With The Force Awakens out in theaters, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my relationship to the series, and how my child has been introduced to the franchise. I’m a member of a group of costumers called the 501st Legion.
My own son has seen me in costume several times at events or at home: his first encounter was when he was just six months old, when we took him to Rhode Island Comic Con. As he got older, a fully helmeted trooper scared him, until one day that he asked to play Star Wars. Dressed up as the Jedi costume we made him for Halloween last year, he chased me around the yard fully armored, hitting me with a lightsaber. Since then, any stormtrooper he sees is ‘Daddy’.
The 501st Legion represents an interesting facet of Star Wars fandom: we’re builders who assemble incredibly detailed costumes from the universe. The group was originally founded in 1997 by fans who dressed up for the Special Editions, and who had set up a website to attract like-minded fans. The founding came at the right time: the children who had seen the original trilogy in theaters had grown up, and began to put their passions to work.
As the Legion group expanded, it’s pulled in entire families who have taken to the hobby as a family. Participation introduces Star Wars in a whole new way: rather than being a visual experience, it becomes a tactile one.
Andrew Liptak in his handmade Storm Trooper armor with his son.