The best iconic designs tend to share inspiration with other inspired creations, and it turns out Apple’s instantly recognizable white plastic earbuds, and by extension the current EarPods and AirPods) were in part influenced by Star Wars: specifically, by the Empire’s ubiquitous enforcer, the Stormtrooper.
Once you hear it, the connection seems apparent – Stormtroopers are clad head to toe in gleaming white plastic body armor, and Apple’s earbuds are known by their glossy white plastic shell. The iconic earbud look is what helped Apple create an indelible advertising campaign for the original iPod line, and it’s also what makes the current AirPods extremely easy to pick out in a crowd.
Apple design lead Jony Ive told Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams that he was thinking of Stormtrooper garb when he came up with the design for Apple’s earbuds, according to The Wall Street Journal. But the inspiration works both ways: Abrams took cues from Jony Ive for the unique design of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, which has a rougher blade projection that occasionally flickers off sparks, something the director said was a direct suggestion from Apple’s design guru.
This is excellent information to have, since it means that when I wear my AirPods while donning full Stormtrooper regalia (I’m always only a single impulsive act away from buying a prop-quality set of full Stormtrooper armor), I won’t be doing anything wrong from a design canon perspective.