Die-hard fans will collect whatever they can get their hands when it comes to film memorabilia, including the outfits worn by crew members who never actually appear on camera. One of the rarest examples of these are the snowsuits given to the crew of The Empire Strikes Back while filming the snowy Hoth scenes in Norway. Forty years later they’re incredibly hard to find, but Columbia’s now making it a little easier.
There’s less reason to shoot on-location these days thanks to virtual sets and talented visual effects artists who can make actors appear to be anywhere in the universe. But that wasn’t the case in 1979 when The Empire Strikes Back was in production. They wanted to use real snow to make Hoth look as authentically hostile as possible. Real snow needs real cold, so the cast and crew were issued full snowsuits to help them keep warm on set. Only a few have survived to this day, and when they come up for auction, as assistant director Bill Westley’s did recently, they can end up selling for well north of $7,000.
Over the past couple of years Columbia has taken inspiration from Star Wars for a line of winter wear that included recreations of pieces worn in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Empire Strikes Back. But this year it’s going behind-the-scenes with a parka that only truly devoted Star Wars fans have ever seen.
At $500, Columbia’s new Empire Crew Parka isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than trying to grab an original at auction, and it’s functional—keeping you warmer than a gutted Tauntaun will.
The parka’s not a flawless, stitch-by-stitch recreation of the original crew jacket, however. Columbia has no interest in confusing collectors or making it impossible to distinguish these as remakes. The company’s updated version has modern styling and vastly improved fabrics for keeping you warm. But all of the important features of the original are here, including this gorgeous patch featuring a flaming Vader and the Empire logo.
The original coats worn by the cast and crew during the actual production featured customized velcro patches stitched with their names. The patch on Columbia’s version is still removable and held in place by a strip of velcro, but simply says “CREW” now. But beneath it, you’ll find the same “Norwegian Unit” patch as the original parkas do.
The coat is also full of other fun details you won’t actually find on the originals. Inside the parka, which is lined with Columbia’s shiny heat-reflecting Omni-Heat material, is an additional patch stitched with the coordinates: 60.5477°N 7.4483°E. Plug those into Google Maps and it will take you to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier near Finse, Norway, which was Lucasfilm’s stand-in for the ice planet Hoth.
It’s also important to remember that this parka isn’t some cheap knock-off using the Star Wars brand to bilk you out of half a grand. Columbia knows how to make gear for surviving a Hoth-like Winter, and its Empire Crew Parka will genuinely keep you toasty. I tested it in the great white north and was able to walk around in sub-zero temperatures with nothing but a T-shirt on underneath it. And because the parka’s based on a coat designed for use by a film crew, it’s got endless pockets for stashing stuff like light meters, lightsabers, or more likely: your gloves and earmuffs.
So how can you add one to your collection or wardrobe? Starting at 12:01 am (EST) on December 7 you can head over to the Columbia website to order one online. Or, visit one of a few Columbia stores in the U.S., Canada, parts of Europe, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea who will have limited stock available once they open. Even rarer will be just 30 of these parkas that have been signed by Mark Hamill; only available at U.S.-based Columbia stores in New York City, Buena Vista, Florida, downtown Portland, and Seattle. Those will sell for a hefty $1,980 each, but all the proceeds will go to charities that Hamill supports, making it a little easier to justify a splurge like that this time of year.
Update, December 3, 11:49 a.m. EST/EDT: Columbia has reached out to us to clarify that in addition to the velcro “CREW” patch, the parka also includes a blank white patch that can be embroidered with your own name (at your own expense) or personalized using a permanent marker.
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