Everyone loves the brooding, over-bearing look of Darth Vader; clad all in black, draped in a cape, wearing an almost featureless mask. We're given no glimpse of any speck of his flesh, forcing us to speculate what kind of person the embodiment of evil actually looks like, and when we're finally given a look at the man under the mask in Return of the Jedi, we understand the reason for his full-body suit: Vader is horribly disfigured, his body severely withered for reasons yet to be revealed.
However, protecting his crippled frame is not the real reason behind Darth Vader's helmet and breathing mask. The following may be common knowledge for die hard Star Wars trivia masters, but for those of us casually in love with the original trilogy, it should come as an amusing bit of insight into the design of one of cinemas most iconic characters. SCI-FI Wire recently interviewed Ralph McQuarrie, George Lucas' conceptual designer responsible for the look of much of what ended up in Star Wars, including Vader's appearance, and the reason he gave is more mundane than menacing: