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:

And photographed:

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.


  1. During the 1990's, James Doohan used to say about Shatner: "I've seen Bill's head with nothin' on it. You would think rats ate his hair."

    It's clear that in the 1950's, the rats had begun nibbling at Shat's hair, but they hadn't yet devoured it.

  2. I've lost some hair and yes, in some pics I look like I've had a full head of hair and some I looking balding. When you are at the 57 Shatner stage, its so early, photographs can go either way. It's valuable that that the toupologists have documented that very breif, thinning hair to toupee transition. Well done.

  3. yah your pictures convinced me.... I wonder if it was even Shat's decision to start using a toupee initially.... Perhaps someone advised him to do it because of the studio lights.

    I have very fine hair, and though I look like I have a full head of hair under normal lighting, under extremely bright light, my hair would look quite thin. It's always been like that, since I was a kid.


  4. Maybe that woman who wrote the 1957 Macleans article on Shatner that described his "cinnamon hair" knew more than she was letting on: that he was thickening up that thin hair by sprinking cinnamon all over it. Didn't really work though, and he still had to buy the toupee.

    1. Gayboi answer

    2. Same 2U, little lady. In your case, though, instead of using cinnamon, try something called Liquid Ass. For a loser like you, it would be a step up for sure, biatch.

    3. Hey anonymous, what makes you such a frickin loser? Cogitate on that a little while and come back later.

    4. @anonymous gayboi: is there something about yourself you aren't comfortable with?

  5. This is somewhat related, for the bros, and maybe some girls:
    If you have thinning hair, use a spray bottle and fill it with one part pure aloe vera, one part apple cider vinear, two table spoons of cayenne pepper, some shots of tea tree oil, some shots of lavender oil, store in your shower (not in the fridge) and three times a week, ahake and spray on your hair and scalp, and wear a showercap. Wear this for several hours, when hanging out alone, I guess. Your hair WILL thicken, then, believe it or not, will grow back in moderation, where it fell out. You will see a change in about two weeks.
    Continue this for the rest of your life.
    I also recommend a vegetarian diet.
    It sickens me that this advice is not more widespread and vulnerable dudes resort to prescriptions and snake oil bullshit to get hair back.

  6. In the end, who really cares about Shatner's hair? He's a very gifted actor who has had a very successful career. When thinking of Bill Shatner, let's focus on his talents, skills and accomplishments as opposed to what close to ninety percent (90%) of men experience over time. Who in their right mind doesn't want to look good, especially if one makes their living in front of the camera? Let's applaud Bill for his his multi-decade accomplishments in his craft.

  7. Pernell Roberts' Toupee AdmirerAugust 24, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    Wow, April 4, 2011 "Anonymous" . . . you must be real fun at parties. Lighten up, will ya? No one's sayin' the Shat can't act (at least not that I am aware) but this . . . is . . . all . . . good . . . (albeit hair-raising) . . . fun! And for the record, I for one do care about Shatner's hair in the end, or anywhere else.

  8. To Anonymous - Okay, Bill. We all know you are a bit sensitive about your hair. But this blog is all in good fun, okay? Please lighten up a little.