Breaking down Inosuke’s drip was a ton of fun. Let’s do that again, shall we?
One of Oda’s greatest strengths as a mangaka is his fantastic character design. Often times, you can figure out what a character is all about just by looking at them! Not to mention that they often service their unique movements and abilities remarkably well, making them a strong addition to the narrative.
And in no case is this better exemplified than by our main protagonist: Monkey D. Luffy.
Luffy is a free soul down to his core. Nothing thrills him more than adventure, and nothing pleases him more than sharing those with his friends. He lives life how he wants to, consequences be damned. He’s gonna be the Pirate King, and what is the Pirate King if not the most free person on the sea? Unlike other shounen heroes, he doesn’t get into fights just because he loves combat; he only throws down when someone absolutely deserves it.
With all that in mind, let’s have a look at his design.
His signature piece of apparel is his signature Straw Hat. Given to him by Shanks way back when he was a kid, it’s the symbol of his promise to the red haired pirate to become Pirate King. More than that, it’s symbolic of the thing he values most: his friends. That hat is the most prized thing he has and it serves to represent those he values.
What more fitting symbol to put on his flag? Or to his name his crew, for that matter? All of his friends are his Strawhats.
Beneath that hat, he wears a rather simple outfit. A simple vest, changing colors pretty frequently, along with frayed shorts and sandals. Cosplayers rejoice, because this dude is not complicated. Nor is the meaning of it. His clothes are all loose, often unbuttoned and open. They’re meant to be free and easy to breath in. Perfect for a free spirit like Luffy.
More than that, it’s a perfect fit for his unique powers. Remember, Luffy is a rubber man. The dude stretches and inflates. He can’t wear tight, restrictive clothing without restricting his movements, thus limiting his abilities.
After the timeskip, he would see an outfit change, just like the rest of the crew. But out of all of them, Luffy likely changed the least. He simply replaced his vest with an open red shirt and added a yellow sash to the ensemble. It has the same effect as the vest. Only now, we have a constant view at that big scar on his chest. More on that in a bit.
Recently, Luffy underwent a rather curious change to his outfit. Now, he wears a black sailor’s coat over his shoulders. We’ve seen this same look from many characters, from Whitebeard to Roger. This is a symbol of his growth and maturity as a pirate captain. With the new strength he’s gained in the Wano arc, he now has the right to stand alongside the legendary pirates of the past.
Now, let’s talk about scars. Luffy’s got two of those at this point in the story. The first one on his face, right beneath his eye, came about at the very beginning of the series. In order to prove himself to the Red Haired Pirates, Luffy took a knife and cut himself with it. It’s a constant reminder of his rash, childish nature. Plus, it adds a nice bit of piratey flare to his look.
The other, much larger scar has a much darker story to it. We saw how he got that one; at the end of Marineford, when Admiral Akainu tried to kill Luffy, his brother, Ace, leapt in to protect him. He managed to save Luffy, but the marine still managed to leave a nasty mark on the young pirate’s chest. That scar is a heartbreaking reminder of Luffy’s greatest failure, as well as his greatest lost. At the same time, it’s a reminder to himself; a promise to protect his crew, to never fail them as he failed Ace.
And that should just about cover everything. Sure, Luffy has worn many costumes over the years. But going over all of them would just be redundant. Especially since most of them are just the same, but with a blue or an orange vest. Not a whole lot to be gleaned from that in terms of depth.
I can’t wait for all the hardcore One Piece fans to swing in and explain how Luffy’s different designs are actually hints about the truth behind the final island or the Will of D or some other major twist.
I said that as a joke, but then I remembered the big Straw Hat reveal during Reverie, so I’m already proven an ass.