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Admiral Kirk’s Shoe Lifts

Taylor White’s Creature Features store in Burbank used to host live events (panels and gallery openings) and boy were those fun. The panels were good and the chance to see old friends was even better. (Taylor’s shop is still around but no longer open to the public.)

At one such event—the photo date stamp is June 7, 2015, but I forget what was going on—I was surprised to see hanging on the wall a familiar costume, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

It was one of the screen-worn Kirk uniforms (per the label)—though I forget if it was the white-and-gray Admiral’s uniform or the all-gray Captain’s one.

But in either event, this afforded a unique opportunity!

My fascination with William Shatner usually involves his hair—but don’t forget his feet. Specifically, his shoe lifts.

From IMDB:

“According to producers Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, William Shatner originally wore 1.5" lifts in his shoes so he would appear taller than Leonard Nimoy. Since Shatner was only 5'9", the combination of lifts and the 2" heels of his shoes brought his height to over 6'. It distorted his posture to such a degree that his stomach stuck out. Understandably, Gene Roddenberry forbade him to wear them, instead opting to dress Nimoy and DeForest Kelley in shoes with only a 1" heel as opposed to Shatner's 2" heel.”

You kind of can’t believe everything you read on IMDB, but it is true that Shatner, like a lot of film and TV stars, is shorter than you might expect. (And thus they wear lifts.)

With a few exceptions in the opposite direction (Clint Eastwood, Hugh Jackman, Bradley Cooper), many if not most movie stars are shorter than average. It’s more important that they have a huge head and face. And be stars, of course.

Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Tom Cruise and many others—tiny! When I met Mark Hamill, I was like, wow, you really are short for a stormtrooper.

I am barely 5'8'', by the way. So maybe this is my own complex?

In Star Trek, there are numerous examples where a guest actor obviously towered over the Captain, so they went to all sorts of contortions to hide it. It really came up in “The Ultimate Computer” with 6'5'' William Marshall, who sure spent a lot of time kneeling at work:

You can often see that Kirk is clearly shorter than Spock and McCoy, but they use various camera angles and blocking to disguise it.

Anyway, back to 2015—there I was with one of Bill’s costumes, and because it was from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the shoes were built into the one-piece uniforms. I borrowed a ruler and...

I’m not a cobbler so I’m not exactly sure how to measure, but they definitely added 2'' to the heels. And those other pix show around 1'' in the toes.

Do people like these costumes? I have a certain nostalgia for them, but between Roddenberry’s insistence on making them look futuristic (no visible zippers, snaps or buckles) and Robert Wise’s decision to use drab colors (so as not to distract from the actors faces) the costumes were loathed by the actors, and generally panned by critics. But they definitely are unique.

Happy birthday to Bill Shatner, who turned 91 on March 22, 2022, and is without a doubt some kind of physical freak of nature. He’s amazing!

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