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3TK : Why We Wear White Armour

Stormtrooper Cosplay For Fun And Charity

Star Wars fans love Stormtroopers, the instantly recognisable minions of the evil Empire.  The most common of which is known as the ‘TK’, from the serial number of the first trooper to be ‘named’ in A New Hope TK-421. From the first time you see them blasting their way onto the Tantive IV their stark black and white design is unlike anything else in Sci-Fi.

Apart from being a popular choice for toys and t-shirts, we can also encounter Stormtroopers in the real world.  Most likely you will see fans dressed as Stormtroopers among many other aliens and heroes at your local Sci-Fi convention.  Stormtroopers also feature prominently at Disneyland and other official locations including movie premieres, in an organised appearance known as ‘Trooping’.  Lastly, but most importantly, you are likely to find a Stormtrooper performing charity work, such as visiting sick children in hospital, or as part of Make a Wish. Most Stormtrooper cosplayers will be affiliated with the international 501st organisation.

A full set of Stormtrooper armour is a serious investment, and can contain a great amount of extra gadgets like cooling fans and microphones to speak to people in an authentic Stormtrooper voice.  Special boots, gloves, and leather gun holster, as well as a heavy blaster completes the standard ‘TK’ costume.

What is it that makes people spend their money, and donate their precious time to walk around inside a hot, unwieldy, costume for the amusement of strangers?  Late nights in front of movie theatres dressed in tupperware in the middle of winter.  Hours on your feet in the hot sun, and lets not forget how tricky a bathroom break becomes in a suit of armour.  To answer these questions and more, I asked three of The Empires finest to share their stories.  To tell us why they wear white.

Roll Call :

TK-90999 (Anne Sophie Salge)

3TK Anne side by side

My name is Anne Sophie Salge, or just Anni and I am an illustrator and cosplayer from Lower Saxony, Germany. I  currently study digital media design for my Master of Arts degree with my main subjects being interaction & webdesign, character and game design as well as creative technology.

I actually grew up having no Star Wars background at all. I was born in 1995 in a suburb of Brunswick in Lower Saxony and grew up very free with a lot of nature and places to discover around me. you wouldn’t find me playing with my moms makeup, rather spending all day in her Grandfather’s workshop and being annoyed in kindergarten for not being allowed to handle a knife. The only thing Star Warsy around me was my Grandmother’s horses name – Andor. Now, that I am more or less grown up, Star Wars reminds me of that time. I associate freedom and adventure with it. Discovering new places never seen before. And hopefully, Star Wars will continue to inspire me to create things. Many great people in our past used to say something along the lines “The best way to predict the future is to create it” among them Abraham Lincoln and Alan Curtis Kay.

TK-3681 (Julian Potter)

My name is Julian Potter, I’m married and father of a 10-year-old son. A lifelong Star Wars fan since late 70’s as a child who has passed his love of Star Wars onto his son. I was born and still live in Blackwood South Wales.

Star Wars means a lot to me, its always been a part of my life. Not a day has ever gone past when I have not thought about it. Star Wars just feels a part of who I am and who my family are. I feel it’s beautiful, a special thing ever expanding like the universe that belongs to everyone.  It’s the perfect mix of everything good in film making from story to casting to McQuarrie’s art to Williams’ score to set design to merchandising. It captured an era, it just makes you want to relive it, continue the enjoyment it brings and pass that love for Star Wars on to the next generation. So awesome to hold onto your original stories whilst getting hyped for the new ones to come. Star Wars will always bring out that excited kid in all of us and that’s special.

TK-27888 (Marietta Ivanova)

3TK Marietta

My name is Marietta Ivanova.  I am an artist / visual designer from Helsinki, Finland. I run a website, Cannon Fodder Comics with my friend Elly Snyder featuring original Star Wars stories and art from the Empires point of view.  I’ve been a member of The Nordic Garrison of the 501st for a year now, inspired in part to join by my favourite actor Ken Colley (Admiral Piett).  Ken gave The Empire the humanity I wanted to see, and I sympathised with him more than anyone else. My first 501st costume was an Imperial Officer uniform with the rank of Captain in honour of Ken. However, when my fellow garrison members found out that I have a perfectly good TK in my closet, they encouraged me to get it approved.

How Did You Make A Start As A TK?

TK-3681 (Julian Potter)

My earliest Star Wars memories were of being pushed about in a pram holding the action figures of the vintage gonk droid, his clicky legs, just holding Hammerhead and turning his head round and round with my finger as my mum pushed me about. The absolute amazement of the movie experience, the Star Wars Muppet special, the Holiday Special, the vintage toys in shops, just the wonder at looking at them, hoping for a few for xmas.

100’s of hours recreating the movies and making your own stories with the figures, the long wait that felt a lifetime until Return of the Jedi comes out, the sadness of my dad telling me after Return of the Jedi ‘That’s your lot now, there won’t be any more Star Wars’ (how wrong he was lol)

I always loved the look of the Stormtoopers and thought they looked so cool. I always thought as a kid it would be great to wear that and work on a spaceship lol .  In the 90’s I then saw that fan armour was available but it was expensive for my 20-year-old self so I had to start saving. I saw the fan film Troops, read Star Wars Insider, saw pics of Albin Johnson wearing his and starting the 501st and thought ‘let’s get on this fun’. It was a good few years later, after a family trip to Walt Disney World Florida where I saw troopers from the Florida Garrison in the Parade for Star Wars Weekends and learned that I too could get 501st cleared.

I thought how awesome my 8-year-old self would have felt if there was such thing as the 501st back when I was a kid and got to see it all. When I got home, I ordered 2 TK kits, myself and my girlfriend (now wife) had great fun building and both got cleared to the UK Garrison.

3TK Parade

TK-90999 (Anne Sophie Salge)

Well, I just left school which was a not too pleasant time of my life. I was bullied quite a lot to the point that being unhappy became my new normal.  I was quiet and tried my best to be as invisible as possible. One day I came across Stormtroopers on YouTube. It was something I hadn’t seen before. People dressing up as fictional characters. I learned more about cosplayers and about Star Wars. I loved it all so much and at some point ended up talking with a Sandtrooper from the Dutch garrison (DG) on Facebook. He invited me to an event in the Netherlands. Going there was something I was so afraid of. I was so scared but pretty much kicked myself in the butt.

That’s how I came in contact with the DG and met people that were so different from everything I knew before. They and another buddy from the German garrison helped me with the armour, fitted it to me and helped me with the process of getting into it. As soon the helmet got on… well, it was crazy.  On my first troop, I was all over the place, I was so excited I wouldn’t get out of the armour after my 8-hour shift.  I haven’t really slowed down when it comes to wearing my Stormtrooper. But I still remember the bad times and that’s why I do pretty much everything I can to make someone smile. That means more to me then you can imagine!

3TK Anne horserider


TK-27888 (Marietta Ivanova)

When I bought my TK armour, I had no plans to ever wear it. I actually got it just for my own enjoyment to look at it at home, because is there a Star Wars fan who wouldn’t want to own a Stormtrooper armour?  I had never even considered costuming until I visited my first convention in Manchester in 2016. In front of the convention centre I saw Star Wars costumers for the first time in my life: an Imperial line officer and a Sandtrooper, and I almost fell over. That experience changed my life and it was then I decided to join the 501st Legion, which has been one of best decisions in my life.

The Imperial Stormtrooper is such a classic character and recognizable design. It played an important part in changing the movie history. To me it represents love for great adventure stories, which never grows old, and the endless imagination of the artists and storytellers that brought us a new era of science fiction.  And the Stormtrooper is Imperial – we’re Empire all the way.

3TK Echo Base Live troopers
UK Garrison members at Echo Base Live : Redditch.


Polish Those Boots Soldier : Wearing Your TK

TK-3681 (Julian Potter)

I would say I try to get my TK kit as close as I can to the screen used stuff. I’ve had a few kits over the years and my latest one is quite close to the stunt TK’s in A New Hope. If you follow the guides on the FISD 501st forum you get a ‘centurion’ certificate to say you reached a high standard and that’s pretty cool. No one knows you have it unless you look it up on the forum but I was proud of mine and printed it out. It’s just for yourself really and to make your wife roll her eyes at you.

I’m told I’m fast at kitting up. It does not take long to get dressed, to unpack your kit and suit up gets quicker the more times you do it, takes me about 15 mins and that’s with stopping and talking to the other troopers  about the latest Star Wars news etc. I can get kitted up all on my own but always easier if you got a bud to check all is good and straight, clip on your thermal detonator, pass you that glove you just dropped and can’t bend over for lol. Cleaning, just soapy water on a sponge works.

It is harder to move and see in TK armour than without it but the more you do it, the more it just becomes natural and second nature. I’ve been doing it so long now it has just become easy I guess. I’ve been out on photo shoots and troops where we have had to walk giant steep sand dunes, the biggest dunes in Europe, castle stairs, parades in tropical heat, all kinds and its totally easy now. Just keep hydrated, is the best tip of all. Oh, and a good experienced spotter to be your eyes and ears whilst in armour too. Can’t go wrong with a good spotter.

3TK Julian on set

TK-27888 (Marietta Ivanova)

The first time I put the armour on took me 45 minutes. Now, I can do it in 8 minutes. If someone helps me, maybe even faster. Getting into and wearing the armour has gotten easier, because I find little things that I can fix or improve after every troop. At first, I was protecting the costume from scratches and bumps, but at some point, I accepted them as part of memories from trooping or “battle damage”. If you look at A New Hope, for example, most of the TK armours look really worn out. In the scenes where they board the Tantive IV, you can see that some are even held together by duct tape.  I am actually modifying my TK armour to turn it into a Shocktrooper now, a process that is requiring more than just a coat of paint

You get used to wearing the armour. The hardest part is not seeing your feet with the helmet on, especially with little kids running around you need to be careful.

What I love about the TK is that you can be anyone under the bucket. It doesn’t matter, we’re all there as stormtroopers representing our group and making people happy. No one knows that I’m a female for example. I often have ladies rushing to take a selfie with me, wrapping their arm around me and calling me their “boyfriend”. Hahaha I never correct them.

3TK Marietta meeting

Trooping : Tales From The Frontlines

TK-3681 (Julian Potter)

It feels so good to troop, so good to make Star Wars fans happy, so good to help your local community through volunteer work, so good to see that big grin when they see you in armour, it makes us grin back , unseen under our helmets.

I’m a UK trooper but have trooped overseas with troopers from all over the world and have found they instantly take you in as a friend. I’ve made good friends too, from Florida to California to Australia to Japan and beyond. I found that troopers are always there to help whenever it’s needed no matter what country you are from and not just with the trooping side of things alone. There’s something beautiful there, in a world that sees divides in people sometimes from other countries, sometimes with race or gender but within this 501st star wars community I’ve found this does not exist.

It never feels like a job as no enjoyable experience ever does , however I would say that the people who book us deserve a good experience . I always keep in character and give as screen accurate a performance as possible to the point as if I’m on set, or working for Disney/Lucasfilm . Sometimes the people who have booked us actually are Disney/Lucasfilm. The only aspect I don’t enjoy is sometimes you get aching feet next day after a long troop lol

3TK Shocktrooper

TK-90999 (Anne Sophie Salge)
The 501st itself is a great and widely loved group with all their garrisons being very unique in their cultures and cosplay approaches. It is mostly all about the love for Star Wars and the people who share your love for it. Yet in every herd, there are black sheep and they tend to stick out. This is not just something we see in Star Wars communities.
As a trooper  I tend to wear a purple skirt, a tutu. It makes people happy, especially children, so why not? One day we had a troop at a marathon race in Hannover and the organizers who invited us loved the tutu so much that they themselves put it back onto me when I had already taken it off. So I continued wearing it, chasing children and having sword fights with them. It was such a great day only topped by a little child who would not let go of my hand. That’s the spirit.
3TK Cinteltex glove
Later the pictures of that troop got online and a garrison member really started commenting about the tutu. He created such a heated discussion online that posts had to be deleted and I, who knew of nothing at that point, got messages from friends who wanted to comfort me. A day before I had lost my grandfather and an old friend from school practically within a couple of hours in between. It was so surreal feeling this deep and heavy sense of loss and then having a group of people who have nothing better to do than to spread so much negativity and hate because of a piece of transparent fabric.
Life can be over in an instant. Accidents happen every day and hit people out of nowhere. People get sick and have to face mortality sooner than we expected. That’s also a part of what the 501st or star wars groups are about. We troop for charities, to make people’s lives better! Star Wars is after all science fiction. It is not real. We wish it was but it sadly isn’t. We can have our own opinions about it and discuss it in a civilized manner but as soon as we start bullying people we cross a line. If we put real lives and the mental well-being of real people behind this fiction we jeopardize everything this community is built upon – love.
3TK indoors Anne














TK-27888 (Marietta Ivanova)

My local group is like a family to me. I frequently troop with non-501st groups on my travels abroad. I support them fully and love what they are doing. They are often very welcoming and warm, and I think we can all learn from each other.

I’ve heard the 501st being called snooty. I guess some amount of “snootiness” is required to keep the quality of costumes high. We want to present the audience the most accurate and stunning costumes, and that can only be achieved by setting standards, requiring dedication and a high quality of work from the members.  Someone can see negativity, but what I see is great passion, ambition, and taking pride in what we do.

3TK Marietta & co












Hospital Visits, Make A Wish, And Charity Work

TK-90999 (Anne Sophie Salge)
 I have yet not had the chance to take part in any hospital or Make-A-Wish troops and I really hope that I will  soon. During the time that I have been an active member and part of this community, I have already met many amazing people who are very committed.  Those men and women sometimes spend each weekend trooping and collecting funds for charity. They are all about giving others a fun experience, something to look back at when things don’t go so smooth and at the same time they keep looking out for their trooper-buddies near and far.
Within this community you don’t even have to know each other personally, you don’t need to have met in person.  All thanks to social media, the same medium used by others to bully is in this case used to connect and to care and to inspire. Especially with my studies being at times so stressful that I feel a pain in my chest, I know I have something to look forward to. I love to go on Instagram and check out a buddies troop or latest artwork.
These are the things that keep me going at times. We the people have the choice of how to influence the future. We can make another person better with something as small as a couple of positive and encouraging words and a single picture. This goes both ways and we should be aware of that if we post things on the internet or say something to another person. The future is ours and we have the responsibility for it!
To all my trooper-buddies out there: I just really want to thank you for everything. Please, please stay the way you are! You are all so unique and special and I cannot wait to see what you are up to next.
If you like you can always get in touch with me via Instagram , I would love to hear your stories.
3TK dance troopers
TK-27888 (Marietta Ivanova)

I’ve been on a hospital troop, and the kids joy and excitement was clearly visible – even through the narrow green lenses of the TK armour. The parents too were happy to see us. Having a child admitted to the hospital can be life draining for parents. They too need to stay next to the hospital bed trying to find ways to comfort and entertain their child in extremely difficult conditions for hours, days, weeks… I think the families are thankful for even the smallest breaks from the usual hospital routines, when someone else takes over and entertains the child.

I haven’t yet seen a child starting to cry after seeing stormtroopers. Some might be shy – it’s OK, we’ll just wave at them from a distance.

TK-3681 (Julian Potter)

I’ve done a lot of different troops over the years from hospital visits, parties for terminally ill children, stores such as Disney store, theme parks, Disney Parades Florida, comic cons, all aspects really. All children act differently, very few cries and I’ve rarely seen us troops not win them back. Usually a hand shake with their parents and a high 5 does it. I’ve had ice creams bought for us by children at troops that just melt our hearts. Kids fan mail and drawings of us are so cool too, the best! Seeing people happy is what it’s all about for me.

There is a way I have felt about Star Wars and trooping that was recently summed up perfectly, exactly what I have been saying and felt since getting involved with trooping and the charity work it lets us do . It was a recent quote by a fellow Welsh person Named Lynwen Brennan , head of Lucasfilm

She said ‘I think the thing that drives me and where stories overlap is the idea of teamwork and people coming together to act in a selfless way to overcome and to make something better’. She goes on to say, while talking about the Star Wars community, that people who are compassionate can do amazing things.

Once I heard this quote it just cemented everything I thought and feel about trooping , this drives me on to keep trooping forever and pass my armour on to my son to carry it on, I HOPE Lynwen Brennan gets to read this as TK-3681 and the 501st imperial Welsh Squad salutes you.

Now move along…Move along

I’d like to thank 3TK for taking part, once again they are

TK-90999 (Anne Sophie Salge)

Instagram here.

Facebook here

TK-27888 (Marietta Ivanova)

Cannon Fodder Comics here

Instagram here

TK-3681 (Julian Potter)

Instagram here


If you have been inspired to join The Empire, for more information you can contact the 501st (or the dirty Rebels)

For a top level TK or a selection of other costumes, please check out R.S.Propmasters.

Photocredits :

Marietta (Riku Forsman)


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