Monday, October 26, 2009
Shatner and toupology.
Why does Bill Shatner's real hair in the late 1950s seem thicker in some photos and less thick in others - seemingly defying the chronological order of the touposphere? That is a question some of you have been asking, with a few even wondering if we aren't getting our toup versus no toup calls flat wrong. Let's try to explore this a little.
First, let's begin with a challenge. Take a look at the picture below of Jack Nicholson in the classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975):
Sure, he's receding, but otherwise he looks relatively thick on top, right?
Now look at a different image from the very same film of the very same Jack Nicholson:
Hey, he looks really bald! But then here...
...he looks more like this...
How is it possible for the levels of baldness in these images to appear so different? The first point is that hair stylists can achieve wonders with very little. A spray or a gel coupled with some clever combing, (not forgetting the role of lighting) can create an illusion of plenty - or at least more than there actually is. And let's not forget that Jack Nicholson wasn't even making an effort to hide his baldness in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
So now let's try to look over what we know of Bill Shatner's real hair. Of course, he once had a thick head of it before it started to thin:
But by the mid fifties, the process had begun. This toup-less image from December 1957...
...shows Shats pretty darn thin on top. However, the image must be read in conjunction with this photo taken at the same time. The thinning is real, but not as severe-looking as in the previous photo.
The first image, because of a direct overhead light, actually gives the illusion of greater thinning than there actually was at this time. A similar effect is true of the below toup-less images, likely taken on the same day from mid-1957. Very, very thin...?
...Or less thin?
The point here is that the hair was thinning at the front, but not nearly as much as some pictures appear to show - but also, conversely, more than other pictures suggest. Favorable light and combing can make the hair seem thicker. Crucially, Bill Shatner switched to toupees long before his baldness became really severe. He did so at a time when the thinning was becoming ever more difficult to conceal. The pictures we have show the process of thinning:
...and the processes of concealment. Yet, by the end of the 1950s, Bill Shatner still had a distinct frontal hairline, as a toup-less 1957 TV appearance shows:
It was at the rear that the most thinning took place first as this late 1956 image underlines:
Initially, special sprays and combing techniques were used to conceal this - hence the longer hair here, which doesn't quite reach as far as would be ideal - the rest is sprays:
Meanwhile, the thickness at the front of the slowly thinning hair would depend on how it was styled:
The shape of this frontal hairline was distinctly different (rounder) than that which the lace toups created - and indeed that is one of the easiest giveaways regarding toup or no toup.
Shats likely went bald at the rear of the head while still having - an albeit ever-thinning - real and distinctive frontal hair line. The bald patch at the rear then made its way upwards - his hair on top became fluffy and then tufty and finally, years later was no more. But the frontal hair line, however thin, likely did not begin to actually retreat northwards until the very early 1960s. And it was still there, hidden away, even after Shats began to turn to the lace toupee. He had real hair, but it was no longer photographable under harsh lights. We believe that it wasn't until the late 1960s/ early 1970s that Bill Shatner went completely "shiny dome on top" bald.
On a separate note, it also appears that Bill Shatner's real hair was indeed "T.J. curly" style (as some of the toup-less pictures we have here underline). Shats likely did what was common in those days and straightened it with combing, hair oils etc.