era: rise of the empire Era: The Clone Wars Essay Media: Animation media: comics

Costume evolution in Kanan the Last Padawan

Ooh, if there isn’t some clever costume evolution being worked into Kanan the Last Padawan. I am apparently on a roll with clothing as physical and psychological armour.


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As we know from the opening prologue of A New Dawn and issue one of The Last Padawan, little Caleb takes pride in being a Jedi and dreams of being a great hero (perhaps like Generals Kenobi and Skywalker, sob). Throughout issue one we see him always in his robe, often directly mirroring his master, Depa Billaba. His robe is oversized and drowning him (though in this particular panel it appears that this is a general stylistic choice on the part of Pepe Larraz), but it is a status symbol. He is Jedi. Or will be. It’s an aspirational status symbol. We also see a lot more flashes of his cream tunic and trousers than we do later on – his cloak is that much more often for a lot of. He is that much more open, withe the brashness of youth. As the story progresses over these two issues (plus a preview), he begins to close in on himself, and these flashes become less common as his innocence is stolen.

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This panel is very interesting – we’re meeting Janus Kasmir, who speculation and less-than-subtle naming suggests is going to be a big influence of the future role of little Caleb Dume. Notice Caleb’s tunic here. The belted black over the cream. Remind you of any scoundrels? This is a very neat way of foreshadowing the future development of Caleb into the roguish Kanan that we all know, by making a subtle connection to another character that we all know and love in that world.

So then we have little Caleb Dume in the issue 3 preview. He’s just
taken out a ship (or multiple?) in an entirely reactive, instinctual way
that was defensively aggressive. He’s terrified, he’s alone. He’s
dangerous, and the galaxy is out to get him. He’s probably questioning everything – they’re saying that the Jedi were dangerous, Palpatine
is saying that they turned children into deadly weapons. In a very
natural and protective way he’s pulled his hood up, cocooning in on
himself like any frightened little boy would.

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At this point Caleb is still swathed
in the remnants of his life, literally as far as his robes go. He has
the layers and the cloak, the hood and the sleeves, the leg and arm
wrappings. He is entirely enveloped. The only time we see him not is
when he is asleep in that one panel, where he is completely vulnerable
and otherwise dead to the world. Yes, Janus
helped him smudge things a bit so he looks more like a street rat than a
renegade jedi – a bandolier here, a robe pulled up and no footwrappings
– but he is still identifiably Jedi through each aspect of his costume.
He’s still clinging to his identity and the crumbling world that he
knew.

An interesting thing is to note the neckline of Caleb’s tunic:

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Of course Caleb is following the common robe style of the japanese-influenced crossover, but as we’ve seen from others (Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Yoda, many others) and real life fashions, a high neck is common. Caleb’s, however, is very low, almost open, particularly when fleeing from his battalion in issue 2. He’s young and vulnerable and completely open – he’s inquisitive, he’s warm and he’s having everything snatched out from under him (and nuked). That is going to change (this can be seen mirroring Obi-wan’s progression from his TPM costume to the very high neck Alec Guinness-style of RotS).

Somewhere along the line, Caleb is going to shed those layers. Covers, of course, are not direct indicators of anything about a comic’s content – they’re more about capturing the essence of an issue in an eye-catching way. I still think it’s worth taking a quick look at Caleb on the cover of issue 5:

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Here he is, somehow back the Janus and apparently on hijinks. Again, this is unlikely to be exactly what we’ll see inside (for one thing, the wonderful cover artist, Mark Brook, draws Kanan slightly older than Pepe Larraz who is really emphasising his inexperience and naivete). But. The neckline is that much higher, we’re already beginning to see aspects of Kanan bleeding in through the shoulder piece and an element of streamlining. His Jedi layers are still there, but they are less, both in terms of number and in volume. Clearly things Are Up here, and this looks like it’s going to be a pretty big turning point as the tiniest renegade begins to shed his former self along with his garb. It’s also worth noting that probable namesake and his ticking life-expectancy appears to have taken Caleb under his wing proper here, which will no doubt play a crucial role in his transition of self.

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Kanan Jarrus
has a streamlined silhouette; in the look that we begin to see developed on the issue 5 cover, it’s easily identifiable as him (that shoulder piece helps), but it is entirely spare and entirely practical. This stripping away of layers to an utterly simplistic and contained look is very much a case of body image control. He doesn’t want any connection with who he was before – Caleb is gone.
Or so he would like to believe. He wants to present a careful image of
the drifter, the nobody, perhaps a bit of the handsome vagabond, and this look is saying just that. There is no excess; it is purely utilitarian. Every aspect of the costume had a purpose, and arguably in something so minimal there is nowhere to hide (especially since he apparently paints his jumpers on, hello). He will be taken at face value, and he knows exactly what sort of an impression he will give. It’s a very curated image.

Here i should stop and say that with Kanan’s sartorial choices I may
be… projecting. I’m definitely sympathising. The idea of a streamlined
silhouette as a defense mechanism is something
that is.. well, actually it defines my entire wardrobe and my entire
aesthetic. I’ve written about it here if anyone is interested (cw: harrassment, assault, sexism, body image).

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(I hadn’t noticed before that Larraz has drawn Kanan with a much lower collar than in the show, where the stand of his neck guard mirrors the stand collar of his jumper. This may be a design decision – cleaner lines, more obviously visual ties to Kanan – or it may have been an error of interpretation. Or maybe Kanan has two almost-identical jumpers. I am choosing to ignore it here.)

The neckline is higher, which instantly ages him up from the open and exposed Caleb. It closes him in, and once you you factor in the neck shield and shoulder piece then the whole look is instantly defensive.

The green… As meta-viewers, we can all look at this as a sign of his light-side alignment, his former Jedi-life in block-colour. Contextually, however… Green is so far from anything a Jedi would wear – or at least any Jedi that we have seen of his time (I believe Old Republic Jedi were a bit more creative fashion-wise?). It’s bold, it’s a little bit obnoxious. It’s camoglague – both in that if he visited a jungle planet, he’d be fine, and in that he’s hiding in plain sight. No one would look at this obvious rogue and go, ‘Yup, that’s a Jedi alright.’ There is also another aspect of that careful curation – who else do we (as viewers) know that wears green? Oh, right. Boba Fett, Bounty Hunter extraordinaire – it’s a bit meta for what I’m discussing, but it instantly creates that connection for a viewer which can then be projected onto the denizens of the GFFA. Why shouldn’t green be associated with scoundrels and mercenaries and the underbelly populace.

There is also much to be said about the fact that his armour piece gets a grey paint job in season 2, as seen in the trailer. It’s likely that this is a result of it getting ‘sabred by Vader (again, as in the trailer, I have not seen the premiere), but there is also the implication of shifting allegiances and that Kanan is shifting more towards a more overtly neutral ‘grey’ school of Jedi teachings (This post has some good discussion of the implications of this change.) Of course, his season one teachings to Ezra were a perfect blend of what he was formally taught, and what life experience has hammered into him (such as his discussions of attachment and fear – ‘We’re all afraid, kid’.)

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I also think it’s interesting that the trailer for Season 2 shows Kanan in command Stormtrooper armour. Of course they chose to place him in that armour with the shoulder piece because 1) it means we can actually idtenify and track the character as he (presumably) sneaks around, and 2) adopting the persona of a command figure will narratively allow for greater and easier movement, creating fewer blocks and hold ups. BUT. It’s on the same shoulder. It’s very easy to ascribe that that shoulder piece – that we have never seen him without once as Kanan – is a crucial part of his psychological armour to help him handle the world galaxy. Even when not himself he can’t go without it.

(As he has been shown in art to be wearing the same piece in A New Dawn, I’m choosing to believe that despite his seemingly flirty, easy-going air – that of course never fooled Hera – it’s quite some time before she ever sees him without that thing strapped to his shoulder. To such an extent that she begins to believe to believe that it’s just an extension of his body. The first time he doesn’t have it on, she’s perturbed by how unbalanced he seems, looking both bigger and smaller than what she’s used to. Once he catches her staring, he scratches uneasily at his neck feeling suddenly exposed. (Ghost had become such a place of easy home, and he woke up starving he didn’t even think to put it on.) )

(Gloves and armour. Saddest damn crew in the ‘verse.)

I think that quite often people underestimate the storytelling power of costume; even moreso in mediums that don’t involve actual tangible cloth-and-thread costume. We still know so little about Kanan and about his transformation from Caleb, but from nothing more than looking at a few images of him we can already begin to piece together

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(Where’s that post saying ‘One day you’ll wake up at 11.30 on sunday with
someone you love making waffles’? I think he needs that tattooed on his
arm.)

The hand- and leg-wrappings are really interesting, especially considering – as you say – they aren’t something at has been seen before in the GFFA (as far as I know – they may have appeared in some EU comics, but of course those aren’t canon and I am a decade out of the loop on that). They are very idiosyncratic.

The leg-wrappings are very reminiscent of puttees as worn by British soldiers during World War I, which I believe were a colonial British army adoption from India. (The why’s I’m not sure of – I only know really know them aesthetically from sourcing/fitting them for Testament of Youth (and then cleaning hundreds of the fuckers at the end of the shoot, urgh). I think they were a cheap foot soldier alternative to the more expensive and fitted gaiter. Their original history in India i know nothing about beyond a quick glance at wikipedia.)

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This seems particularly relevant considering that Chalactan’s were given a direct Indian influence aesthetically. It looks like Depa also wears the leg-wrappings (though on the first big splash page in issue 1 when Kanan first blasts into his fashback she is incorrectly shown wearing brown leather boots and arm-wrappings, neither of which are ever seen again. The boots may have been an error on the part of the colourist. The arm-wrappings may have just been due to changing decisions.) So there is that cultural influence, tying Caleb aesthetically to his master (would he have adopted this whilst still in the temple, knowing he was a favourite of Depa’s/ she was one of his favourites? Or not until after she took him as her Padawan?); plus the historical/meta context where they are in the middle of a war (and to be honest, the war never quite finishes for Caleb.)

The origin of the arm-wrappings I couldn’t say…. I’m wondering if they have a Japanese origin? There is the possibility of stability or support – ala boxing wrappings, adding strength and protection. For all we know, maybe Caleb had an injury or weakness (oh no, sad headcanons forming). I feel that it may have been another aesthetic/defensive thing, especially considering the way Kanan draws into his hood protectively – the long line over the wrist and hand that you mentioned is very reminiscent of protectively pulling your sleeves over your hands. I know that if i have a long-sleeved top on, I need the sleeves to come over my wrists or I’m not at all happy. It makes him look younger, more protected, and it separates him from all of the other older Jedi that we have seen before (even young Obi-Wan in TPM had the free wide-sleeved tunic). The narrow wrists also emphasises the size and volume of his oversized cloak, and therefore his tininess.

Ignoring any contextual purpose for them, the presence of the wrappings provides an almost literal way for Caleb to unravel into Kanan with the act of removing the wrappings (even if not seen). It also allows for a loosening in his silhouette, which then throws into sharper focus the streamlining and narrowing of the silhouette as Kanan comes into focus.

The leg-wrappings go pretty quickly, when Caleb gets his make-over from Janus, leaving him with just the booties (though it looks a lot like the wrappings are back by issue three again, possibly error. Or maybe he put them back on during hyperspace – his ankles do look pretty chilly).  This small detail very quickly creates a very new, slouchier affect that is remarkably far from the composed Jedi look.

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(I hadn’t noticed before, but the belt strung across like a bandolier could be a foreshadowing to the line of his armour strapping. Even here, Larraz is cleverly drawing on familiar lines to remind us of where Caleb will go.)

The arm-wrappings, we can only speculate. Looking at the issue 5 cover again, and while his costume has radically shifted he does still have the wrappings, only they’re now under his sleeves. If we want to really get into it without knowing any context, that could be seen as an internalisation of armour – Caleb’s pulling into himself. It’s interesting to note that Janus has similar wrappings on his wrists, although much smaller and simpler.

But. I’ve since looked back at all of the covers we’ve seen so far, and Brooks really has gone with an entirely different look so this is not at all dependable as a reference point, but hey! Work with what we got, right. Canon’s in motion.

And then we have Kanan.

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On the boot front – I was going to skim past that, but then I looked. And, actually? The line is very similar – he’s wearing a gaiter or spat over a boot, and the armour detailing is reflected in the lines of Caleb’s wrappings. They’re sturdier, stronger. The length has gone back up from the booties, and is once more defensive and brought back in tight. The boots of a man making his own way by fighting, where Kanan’s (and Depa’s) were those of someone used.  He’s a weapon and a soldier again, but of an entirely different kind (and of his own making).

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Kanan’s gloves are pretty straight-forward. Fingerless – practical and protective. Everything about him is more practical than Caleb, which can be found in the streamlining. Better for movement, better for getting away, better for slipping by unnoticed, through small spaces and shadows. It’s entirely possible that this was a progression from the ‘protective’ element of the wrappings, which would probably be hard to maintain when you’re on the run. Puttees, as used by the British army were actually discontinued because they impractical time wise (though there were techniques for getting them on quickly and in the dark which I was shown – still slow), generally a bit messy, unhygienic and could lead to all sorts of health issues such circulation problem, gangreen, contribution to trench foot, and various other horrible things you should be glad you never had to research!.

Glove are common, he can use them to add to that image he’s creating.

There’s also the possibility that it’s a tactile thing – Kanan has locked Caleb away, blocked the force to a frightening degree. The mercenary image he fostered more commonly comes with full gloves (off the top of my head, that is, thinking of pilots and bounty hunters); Caleb would have always been reliant, consciously or no, on the force to connect and interact with the galaxy around him. Now that that’s gone – he’s denying – his ‘regular’ senses will be that much more crucial to him. So it’s a compromise between disguise and practicality and the need to connect. Particularly when taken into light with Kanan’s slightly more hedonistic inclinations, particularly before Gorse and Hera. This allows for (physical) connection, without compromising his sense of safety (although I do hope he took them off when getting familiar with various bar keep’s daughters, but then again maybe not ahem).

It’s that sense of armour next to the skin that I discussed before. He has no home, no safety, all he has are the clothes on his back (and a single small bag as described in AND). His home is effectively himself, his walls are his clothes. Like with Hera, I imagine that Kanan rarely takes his gloves off. Even when he reaches that point of being comfortable about the Ghost without the armour, sleeves up (Hera staring), the gloves stay on. Even when meditating – you have to feel safe to find peace, after all.

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