The incredible true story of how the £1m Han Solo jacket was rescued from obscurity

Han Solo’s £1m jacket (20th Century Fox/Prop Store)
Han Solo’s £1m jacket (20th Century Fox/Prop Store)

On the 20th of September, 2018, Star Wars fans from around the world will be battling to get their hands on a piece of their beloved franchise’s history.

Han Solo’s jacket, worn by Harrison Ford on Star Wars: Episode IV – The Empire Strikes Back, is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder as part of Prop Store’s annual Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction.

It’s the first piece of Han Solo’s costume from any of the original trilogy films to ever come up for sale, hence its predicted sale price of between £500,000 to £1,000,000.

A number of versions of the space smuggler’s distinctive military-style jacket were made for the film, but only one was thought to have survived. A prototype jacket is currently held in in the Lucasfilm archives, but it lacks the distinctive collar that we see on screen, and has different pocket configurations. It’s also NEVER going to be sold to the public.

The one going on sale in September, however, has been screen-matched: it’s the actual jacket worn by Han Solo when he arrives on Bespin and greeted by Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian.

If it wasn’t for the incredible detective work by the folks at Prop Store, the jacket might still remain in obscurity where it has been hidden ever since the film wrapped back in 1979, as Prop Store’s founder and CEO Stephen Lane, explained to Yahoo Movies.

“[The jacket] is something that I personally discovered,” says Lane in our video interview above.

“We managed to find out that the costume house that everybody thought made to costumes for [The Empire Strikes Back] did the majority of them, but some of it was also passed on to a lesser costume house.

“We found out the name of that only a couple of years ago when Brandon Alinger who is CEO of Prop Store Los Angeles was researching the Star Wars costumes book, and talking to the costume designer John Mollo.”

Mollo was the Oscar-winning designer of the jacket, and most of the costumes in the original Star Wars trilogy, which was primarily shot in the UK at Elstree Studios. Mollo sadly died in 2017.

Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back (Lucasfilm/Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)
Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back (Lucasfilm/Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

“John Mollo gave us the christian name of one of these guys who was involved with that company. From somebody else we found out their surname. We then found the company name from that, through lots of Googling.”

It transpired that Solo’s jacket had been manufactured by the small independent tailor Caledonian Costumes, a company that no longer exists.

“We found out they went bust in the late 80s, and we found out who they sold the costumes on to. One of those costume houses was still in existence, and after a year of me persistently phoning them to go down and have a look through those rails, we went down and found this hanging, literally, with the military jackets.”

Han Solo’s £1m jacket (Prop Store)
Han Solo’s £1m jacket (Prop Store)

The jacket was found hanging where it had been hidden for years amongst hundreds of other military-style jackets, after days spent looking through thousands of clothes rails at a costume house in Los Angeles.

It may even have been rented out and used on other films, TV, and stage shows over the years, worn by jobbing actors completely unaware of the provenance of the dark-grey jacket.

The jacket has been carefully conserved and is in excellent condition, displaying only minimal wear and tear. It’s going on display with many more props from the auction at the BFI IMAX, Waterloo, London from Thursday 6 September – Thursday 20 September 2018 when the Live Auction takes place.

The full Prop Store Live Auction catalogue will be live on the Prop Store website from 31 August.

Happy bidding!

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