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Star Wars: Why Does Darth Vader Wear A Mask, A Cape, And Body Armor?

Why does Darth Vader wear his iconic suit?

It's a simple question that one can answer with even the most base-level knowledge of the "Star Wars" franchise. He dueled Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) on Mustafar in "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith," lost his legs and his remaining organic arm in the process, was burned up by the planet's lava, and placed in his black and silver suit to survive by Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Thus, he's the imposing Dark Lord of the Sith with a legendary breathing sound the galaxy fears. Although, there is a bit more to the story.

Starting with the helmet, it's essential for his survival for multiple reasons. It allows him to breathe, feeds him, and prevents harmful germs and pathogens from entering his severely damaged lungs. It also improves his eyesight through its high-tech lenses. The armor around his mechanical limbs and his wounded body is there both for protection and to hold the various buttons and panels used to monitor the activities of his entire suit. As for the cape, as StarWars.com explains, it's all about keeping Vader on the cutting edge of Sith fashion.

While all of this may make it seem like Palpatine gave Vader the works to keep him living life like the Mustafar duel never happened, in reality, the Emperor gave him a pretty limiting suit — and he knows it.

Vader's suit is restrictive, and Emperor Palpatine exploits it

Between its life support system, sturdiness, and menacing look, Darth Vader's suit has a lot going for it. At the same time, it's not without flaws, as we see throughout the "Star Wars" franchise. Vader has to move at a slower pace, and the range of motion in his limbs is very much limited, in addition to the suit being generally cumbersome to maneuver in. Not to mention, for as durable as it is, as revealed in the comic "Darth Vader" #9, it's hardly comprised of state-of-the-art tech. Therefore, it's not the exceptional medical marvel it might seem to be.

All of this is to say that Vader's suit is just another way for Emperor Palpatine to keep him under his thumb. It prevents him from becoming more physically powerful than his Sith master and provides Palpatine with a means of overpowering him with ease should he try. This is highlighted in "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi" when Palpatine's Force lightning destroys the electronics in Vader's suit, effectively killing him mere moments later. All that time they schemed and ran the Empire together, all Palpatine had to do was give that suit a good shock, and he'd be searching for a new apprentice in short order.

Positive and negative qualities aside, though, it's undeniable that Darth Vader's suit at least looks really, really cool.