Uncharted Evolution for the Jedi Robe
As the trailer and leaked studio shots have shown, in Episode VIII Luke Skywalker looks like the kind of Jedi we’ve waited a long time to see – a utilitarian Force user whose outfit echoes the past without being beholden to it. It’s a departure from the classic Jedi robes that shows yet another evolution of Luke’s character.
Before the Prequel Trilogy cemented the look of the Jedi there was a world of possibility about how different Jedi across the galaxy could look. Many of our visual ideas of the ‘guardians of peace and justice’ were informed by the now-abandoned EU and the work of Dark Horse Comics in particular.
But being honest, Lucas had left us enough clues. During the Original Trilogy, we saw three Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker, and each of them wore the same brown and tan robes. This may have irritated some fans, but as the Jedi order became clearer as a monastic religion, the idea of adherents wearing a prescribed dress doesn’t seem that unusual.
It became key that Kenobi’s dedication to the Jedi order, illustrated by his attire, never wavered during his years in exile.
Yoda’s robes tell a more interesting story. His muddy wear, obstinately dirtied through decades spent living in the Dagobah swamps, also represent the idea that Yoda’s perception of the Force was growing beyond the binary of light and dark. His trials at the end of the Clone Wars as well as his apparent misreading of the chosen one prophecy must have caused him to reconsider the rigidity of his beliefs – which may be why he eventually yielded to training Luke.
Even so, many of us took the notion of what a Jedi might look like from the appearance of the Original Trilogy‘s most notable Jedi Knight: Luke Skywalker.
Luke’s first evolution from Tatooine farm boy was to become a uniformed soldier of the Rebellion, and the utilitarian look suited his character well. It took his encounter with Vader to bring his destiny to the fore, at which point young Skywalker committed his life to the Force.
It was both Luke’s lineage and the lack of a Jedi Order that led to his darker take on the robes. A statement of his state of mind, Luke’s robes also show sympathy with Darth Vader – a sympathy that led him to reject Obi-Wan’s instruction to kill his newfound father.
It was love and compassion – forbidden by the Jedi – that won the day. By the conclusion of the Battle of Endor Luke Skywalker may have become a Jedi Knight, but the order could never be the same.
Luke’s appearance in The Last Jedi teaser trailer indicates that his line of thinking has continued. Gone are the robes, gone is his attempt at restoring the Jedi order. By the time Rey arrives, Luke knows that the old ways won’t work again. And the Jedi robes, so present during the Prequel Trilogy, appear to have truly become a thing of the past.
Whether Episode VIII shows the last of the Jedi or the latest step of the order’s evolution, it’s set up to be a visual and thematically interesting adventure at the very least…