In The Force Awakens, some of the stormtroopers have a colored pauldron on their right shoulder. Some of them were white. Other ones were black. And yet other ones were red.

What do the pauldron colors signify?

I guess that they indicate rank. But which ranks for which colors? Or do they indicate special job functions that have nothing to do with rank?

Stormtrooper with shoulder thing on.

  • 9
    It's called a "pauldron", actually. :-)
    – Praxis
    Dec 29, 2015 at 2:15
  • Is the question specific to First Order/TFA? Or also (with potentionally different answer) Clone Wars and/or Galactic Empire? Dec 29, 2015 at 2:25
  • 1
    No, this is not specific to TFA. Troopers had pauldrons in ANH. Check out the scene where Obi-Wan tells the troopers, "these are not the droids you're looking for."
    – Mohair
    Dec 29, 2015 at 16:51
  • @Mohair - I meant whether the asker's interest is specific to colors in TFA, since those colors differ from OT Jan 1, 2016 at 5:22

3 Answers 3


Allow me to answer with LEGO product descriptions.

In the set featuring the Stormtrooper shown in the question, the figure is described as a "First Order Stormtrooper Officer".

Enter the battle with Kylo Ren’s personal Command Shuttle! This fantastic, highly detailed starship has loads of features, including opening front, rear and bottom storage bays; wing-mounted, spring-loaded shooters and detachable weapon racks. And when you’re ready for even more action, activate the amazing extending wing function! It’s time to hunt down the enemy and play out your own great scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Includes 6 minifigures with assorted weapons and accessories: Kylo Ren, General Hux, First Order Officer, 2 First Order Crew and a First Order Stormtrooper Officer.

enter image description here

Contrast this with another set with Stormtroopers lacking the pauldron:

Lower the ramp, load the troopers and get ready to transport them into battle! This heavily armored First Order Transporter is packed with cool features, like dual spring-loaded shooters, top-mounted dual-stud shooter and hatch with space for a minifigure, pilot cabin with opening hatch and space for 4 minifigures in the hold, big engines at the rear, and hidden, transparent wheels for a cool ‘hover’ look. You can also remove the top section for easy access. Get ready to recreate incredible battle scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Includes 7 minifigures with assorted weapons and accessories: 2 Resistance Soldiers, 2 First Order Flametroopers, 2 First Order Stormtroopers and Captain Phasma.

enter image description here

According to this, the pauldron indicates a rank of officer, at least among Stormtroopers. Other toy merchandising also describes our red-shouldered anonymous villain as a "First Order Stormtrooper Officer".

A white pauldron'd Hot Toys figure is listed as "Squad Leader", and a black pauldron one called a "Sergeant", further evidence that the shoulder piece denotes rank, and also that color likely indicates which rank.

However, it must be noted that the merchandise may not exactly be canon, or backed up by the movies. The only rank we know of for certain is "Captain", and Captain Phazma was seen to have a cape and chrome armor, not a colored pauldron.


Don't have a full color breakdown, but

  • Black pauldron indicates a sergeant.

  • Red indicates an officer (more likely) OR a noncom, depending on who you trust.

    1. In the film, a red-pauldroned ST orders Finn (Right before Kylo Ren's shuttle lands on Jakku) that this isn't over yet.

      In the Alan Dean Foster novelization, it says it's a "noncom"

      Struck by the new arrival’s apparent indifference to the enveloping fray, the trooper was startled when a sharp nudge from behind momentarily threw him off balance. A glance found him locking gazes with a superior. The noncom’s voice was curt.
      “Back to your team. This isn’t over yet.”

    2. However, a toy calls him "First Order Stormtrooper Officer".

      So, either the novelization is wrong, or the toys are.

    UPDATE: Based on yet another toy, seems to be an officer

    enter image description here

    Another toy is Snowtrooper Officer, also with red pauldron.

    enter image description here

  • Large white pauldron is Squad Leader


    enter image description here

  • Even more confusing, orange seems to ALSO be an officer (on other toys)

    Based on this collage image: https://i.stack.imgur.com/BjbMm.jpg

    Its caption lists

    First Order Stormtrooper Officer (Orange Pauldron Right), ... First Order Snowtrooper Officer (Snowtrooper Orange Pauldron).

    Perhaps Hasbro thinks that Orange is the new Red? "Hasbro's 3.75" Star Wars: The Force Awakens First Order Snowspeeder with First Order Snowtrooper Officer figure" has orange pauldron.

    • UPDATE: And even MORE confusing, I just personally saw a toy (didn't think to take down the make/model, unfortunately) that had orange pauldron but was a simple sand trooper, NOT an officer. So there's a chance that orange indicates climate specialization instead of, or in addition to, the rank. That, or the toy makers made a rank mistake.

    enter image description here

  • 1
    Maybe 'officer' and 'noncom' are just two different ways of abbreviating 'non-commissioned officer'. The latter makes more sense to people who know military things, but the former makes more sense to children and toy collectors. Dec 29, 2015 at 4:59
  • 1
    @DaaaahWhoosh - the former makes absolutely no sense to me, but I'm neither a child nor a toy collector :) Dec 29, 2015 at 5:02
  • 1
    @DaaaahWhoosh perhaps, though at least in the US Military, an Officer and an NCO are two distinct ranks (NCOs being sergeants and Officers being Lieutenants on-up)
    – DA.
    Dec 29, 2015 at 5:04
  • 3
    In the U.S. Military, a non-commissioned officer is one of SIX ranks, and there are ten ranks of commissioned officers. We also have four ranks of Warrant officers.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 29, 2015 at 5:17
  • 1
    @WGroleau yes, I should have said 'range of ranks'. I think DVK's interpretation is correct, though..
    – DA.
    Dec 29, 2015 at 5:23

These are shoulder "pauldrons".

From Wookieepedia:

Pauldrons were a type of armor worn by soldiers of the Galactic Republic and later the Galactic Empire. These represented the wearer's rank or affiliation. These varied in colors, for example, Imperial stormtrooper commanders wore an orange or red pauldron. The majority of sandtroopers wore colored pauldrons. Black indicated enlisted troopers, white was for sergeants, and orange for unit leaders.

The Wookieepedia material above is derived from canon and licensed sources, namely the Rebels television series and the Ultimate Star Wars guide.

Given the penchant that the First Order displays for adopting Imperial designs and uniforms, the pauldron colours may carry the same meanings in The Force Awakens, but as of this time I do not have a source.

UPDATE: The information from Wookieepedia conflicts with other sources (I imagine due to a misheard line in Rebels). See DVK's answer for correct colour interpretations, especially as far as Force Awakens is concerned.


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