear at the moment, and probably won’t be until the movie opens, which is how it should be. My guess is that, in the wake of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine dying in Return of the Jedi, the rest of the Empire splintered into various factions, all trying to seize control and fill the power vacuum, and this may be the one that came out on top.

We’ll see if I’m right, as well as get to see the Michael Kaplan’s new costume designs in action, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.

Brent McKnight