Following the latest instalment in the hugely successful franchise, Dune Pt. 2, our team was keen to reflect on one of the most iconic sci-fi costumes.

If you are familiar with the lore of Dune, you will have noticed the blue-eyed warriors, deadly and mysterious, clad in dark suits of buckles and shadows. As you watched them seamlessly cross deserts, encounter monsters and battle their enemy, you may have marvelled at their futuristic attire and how well it seemed to blend in with their natural surroundings. Aside from being an exquisite piece of design that we all recognise for what it is, the Stillsuit raises some questions. Stillsuits are an equipment crafted by the native people of Arrakis, the Fremen, to survive the hardest conditions of their desert, waterless planet. It covers the entire body, mouth included, to protect its wearer from water loss. Multiple layers of fabric are required: the first layer allows all fluids (sweat, urine and faeces) to travel to the intermediate layers. These layers then filter and cleanse water which is then moved through a structure of tubes to storage pockets across the suit, using pumps located at the heels.

Wearing the suit is an act of trust and diligence. When the only thing separating the body from a certain painful death is a thin barrier of fabric, the responsibility of surviving lays entirely in the hand of its wearer through care and maintenance. Stillsuits are a pillar of Fremen culture, of sacred significance. If, as the saying goes, bodies are a temple, those of the Fremens are mistreated by Arrakis inclement conditions, and suits are a frail but enduring rampart from desolation.

It is the pinnacle of high efficiency, sustaining life and movement by recycling the body’s most precious resource. Though elaborate, the suit’s assets mainly consist of intelligent low-tech, exploiting basic physical processes, layering principles, pumps and tubes. It is a simple yet powerful showcase of the toil and art of creating a costume tailored to answer human needs with no compromise on mobility. We like it. There are few costumes more favourable to humankind than the ones that support our precious, feeble lives. They are an ode to adaptability in a set-up of scarce resources, the approach we advocate for.

All roads lead to Rome

If you are familiar with us, you already know we are unapologetic gear nerds. Being knowledgeable on the body dynamics, we had to dive into the specifics of the Stillsuit, and pay a visit to our past physics class. Fear not brave reader, for that, we ought only need the law of conservation of energy and a little common sense.

What happens when we move? Our bodies in movement are energy plants, and this energy materialises as heat. To ventilate us, heat must be transferred from the body to the environment by evaporating sweat. Here it becomes problematic for the Fremens, in the suit, no possibility for this heat to escape. It keeps circulating through the suit maintaining a high level of temperature inside. Thermodynamics are adamant, humans in Stillsuits would cook to death. Funny isn’t it? We started this article out of passion for the cinema, only to arrive at the founding axiom of performance gear: breathability.

We are not Fremen but sportsmen and women, we heat up, and we sweat, and we want more. In the effort, the last thing we need is to be held back by the discomfort of unsuitable clothing. Whether in enduring races or the climbing of a boulder, we should have tools that answer precisely our needs and take care of our bodies as we venture into the wild. Starting with garments that know what to keep in and what to give out to nature. If the times of extremes come — and they will most certainly come, as we actively work towards a new age of Earth — we are optimistic enough to believe that humankind will recognise the best tools to create what’s next. In the meantime, all hail to natural fibres, faithful companions of our bodily journeys, from the dawn of time to as long as life goes on.

Further readings