This is totally going to make me sound crazy and I fully acknowledge that. This weekend I had a dream where Harrison Ford and I were talking about his costumes as Han Solo. I was telling him about this post and my thoughts and he just goes, “Well, have you written the post yet?” I said I hadn’t but had been thinking about it a lot. He told me to write the post.
We were also in a really swanky hotel room and people had gotten this super long ladder to peer in his window. They were knocking on the window trying to get his attention and so I told them to go away, accidentally knocking them off the ladder. They must have died (it was at least 40 stories tall) but my dream didn’t include any of that. Why was I in his hotel room? Ah, dreams.
Also, this is post could be highly relevant due to the latest announcement about the new Anthology film that is going to be made about Han Solo.
How do costumes define the characters in Star Wars? With my first post on this subject, I explored Princess Leia who had the most costume changes and those costumes added to her nuanced path as a character throughout the Original Trilogy.
I think Lucas made very deliberate choices with his costumes with each of the three main characters in the original trilogy and made sure that what they were clothed in also reflected either a) their personality, b) their development as a character, or c) their environment. The latter is the most obvious and almost always true, but I think it’s interesting how color and shape can also dictate a deeper look into who they are. I know nothing about costume fabrics so that area will remain untouched.
Han Solo, in a way, is the least “interesting” of all three heroes with his costume changes. Or, should I say, his lack of costume changes.
In A New Hope, he wears a cream (or is it white?) shirt with a ¾ length sleeve, v-neck, and a black vest layered on top. His pants are navy blue with a red stripe down them and knee high black boots paired over them. He has a belt that has a holster for his blaster. Really simple.
He has one costume change with the stormtrooper gear for the rescue of Princess Leia. I believe that was for necessity so won’t go into that. He changes back into his Corellian outfit after the trash compacter scene and doesn’t change again, not even for the throne room ceremony.
In the Empire Strikes Back, there are some modifications, but it’s still really similar. Han has an off white shirt that overlaps in front with a long sleeve navy blue jacket, instead of a vest. His pants are brown with yellow stripes; he still has his same belt and black knee high boots. He wears a winter coat at times in the beginning of the movie, but it’s brief.
The only real difference in ESB, and I’d like to make an emphasis here, is when he is put into the carbon freezing chamber. His jacket is taken off and he is only left with his white shirt.
With Return of the Jedi, Han returns (pun!) to a conglomeration of his ANH costume and ESB outfit. He begins with the carbon freezing look of no vest/jacket with brown pants and yellow stripes. After Jabba’s Palace, he dons his ANH upper half, the cream/white v-neck shirt with a black vest, but keeps the same brown pants and yellow stripe. As a side observation, I find it interesting that most Solo cosplay revolves around his ANH outfit with the dark blue pants/red stripes, when it seems like the brown pants/yellow stripes got more screen time.
Now that we have the foundation of his outfits, I want to draw attention to is his jacket/vest. This vest seems to be a protection for him, a wall that he puts up against the rest of the world. The vest symbolizes a confident smuggler, one who always has a witty reply, can woo even a princess, and outrun an Empire in an asteroid field. When he is put into carbon freezing by Boba Fett and the Empire, he is stripped of it, leaving only the white shirt.
Whenever I see Han in the white shirt I think about how vulnerable he is. Just like Leia’s slave bikini stripped away her control, taking away Han’s vest and jacket shows a weaker side, a Solo that is in trouble and not completely confident of his situation. It’s in the white shirt that he’s put into carbon freeze, not knowing where he’ll end up or if he’ll ever come out. It’s in the white shirt that Leia reveals her love for him and, I think, in a way he does too. It’s in this white shirt that he wakes up temporarily blind with hibernation sickness at the mercy of one of the worst gangsters in the galaxy. It’s in this white shirt that a gangster is going to kill him because he hasn’t paid off his debt to him. It’s in the white shirt that he’s weak and still somewhat blind during the entire fight at the Sarlacc Pit. It’s in this white shirt that Han Solo might not know what he’s doing.
After the fight against Jabba, Han keeps the pants from ESB but changes back to the shirt and vest he had in ANH. He’s a blend of the smuggler he was in the ANH, the Rebel he was in ESB, and now transformed into a General during ROTJ. He has to pull from both roads of life to become an even greater character. The Rebellion needs someone who can think on his feet, but also someone who is loyal to their fight.
On the surface, Han doesn’t change. That’s why his costumes are so similar movie after movie. He doesn’t go through major character turnarounds that Luke and Leia do through the course of the movies. He is still a scoundrel at heart with a cocky bravado, though by the end of the Original Trilogy, he seems to have softened a bit, fallen in love, and joined a noble cause. So having a bit from the past and a bit from his future makes sense.
Han stays truer to his personality than any of the other characters, solid and confident in who he is and it’s reflected in the way his costumes change ever so subtly. But like anyone, his ideals, feelings, and passions can change him, even if it’s not loud or obvious. In the trailer for The Force Awakens, we see he’s back in similar garb: black jacket (leather this time!) and a white shirt underneath. I think it’s safe to say that he will remain the Han we know and love.