Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When did William Shatner start wearing a toupee?

The short and simple answer is sometime between 1957 and 1958. From that point onwards, he would never again choose to be photographed professionally without wearing a hairpiece. The decision may initially have been only for television and film work rather than theatrical productions - but that distinction didn't last long...

Studio One - No Deadly Medicine. (1957)

Above we have two photographs of a still toupless Shatner in December 1957, performing in a TV show called Studio One - No Deadly Medicine.

The World of Suzie Wong (1958)

Perhaps the last time he was ever photographed acting without a toupee was during the long theatrical run of The World of Suzie Wong (see above and also here).

Playhouse 90 - A Town Has Turned to Dust. (1958)

That same year, the toup (albeit a rather shabby-looking one) made an appearance in a TV show called Playhouse 90 - A Town Has Turned to Dust (see above). We also have a photograph from a year earlier (see below) from Studio One - The Defender (1957) in which Bill Shatner appears to be already wearing a hairpiece. Was this the first ever first toup appearance? The point here is that it likely wasn't entirely black & white - during the crossover period, Shats may have worn a toup in one show and still relied on sprays and combing techniques in another.

Studio One - The Defender (1957). The first toup appearance?

And of course, we also saw Shats in the movie The Brothers Karamazov (released in 1958, but filmed in 1957) - although his toup in that film is perhaps better described as a stage wig.

The Brothers Karamazov (1958)

After 1958, the toup never ever went away and by 1959, the classic Star Trek: TOS look was essentially born with Shatner now wearing an (expensive) front lace toup as well as a hairpiece that covered the crown (the pieces may or may not have been separate). These toups were almost certainly provided by the productions Shats was working for, rather than anything the struggling young actor could afford to buy for himself - the latter would likely not have been particularly suitable for filming.

However, Bill Shatner was doing a lot of very low budget TV at this time, so perhaps with the money he had made from The Brothers Karamazov he also decided to fork out for his own personal toup in case the budget of a particular production could not cover this expense - Shats may have also felt that it helped his chances at auditions. Star Trek (which was a considerably higher budget TV production) producer Bob Justman later noted that Shatner's "Own 'personal' ones were too ratty-looking [to be used in front of the cameras]." (see here).

Shatner in CBS's The Story of a Gunfighter (1959)

So, if we want to celebrate Bill Shatner's 50th anniversary of wearing a toupee, I am afraid we are a year too late. But maybe better late than never: Happy "Golden Toup Anniversary" to you...!!


  1. This story on Shat first appeared in the Canadian magazine Macleans in 1957. They actually mention that he'll use some of the money he got from being in the Brothers Karamazov film to buy a toupee for himself.

  2. Shatner never actually wore a toupee at all, it's just assumed that he did, he actually didn't start losing any hair on the top of his head until much later in life! Get your facts right! 😂

    1. Orion, do you know how dumb you look by saying "get your facts right!" when you failed to provide any proof of your own? I think you're just dissing this article (not to mention the link to a full interview with Bob Justman) because you simply refuse to believe it, which is nothing more than a childish opinion from a childish fan. Stop trolling the internet and learn to do your homework.

    2. Wow "anonymous". You really don't understand when someone is joking do you?

    3. This reminds me of people saying George Lazenby was better than Sean Connery would have been in On Her Majesty's Secret Service!
      Sean could rise to the great script! George, a non-actor, wouldn't know how to elevate as an actor.

  3. and all this is important because?

  4. I always thought that Shatner's hair changed from Star Trek Season 1 to Season 2. In season one, seems to me it looked more natural in fight scenes. You can spot a toupee also from sweat as real hair sweats up fast, but toupees do not. This is how I could tell with an athlete buddy.

  5. So during the "Crossover period", Shatner was Bi-Toupual

  6. I really don't give a f..k about his hair, look at this guy!!!! He's 88 freaking years old!! Doing what he does?? Next thing, his girlfriend will announce she's pregnant!!

  7. Shatner is amazing.He shows up everywhere in shows or in ads. Met him once a few years ago at the Richmond, VA ComiCon Watched some of T J Hooker the other day and dat is some rug. ..