The motto of Ashley Eckstein’s fashion company for fangirls, Her Universe, is “Dream Your World. Be Your World. Flaunt Your World.” In the years since Eckstein started the company, I would guess that thousands, if not millions, of fangirls have taken these words to heart. They have bought shirts, skirts, jewelry, cardigans, and dresses with images and designs based on all kinds of properties. After they adorned themselves in their new finery, I am sure that these same girls and women were met with a reaction that they have probably gotten used to: joy. Whether it was their colleagues who wondered how they found such awesome, nerdy attire as the X-Wing cardigan to wear to work; their friends who all met up to celebrate Star Wars Weekend in their Rogue Squadron tanks; or a smitten fanboy who felt emboldened enough to talk to the awesome woman wearing the “Ahsoka Lives” t-shirt; these women all experienced and shared joy.
Of course, this feeling is not exclusive to women. For years, men have been giving each other “the nod” and saying, “Nice shirt.” For some men, that one gesture is the male equivalent of absolutely gushing. It’s a crying shame that it has taken years for women to be allowed this same basic nerd freedom of spreading joy through a love of Star Wars apparel (or at least Star Wars apparel that’s made to fit women).
Walking down the street, strutting your stuff, knowing that you’re wearing a shirt that expresses who you are is awesome enough, but it’s even more amazing when you get to see that smile, nod, or bear hug from another fanboy or fangirl. In that moment, you just delivered some joy to that person. You walked into their life which may have been sad, boring, or frustrating just two seconds ago, and you dropped a megaton bomb of happiness into their life like Red Squadron tossing those fireworks out into the night sky of the moon of Endor. You may even feel an overwhelming desire to break out into a little “Yub Nub” Ewok happy dance. I don’t because watching me dance is like watching Jar Jar do anything: awkward, embarrassing, and you may want to gouge your eyes out afterward, but you could dance if you want to. You could leave your cares behind and just let loose and the fangirl or fanboy you just spread joy to might even join you (bonfire and Stormtrooper burgers optional).
It’s one of the simple pleasures of my life to be able to spread joy this way pretty regularly. My chosen attire on most days, if I don’t have to dress for work, is a Star Wars t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I even may or may not be wearing Star Wars Vans. It depends on the day.
When you wear a Star Wars shirt to “The Star Trader,” the gift shop off of the exit of Star Tours at Disneyland, you don’t look all that unique. You’re just one of the masses. You don’t expect much of a reaction. You just do like the trooper told you and “Move along.” When you hear a grown man of a Disney cast member shout, “Wedge! Oh God! I love your shirt!” You react differently. I don’t remember my exact reaction, but the storyteller in me likes to think that as this obviously ecstatic fan ran towards me, I prepared to take a tackle like a quarterback. That might require more of a working knowledge of football than I have, so I’ll just admit that my reaction may have been to blink twice, come back from the normal realm of obliviousness that I often live in, and realize that this bearded bear of a man was coming to talk to me.
For the next five to ten minutes, we geeked out. He asked me where I got my shirt. We discussed the Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston X-Wing books (right now being dissected and discussed with love and care on this very website by other members of the Far, Far Away Team). We shared our, perhaps misguided, hopes of more Wedge Antilles in Chuck Wendig’s book Aftermath, and we resisted the urge to let our joy explode out of us in couple of high fives and a manly chest bump that would have sent me rocketing into a jumbled mass of R2-D2 footballs and latex Jabba the Hutt figures. Instead we just wished each other luck on finding what we were looking for on the fast approaching “Force Friday” shopping day, and we walked away. I don’t know if we found what were were looking for on “Force Friday,” but you could find a little bit of joy in the smiles both of us wore the rest of that day.
For Valentine’s Day 2015, I bought my wife an R2-D2 purse that looks like a bowling ball bag from a company called LoungeFly. That’s right. Who says love is dead? We had seen it in a store a few weeks earlier, and she had absolutely shrieked over it. “It’s the best thing ever,” she said. “I love it. I need it,” she said. “Oh, but it’s a little too expensive, and I have other purses at home,” she said. I knew right then that Cupid must have been rewatching the carbon freezing scene with a box of tissues that day because I knew that I had found my wife her Valentine’s Day gift.
Since the day she opened that present and started carrying that purse out, it has received roughly 439 compliments, fifty inquiries by women as to where they could get one, and at least five, wide-eyed looks from young boys in supermarkets who nearly ripped their mothers arms off and beat them with it to get their attention as they quietly said, “Mom. Mom! Look R2-D2.” Okay, at least one of those three is an exaggeration but not by much.
My wife and one of her friends recently attended a convention together, and as they unpacked, my wife’s friend said jokingly, “I can’t believe you came to the conference carrying an R2-D2 purse.” Now, my wife is really confident. She flies her nerd flag high, so this comment didn’t bring her down. She carried that purse around that convention floor. She flaunted her love of Star Wars, and a couple days later, her friend happily said, “You must have had a least fifty conversations with people this weekend because of that purse. I will never make fun of it again.” As my wife recounted that story to me, I was proud. I knew that she had been like Santa Claus at that conference. She had walked around delivering little bits of happiness to all kinds of people by carrying a handbag in the shape of R2-D2.
As I get older, I find that I care less about what others think of me. It was with this ambivalence that I decided about a year ago, that I would wear my Star Wars Vans to work on casual Fridays. I figured that I might get some snickering from my coworkers as we stood at our doors to greet our students. I also figured that my students might roll their eyes and shake their heads resignedly as the pondered the wisdom in learning how to read and write from someone who is clearly an overgrown, man-child. What I got was much better.
My co-workers recognized the images and shared their stories of seeing the films for the first time, playing with action figures, or reading the books. My students sat quietly in class, listened to the lesson, and as they were working, they called me over, asked for help, and told me, “Mr. Applebee, I love your shoes.” Now, clearly I’m not claiming that these were magical shoes that somehow caused my students to snap to attention and get their learning on, but I do know that every Friday after that, if I didn’t wear my Star Wars shoes, they would say, “Mr. Applebee! Where’s the Star Wars shoes?” It was like my choice of responsible footwear had broken their little nerdy hearts, and as a teacher, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that again.
Today, I think we can easily admit that there are more places to buy Star Wars apparel and accessories from than ever before. From mainstream stores like Kohl's, Walmart, and Target, to online stores like ThinkGeek, We Love Fine, and Her Universe, there is merchandise for everyone. While the grown-up, slightly cynical me could claim that it’s just because the market demand is there and that it’s all about the money, I’m going to choose to think a different way. I think I’m going to choose to believe that somewhere, someone at those companies woke up and had an Ashley Eckstein-like epiphany and said, “I’m going to make products that I enjoy, and I’m going to spread the joy that they give me to others, too.” I like the second option better. It’s more like the world that I dream I am in when I am walking down the street wearing my favorite Star Wars t-shirt.
What's your favorite Star Wars apparel or accessory? Do you have a funny or moving story to share about how you've connected to someone through your Star Wars clothing or accessories? Feel free to share with me on Twitter @mapplebee7567
If you would like to purchase any of the products discussed in the post, click on the link beneath the picture to be taken to a website that will surely allow you to spend your hard earned credits in order to get yourself that cool new shirt, bag, or shoes.