The man behind the Stormtrooper mask

Stormtrooper on the streets of Aberdeen
Stormtrooper on the streets of Aberdeen

It was a strange sight: people bursting out laughing, doing double and triple takes, whipping out their phones to snap the moment, pointing and whispering to their pals.

Yes it was definitely strange. But then again, it is not every day you see a Stormtrooper wearing a kilt walking down the road.

It has been slightly more common in Aberdeen since March when the Alford Stroomtrooper decided to start taking to the streets of the Granite City.

It was a dream of the man inside the suit, who would only give his name as Dan, since he was a child, having grown up with the Star Wars movies.

“They were always on at Christmas and holidays and I remember thinking when I was a child wanting to own a Stormtrooper costume and just walking around the streets in it,” Dan, 40, said.

“I never thought in a million years that it would ever happen though.”

It was at the beginning of this year that Dan finally acquired his dream attire, forking out £1,000. But as a fan of cosplay, the trend of dressing up as fictional characters and doing role-play, he is no stranger to spending lots of money on costumes.

“When I was a kid, like everybody else, I used to dress up,” he explained.

“There was one thing that got me started though. I’m a big fan of the TV show The Bill even now that it’s finished. So I thought I would try and see if I could get anything from that. I wanted to start a convention for that but the numbers were quite low. I started getting a lot of stuff online and then I moved on to buying hats from different costumes.

“I’ve probably spent thousands on costumes. My police one probably costs more than my Stormtrooper. It’s a hobby really but it is one that could so easily go out of control, so I do have a period where I will say to myself, ‘Right that is enough’. Now I’ve decided to focus on Star Wars so that limits me to what I will buy.”

PEOPLE WERE HONKING THEIR HORNS

Dan decided to start taking his Star Wars character out in the streets in preparation for a theme day he was having at work – appropriately named Star Wars day. He explained he wanted to see if it would work practically to wear the suit from his house through work and back home again.

His first practice run was in February when he decided to visit his sister-in-law who also lives in the village. Dan explained that he wanted to see how people would respond to it, especially his sister-in-law’s kids.

He said: “I was quite nervous the first time I went out because you don’t know how people are going to take it or if I would get abuse.

“It went really well though. I was walking down the road and people were honking their horns, coming up to me and asking for photos. They seemed to really love it so I wanted to practice more so I started going out more often.”

Dan added the kilt after seeing pictures of a parade in America where Stormtroopers were wearing tartan. It also makes the suit more practical.

“If you have the full suit on, your legs have to go out horizontal in front of you when you are sitting at your desk and on the bus and certainly for flying it’s way better, it’s more comfortable.”

The Star Wars day has long since been and gone but the Alford Stormtrooper is still a regular sight in Aberdeen. It is a hobby that many of Dan’s friends and family – including his wife – thought was “crazy”.

“It was spending £1,000 on an outfit that they especially didn’t understand,” he said.

“But they do tend to respect the fact that I go out and do it because loads of them say they could never do it.

“My wife is not hugely keen on the whole thing, obviously the amount of money I have been spending on the costumes. We’ve got a small house and it’s piled high with hats and outfits. But she does understand why I do it and she is coming to a convention with me in Glasgow and is wearing a costume, which will be her first time. I suspect she won’t travel down in it, she’ll probably change at the hotel, whereas I will wear mine the whole time.”

I LIKE TO DO SOME GOOD

Dan explained he heads out about once a month for a bit of fun but also to bring some joy to other people’s lives.

He said: “There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing people smiling and seeing the different reactions. Like this morning, a girl got on the bus and she looked at me and looked around the bus and said to someone else, ‘Am I imagining this? Am I actually seeing this?’. She obviously couldn’t believe her eyes and that sort of thing, it’s great. You get people saying, ‘Oh you’ve really made my day’, little kids come up and hug you and that sort of thing. It’s really good.

“It’s more for other people. Sometimes I might think about doing it and the weather might be really miserable or I might think ‘ah I can’t be bothered’ but then I think for some people seeing a Stormtrooper, it could brighten up their day, so sometimes I do go out for them. I like to do some good.

“I don’t want to do it too often because I think the novelty will wear off. If I was out every weekend people would get fed up with me and maybe I would as well.”

I spent around an hour walking around Aberdeen with Dan in his costume and it is clear that he is a big hit with residents – both adults and children. Hardly a second went by when we were not approached by someone asking to take photographs. Rather than get annoyed though, Dan seemed happy enough to pose up for every request.

It’s something that, like some of his friends and family, I don’t think I could do either. While it was fun seeing people get excited upon noticing him and giddy after taking a “selfie” with a Stormtrooper, I did also notice a few people giving less-than-positive looks and comments about his get-up. Dan assured me though, that the positive definitely outweighs the negative.

“It is mostly positive; people come up and say ‘Oh, you are a legend’ or ‘That looks ace’. You do get the odd negative comment asking why are you doing this, but it’s largely positive. You do sometimes get the odd drunk person saying something, but you just laugh it off. I’ve never had anything really bad happen. I’ve been pretty lucky in that respect. I’ve got a friend who is a Stormtrooper down in Wolverhampton and she has been assaulted a couple of times, she’s been whacked across the head.

“So that is quite a scary prospect, but like a lot of things I do think things through in advance and make sure I am aware of what’s going on around me. At least that way I might avoid anything too bad happening. I tend to go around the same sort of areas anyway.”

I DON’T LIKE TO SPOIL THE MYSTERY

Being an anonymous good Samaritan was also something I did not quite understand. For our interview, Dan said he did not want to reveal his identify, and rather stay hidden behind the mask in order to protect the magic for his audience. It is a decision he has taken after some backlash to revealing his identity in the past.

“I posted a load of pictures online of a trip I had been on and some included me without my helmet on. So Alford being the small place that it is, people realised it was me and I think it spoiled it for them. People had commented saying it had spoiled the mystery and that I shouldn’t have done that. I did think, OK I see your point, afterwards.

“I don’t mind really because I do tend to get a lot of thanks from people if they take a picture. I always look online and see if any pictures of me have been posted and I do see comments about how it made people feel and that can be very rewarding. One guy took a picture of me at Union Square and he had posted it online saying ‘Bucket list, Stormtrooper in a kilt, check’ so that was pretty amazing.”

We said our goodbyes and I left Dan to return to his job working in an office in the city centre. As he strolled along, I again watched as people gazed in his direction. While he seemed happy enough to wave and return a thumbs up to an admirer, he didn’t seem to give the less-impressed audience member a second look. It is something, he said, he has learned to ignore with age.

“It’s really a case of overcoming what you think other people are going to think about you. If you do worry about that, then you’ll never do anything. I think it’s something as I’ve got older, worrying about what people will think of me, I don’t tend to think about it as much.”

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