Harrison Ford as Han Solo, swaggering space pirate and smuggler
A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away
Film: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Release Date: May 25, 1977
Director: George Lucas
Costume Designer: John Mollo
Film: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Release Date: May 21, 1980
Director: Irvin Kershner
Costume Designer: John Mollo
Film: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Release Date: May 25, 1983
Director: Richard Marquand
Costume Design: Aggie Guerard Rodgers & Nilo Rodis-Jamero
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
May 4th is often celebrated by Star Wars fans so BAMF Style is taking today to honor its favorite fictional space traveler (and no, it’s not James Bond in Moonraker.)
This month marks the 39th anniversary of Star Wars‘ original release in 1977 and laid the foundation for one of the most acclaimed and popular film franchises of all time.
My sister and I have been self-described–and proud!–Star Wars nerds ever since we were introduced to the series at the time of the re-release in 1997. I was only in second grade, but the family connection was deeper than I realized at the time. Twenty years earlier, my mother and her brother went to a showing of the original Star Wars at a local Pittsburgh theater. During a battle scene on the Death Star as Luke and Leia were fighting it out with Imperial Stormtroopers, my uncle stood up and shouted “I’ll protect you, sis!” while firing a toy gun at the screen. (While certainly a sign of the times as this behavior may have had a tragically different outcome in 2016, it is an interesting parallel to the on-screen activity as George Lucas didn’t even realize yet that Luke and Leia were siblings.)
On December 17 last year, my family excitedly went to see The Force Awakens and all of our moderate expectations were totally surpassed as the series was perfectly reinvigorated with an excellent entry that served old and new fans alike. Of course, no discussion of The Force Awakens is complete without acknowledging the tragedy that kicks off the final act.
…a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing…
…is how the venerated Alec Guinness described Harrison Ford to a friend while deep in production of the first film, although this description could have also applied to Han Solo himself. Nearly 40 years later, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, though George Lucas was initially against the idea of bringing back an “old face” as Ford had starred in Lucas’ American Graffiti. However, Ford was tapped to read Han’s lines while other actors auditioned for other roles, and Lucas realized that Ford was the perfect choice to play the galactic scoundrel.
Although Lucas may have eventually settled on Luke Skywalker as his protagonist, it was always the sarcastic loner Han Solo who struck me as the series’ hero and certainly the coolest of the humans… at least until Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian showed up and an entire generation of Star Wars fans developed a craving for Colt 45.
Each of the leads in the Star Wars franchise experiences incredible growth, but it is Han Solo’s that resonates the most with me. A wittily cynical but ultimately honorable maverick who certainly would’ve been played by Humphrey Bogart had George Lucas made his flick 30 years earlier, Han’s reluctant involvement in the Rebel Alliance is motivated by his desire for wealth, spurred on by his sense of adventure, and eventually cemented by his principles that he allows to emerge as he grows throughout the series.
What’d He Wear?
Han Solo has the most consistently utilitarian and practical attire of his companions due to both the character’s sense of practicality as well as the requirements for a smuggler constantly on the run who has no need for the ceremonial robes of a Jedi knight. While details varied slightly from film to film, the essence of Han’s look remained the same.
Costume designer John Mollo deserves plenty of credit for establishing the character of Han Solo through his outfit in A New Hope, which was also Mollo’s inaugural film as lead costume designer. Mollo’s interest in costume design began at a young age as he fervently researched military uniforms of Europe and the United States, a background that he delved into while creating the martial-inspired look of fighters in the Star Wars universe. Lucas gave Mollo the duty of creating simple uniforms without buttons or embellishments with the directive of all characters that costuming shouldn’t be noticed above plot.
While the plot was enough to hold the attention of even the relatively uninterested Alec Guinness, Han Solo’s clothing has endured through the decades as some of the most popular film costuming of all time, reinvigorated for cosplayers and Halloweeners. There is plenty of information out there about Han’s attire, from a through-the-films breakdown at The Wookiee Gunner to DIY guides at StarWars.com and Kay-Dee.net. Some retailers have even started marketing their own well-researched takes on the Han Solo look. Rebel Legion offers an accurate breakdown for recreating each of Han’s respective looks.
Episode VI – A New Hope
According to Brandon Alinger in Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, Lucas’ directive for Han Solo eventually settled on “a pocketed vest, a gun belt, tuxedo-striped trousers, and high boots” rather than his original vision of “a Flash Gordon-style hat and a chest pack” that Harrison Ford surely would have rebelled against.
Han’s beige v-neck pullover shirt is unique to A New Hope as he switches to a chest-flapped tunic for the adventures that follow. The shirt, which appears to be constructed from a woven cotton or cotton flannel, has a deep v-neck with a standing collar that resembles a button-less henley more than a T-shirt. It has long, set-in sleeves and plain cuffs.
Although some replicas are available in leather (like this FilmJackets version for $159), Han’s black vest in A New Hope appears to be a medium weight cotton twill. The vest is meant to be worn open with no zipper, buttons, or closure of any kind. Unlike a suit’s waistcoat, it extends straight down from the collar to the bottom.
Appropriately for a smuggler, Han’s vest has plenty of pockets with five patch pockets on the front alone. Each front panel has a large lower patch pocket with a squared flap. The left chest has a slightly smaller flapped patch pocket while the right chest panel has a full patch pocket with a slanted cutaway on the right side. A smaller, rectangular pocket is inset over the right chest pocket, much like a modern “pen pocket”.
The back of the vest has four separate vertical loops across the upper back on a yoked panel. On the panel below the loops is a large patch “poacher’s pocket” with a flap, extending all the way across the back.
Han wears tight navy blue brushed denim cavalry-style trousers with a plain front, tall belt loops, and–reportedly–zip fly. The leg tapers down to a likely strap under the foot to keep the pants in line under his boots. There are no pockets, and a top-stitched riding seam curves around the seat in the back. These pants appear to have a similar texture as a lightweight twill, not quite as loose-fitting as dress trousers while not as rigidly structured as most jeans.
The most distinctive aspect of Han’s trousers is the presence of a red “Corellian bloodstripe” down the outside of each leg, consisting of a series of short horizontal lines hand-embroidered onto a strip of matching fabric that lines up behind the trouser seam on each side. While this has been described practically as tuxedo striping or colored piping, the Star Wars expanded universe explains in canon that this is an award for “conspicuous gallantry” by the Corellian military forces. The red striping seen on Han’s trousers in A New Hope is the “first class” Corellian bloodstripe; he would wear his yellow “second class” blood stripes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on his brown trousers.
Han’s black leather knee-high boots are worn over the lower leg of his trousers, exposing the boots’ smooth, equestrian-style uppers.
When slipping into the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon, Han dons a pair of simple two-tone brown driving gloves, serving here as flight gloves.
A New Hope is the only appearance of Han’s dark brown belt as he switches to black for the rest of the adventures following. The wide leather belt has three rows of holes with only the top and bottom rows utilized for the dual-pronged steel roller buckle.
Han also sports a brown leather holster rig that consists of a utility belt, a steel modular buckle, and a holster that straps around his right thigh. A silver tube-like device secured to the left side of Han’s holster belt is a “droid caller”, an in-universe gadget that would ostensibly work as a remote control, signalling a droid’s restraining bolt for the droid to return to its owner.
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
For The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo’s primary outfit was updated to what has become one of the most popular costumes of the series to the point of Anovos creating its official “Bespin costume” using meticulous original research from the original production. Anovos offers its staggeringly accurate recreation for $480 (plus an extra $50 if you want the belt).
Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes states that John Mollo’s original concept for Han’s costume would bring back his black vest from A New Hope over an “under flying overall” jumpsuit, but director Irvin Kershner wanted to keep the established character look intact with some adjustments.
The most significant adjustment to Han’s costume is the pocketed wool jacket, which Anovos digitally dye-matched its poly-cotton replica to the original heathered dark blue color with a gray satin-lined interior. The jacket has a banded collar, padded shoulders, and–like his earlier vest–is worn open with no methods of front closure. There are four gusseted billows pockets on the front–two chest and two hip–as well as a large flapped “poacher’s pocket” across his lower back.
The left sleeve also has a single pocket on the upper bicep with a flap resembling a long trapezoid; Luke’s jacket (which he wears on Dagobah and Cloud City) has the same pocket, implying that Han’s jacket may possibly be issued to him by the Rebel Alliance.
He ostensibly loses his jacket on Cloud City as it is taken from him before he is frozen in carbonite. (Interestingly, Han’s profile when frozen in carbonite also seems to use the A New Hope shirt as a model rather than the correct double-breasted flap version.)
Han’s lightweight flannel shirt in The Empire Strikes Back is the closest to a pure white shirt that he wears in the original trilogy, and it has more military-inspired details than his previous shirt – perhaps due to Han’s increased role with the Rebel Alliance. While it still has a standing collar, there is a “double-breasted” flap across the chest–which Anovos calls an “offset lapel”–that can be secured to his right shoulder. In Anovos’ case, the fastening would be a clear snap.
A behind-the-scenes shot from the filming of Return of the Jedi sheds a little more light on this shirt. Although the front bib appears to extend to the bottom of the shirt, it is sewn shut above the waist with three cinched closures going up the right side of the chest, allowing the top of the flap to hang freely.
Han’s brown flat front cavalry-style trousers have similar features seen on his navy pants in A New Hope, including the belt loops, zip fly, and sharp front crease down each leg. The texture implies a different material, however, possibly a wool and polyester gabardine as I’ve seen suggested. On these brown pants, Han wears his yellow “second class” Corellian bloodstripe. Anovos confirms that their replica uses elastic stirrups under each foot, covered by the same black riding-style leather boots.
Han wears a black version of his leather belt from A New Hope, perhaps to provide a better contrast against his brown pants… while simultaneously following the accepted sartorial practice of matching belts and footwear. Again, the silver-toned roller buckle is dual-pronged, clawing through the top and bottom of the belt’s three notch rows. Anovos sells its belt replica separately for $60.
To complete the look, Anovos also researched and recreated the holster rig that Han wore in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with screen-used assets provided by Skywalker Archives, available for $500.
Anovos crafted its belt and holster from genuine saddle leather that was dyed and weathered to match the well-worn brown leather of Han’s on-screen rig. The modular heavy-gauge stainless steel buckles “can be arranged to allow for any configuration seen in the original trilogy”, although Han typically wore his holster strapped around his right thigh. Four utility pockets have been sewn onto the belt to match the one seen on screen. Accessories include a spring steel-machined droid caller clipped to the left side and an aluminum-machined “anti-security disc”.
Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi combines Han’s outfits from the previous two films, incorporating most of the elements of The Empire Strikes Back‘s costume with a black vest that recalls his initial garb in A New Hope.
Han’s black vest in Return of the Jedi is cut the same but appears to be a lighter weight cotton than his vest in A New Hope. It retains the same four loops across the back as his first vest and the tops of each loop line up with a horizontal yoke across the top of the back, although the poacher’s patch pocket present on both of his previous outer garments has been discarded for a plain lower back.
The four-pocket front of Han’s Return of the Jedi vest shares more in common with his jacket in The Empire Strikes Back than his previous vest. There are two gusseted bellows pockets on each side; like the back, a horizontal yoke stretches across the top seam of the chest pockets.
Han’s white flap-chested shirt returns from The Empire Strikes Back, which makes sense given that the narrative picks up after he is unfrozen from carbonite while wearing the same clothing he was frozen in.
For the assault on Endor, Han changes into a slightly heavier tan flannel shirt with the same double-breasted flap chest as his previous shirt. This shirt also has a wider cuff with stitching a few inches from the end of the sleeve.
Due to the carbonite circumstances, Han also wears the same brown cavalry twill trousers as seen in The Empire Strikes Back with their yellow Corellian bloodstripe. According to The Wookiee Gunner, Ford’s zip fly loosened while filming, and the new costume design team was tasked with sewing it back together while on set.
Han wears the same black leather belt and black equestrian-style knee-high leather boots as he had before. His familiar brown leather holster rig with its steel modular buckle also returned, securely fastening his DL-44 blaster to his right thigh.
The author of the earlier-cited Kay-Dee.net DIY guide took some excellent photos from the “Dressing a Galaxy” event, which can be found at this link and provide a great detailed look at Han’s costume from Return of the Jedi as well as several other famous costumes from the franchise.
The Wookiee Gunner also cites early wardrobe department notes that dictated a fresh costume for Han consisting of a simple-collared dark green military shirt and black trousers with second class Corellian bloodstripe, all described as “combat outfit, leather camouflage”. While the narrative and Han’s individuality meant instead retaining most of the costume from The Empire Strikes Back, he was outfitted in a bit of camouflage upon landing on Endor in the form of a brown camouflaged ankle-length duster with long notch lapels and a single rear vent. Like most of the other costumes of the series, there is no front closure and the two hip pockets are flapped bellows pockets.
Supposedly, Han’s “duster” was actually a white doctor’s lab coat that was dyed various shades of brown and green to provide camouflage, although the extreme length of the coat is more indicative of a butcher’s coat like this one with its tie removed. In either sense, coats like these are typically made from cotton, polyester, or a blend of both.
Go Big or Go Home
…and try to go home in the Millennium Falcon. It may often be dismissed as a “bucket of bolts”, but it’s our bucket of bolts.
I’m not alone in my admiration as Han Solo constantly appears on lists of the greatest characters in movies, with AFI and Entertainment Weekly each listing him as the 14th and 7th, respectively, greatest heroes of pop culture, and Empire magazine even naming him the 4th greatest movie character of all-time. George Lucas created the character, but it was Harrison Ford who truly made the character his own. It is Ford who was credited with one of Han’s most character-defining moments. Just before Han was frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back, Leia finally comes to terms with her feelings about the reckless smuggler and emotionally declares “I love you!” to which our hero responds:
It certainly wasn’t the first time that Ford modified the dialogue to mold his character’s persona. “You can type this shit, but you can’t say it,” Ford reportedly said of Lucas’ original script for A New Hope, and he joined co-stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in standing up to Lucas, who graciously listened to the actors’ frustrations and allowed them to improvise their own wording. (For an auteur who had spent years perfecting his magnum opus, George Lucas certainly deserves some credit for listening to the feedback of his young stars and allowing them the clearance to drive his project to even greater heights.)
How to Get the Look
Han’s outfit from A New Hope has become one of the most iconic movie costumes of all time.
- Beige cotton flannel v-neck pullover long-sleeve shirt
- Black cotton twill open-front vest with four front patch pockets (three bellows pockets and a slanted upper right pocket), four upper back loops, and lower back “poacher’s” patch pocket
- Navy blue brushed denim front-creased cavalry trousers with red Corellian bloodstripe down each side, tall belt loops, zip fly, rear riding seam, and elastic stirrup bottoms
- Dark brown leather triple-eyelet belt with steel dual-prong buckle
- Brown leather utility rig with modular buckle and right-thigh holster
- Black leather knee-high equestrian boots
There are many replicas and costumes out there with varying degrees of accuracy. For best results, follow one of the cited DIY guides or check out a pro like Anovos who researched the heck out of the costuming before marketing their replica.
Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.
For Han Solo, that “good blaster” is the “BlasTech DL-44” heavy blaster pistol, an in-universe weapon developed cosmetically from the Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol developed for the German military around the turn of the 20th century.
A definitive source of information about the transformation of the iconic “Broomhandle” Mauser into Han’s distinctive DL-44 is David Higginbotham’s September 2012 article on Guns.com, where he tracks the origins of the weapon as well as the three made by by Elstree Props and/or Bapty & Co. for the three original movies, including the first live-fire model that had originally been modified for the 1968 Frank Sinatra film The Naked Runner.
Higginbotham describes the changes made to Han’s blaster after the success of A New Hope meant a greater budget for Lucas’ artistic vision in The Empire Strikes Back, where both Han and Luke would be armed with the same blaster:
…the DL-44 was redesigned. The conical muzzle was turned from aluminum. The scope was shortened and brought closer to the blaster’s frame. The detail work on the gun’s side (the additional dials and buttons) were refined.
The Mauser C96 from which the DL-44 was designed was one of the first modern semi-automatic pistols, originally produced in 1896. It quickly gained popularity among world militaries and users as varied as Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, Chinese warlords, and Irish revolutionaries. The proprietary 7.63x25mm cartridge had a reputation for its penetration abilities, as the “BlasTech DL-44” would in the Star Wars expanded universe. In fact, for nearly 40 years, the 7.63mm Mauser round was the highest velocity pistol cartridge commercially manufactured. With its unique “broomhandle”-shaped wooden grip, integral box magazine, and long barrel, the distinctive Mauser C96 became a common fixture in movies as an exotic alternative for a handgun, notably wielded to great effect by Clint Eastwood in Joe Kidd before it was modified into the DL-44 for Han Solo.
And, yes, Han shot first.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
If you’re specifically interested in costuming from the films, there are several well-researched books on the subject like Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy and Trisha Biggar’s Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars.
What good is a reward if you ain’t around to use it?