Clone troopers in the Star Wars franchise have a history of using distinct names, but stormtroopers strictly use numbers as identifiers – here’s why.

Clone troopers in the Star Wars franchise have a history of using distinct names, but stormtroopers strictly use numbers as identifiers. Both groups were originally formed for a similar purpose, acting as an army during tense periods within the galaxy. Whereas clones were produced to act as trained soldiers in the Grand Army of the Republic, stormtroopers were humans recruited by the Galactic Empire to become elite soldiers. Though stormtroopers served as predecessors to clone troopers in Star Wars canon, they followed much different protocols, especially when it came to individuality.

The Star Wars prequel trilogy presented the origin of clone troopers around the time Legends-era materials started to humanize the figures that made up the military order. The Clone Wars took that notion up a notch by further humanizing clones that fought alongside Jedi leaders such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Mace Windu. Canon titles centered around the Clone Wars put the spotlight on clones like Captain Rex, Commander Cody, Fives. These characters were assigned numbers at birth, but as they went on to serve the Republic, they acquired names.

In addition to names, clone troopers had a history of using tattoos and hairstyles to express themselves. Some clones would even paint their armor different colors for personal customization or unit identification. Though these clones were raised under the same conditions for a common purpose, the Jedi generals allowed and even celebrated individuality, at least in most cases. One of the most popular arcs in The Clone Wars sees Jedi general Pong Krell refuse to refer to troopers by their chosen names and insists they’re lower life forms. This is juxtaposed against Yoda, who tells the clones that despite their identical genetics when he looks into the Force he sees them as individual, unique life forms. Following the events of Order 66 and the Jedi Purge, clones were replaced with stormtroopers by the Empire. Despite being natural-born humans, these troopers erased any kind of individualistic symbolism by prioritizing conformity.

Stormtroopers were first introduced in George Lucas’ 1977 film that launched the Star Wars franchise. Under the leadership of Emperor Palpatine, stormtroopers served the Galactic Empire after being chosen for the elite military order. The troopers were given names at birth, but they left that personal identifier behind in exchange for a numbered moniker. Those identifiers are often referred to as “TK numbers” in Star Wars, which technically described a specific unit in the Imperial Army. Troopers, past and present, have been known to acquire all types of designations with two letters followed by four numbers. For example, Finn was known as FN-2187 as a First Order stormtrooper before acquiring a name from Poe.

Stormtroopers, who were loyal to the Empire and later the First Order, were often viewed as a faceless army with no distinct traits while wearing their armor. This was the intention of Lucas to show how the Empire operated when compared to those in charge of the Grand Army of the Republic. The portrayal of clones troopers with names was purposely meant to be a juxtaposition to stormtroopers, seeing as the Empire stripped the majority of its personnel of any kind of individualism. Not only was expressive individuality discouraged with stormtroopers, but with some units, it would lead to punishment. Humanization in troopers was shown to pave the way to more free-thinking and in some cases, the emergence of new heroes in the Star Wars galaxy. Conformity, on the other hand, often resulted in a lack of morale, defects, or traitorous actions.