How A Jedi Dresses
A friend quipped on Twitter the other day about the idea that, if Obi-Wan is supposed to be in hiding at the start of Star Wars, why does he dress like a Jedi? I argued that he isn’t, he’s dressed in standard, native Tatooine clothing. It wasn’t until the prequels came along that the robed look was settled upon as the official Jedi uniform. In The Secret History of Star Wars, author Michael Kaminski looked at the development of the standard Jedi look:
> The Jedi first were conceived in Journal of the Whills as intergalactic super-police, having their own army, requiring training at an academy, and providing military services such as escorting cargo through hostile territory. […] In the 1983 Return of the Jedi documentary Classic Creatures, Lucas remarked to Mark Hamill during a costume fitting that his new, militaristic black costume was “Jedi-like.” However, in re-developing the Jedi order as a dogmatic monk-like organisation for the prequels, their visual look shifted accordingly, presenting them clad in priestly robes. “At one point during the Episode I design, we were thinking of the Jedi as lone samurai, then as teams of samurai,” concept designer Ian McCaig said in The Art of Episode II. “They were going to be like a police force, dressed in black and a lot more militaristic. But they evolved into the peacekeeping force they are in the current film.” The designing of the prequel costumes was described by Laurent Bouzereau:
>> Everything from full body armor to long, flowing capes were considered for the Jedi’s costumes — although Lucas eventually went back to the designs from the first trilogy. “George wanted to make sure that when the audience saw these characters for the first time, it would immediately register that these were Jedi knights,” McCaig explained. “For these characters and for Yoda, we had to establish some familiarity in the costumes with those existing films. I looked at the original Star Wars costumes to understand the style and influence, and I realized that those designers were very medieval, so we kept to that.”
> However, this decision was based on a major oversight — the “Jedi garb” of the original trilogy was not Jedi garb at all. Obi Wan wore the standard desert robes of an inhabitant of Tatooine, modelled after middle-eastern dress — in fact, Uncle Owen is dressed in almost the exact same costume. Yoda as well is not wearing Jedi robes but merely hand-crafted rags. This problem may have been fostered due to a misinterpretation in Return of the Jedi — when Anakin appears in spirit in the final scene, rather than coming up with a proper Jedi costume, he was simply dressed identically to Obi Wan, perhaps creating the confusion that his clothing, identical to Obi Wan’s and similar to Yoda’s, the only Jedi ever seen in the films, was the traditional Jedi garb. There is at least an in-universe answer — since Anakin is from Tatooine, his traditional clothing might be the same desert garb that Uncle Owen and Obi Wan wear. In any case, this decision is a minor but often forgotten evolution (and certainly it may confuse future viewers who may be wondering why everyone on Tatooine, especially Uncle Owen, is dressed as a Jedi).
It takes a special kind of prequel to misunderstand its own source material, especially when the same guy wrote both.