A haircut changed DeForest Kelley's whole career

A new look gave Star Trek's DeForest Kelley a new outlook on life.

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One haircut not only changed DeForest Kelley's whole look, but it also changed his entire life.

DeForest Kelley, best known as Star Trek: The Original Series' Doctor Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, was once lesser-known for his minor roles in many Westerns in the '50s and '60s. 

Some Western roles included: Rawhide, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Laramie, Bonanza and many more. 

Star Trek was the actors' first chance to do something different, and it would come at a cost.. $35 to be exact.

"For the past 10 years, I played Western 'heavies' mainly," he said in a 1967 interview with Clarion-Ledger. "Gene Roddenberry, the creator and executive producer of this series, considered me for a part and asked if I had any objections to doing my hair differently. I had been wearing it long, for Westerns."

In order to move his career in a different direction, Kelley had to look the part. According to the interview, Roddenberry wanted a brainy, clean Kennedy look for the role of McCoy.

He asked Kelley to see Jay Sebring, a famous Hollywood men's hairstylist.

"It was expensive," Kelley said. "It cost me $35, but I had confidence in Roddenberry."

That haircut was certainly an investment for the actors' future. A $35 haircut from the '60s would be around $300 in 2023. That is an expensive haircut, indeed.

The new look would eventually lead Kelley to the role on Star Trek. Seems worth it to us.

"I've never been in a series before," he said. "I made a drastic change with this role. Roddenberry went out on a limb for me. The town had forgotten the actor I used to be. Roddenberry pulled me out of a big rut. I feel very lucky."

Kelley wasn't much of a Sci-Fi buff until the series began, but he did have an interest in the medical world. According to the interview, his uncle was a successful physician and Kelley thought about following in his footsteps in the medical field.

After taking the role of McCoy, Kelley became interested in reading medical journals and studying medical terms.

"I find myself particularly interested in medical columns and reports," he said. "I've always been interested in this area, really. However, I was never a science fiction buff. This puts me on a spot when I am approached by real buffs. I should be better prepared, but I'm not. I'm at their mercy."

One haircut was able to change the course of Kelley's life. Good thing he paid that $35 for it. It's a haircut that changed Trek's history. 

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MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
That was rather interesting.
Zip MrsPhilHarris 14 months ago
Spock would say it was Fascinating.
BillyMeTV 14 months ago
I’m looking at old western photos of DeForest Kelly and he has the same haircut as he had in Star Trek. I don’t see any with long hair.
Zip BillyMeTV 14 months ago
Yeah, he's been on a couple episodes of Wanted: Dead or Alive, and I didn't really notice much of a difference, besides being combed a certain way. But it doesn't really look much longer than he wore it on Star Trek.
Bapa1 14 months ago
........and Chekov initially had to wear a wig.
Adanor 14 months ago
Now that we've heard about the haircut that DeForest Kelley got, let's think about that haircut that Leonard Nimoy got. And let's image the conversation that Leonard had with his father who incidentally was a barber.
KJExpress Adanor 14 months ago
I saw a documentary where Nimoy said that his dad thought it was a wig!
KJExpress 14 months ago
So now I want to see what his hair looked like prior to Star Trek. I've seen him in other things, but I don't remember him looking too different. Hmmm...
texasluva KJExpress 14 months ago
From the movie Warlock (1959). Hard to find ones without a cowboy hat.

KJExpress texasluva 14 months ago
Thanks, Tex. It's a tad longer with goop in it and a more pronounced part. Nothing too drastically different, though. 🤔
raddad 14 months ago
Jay Sebring was a very successful hairdresser to the stars. He was killed by Charles Manson and his group.
Mirramanee raddad 14 months ago
Yes! When I read the story and saw Sebring's name, I remembered that, too. I've been a diehard Star Trek fan since I was 7 years old and discovered the show in reruns so I am a walking encyclopedia on ST trivia and I had never heard this particular story. Interesting...and tragic, too.
Pacificsun Mirramanee 14 months ago
If you search under his name and add images, you'll come to a picture where his hair is much longer. Though I don't think it was evident that much in Westerns. Obviously cowboys wear hats, however.

If you look at a particular image, will take you to a story, which is also a pitch for a book written about him by an Ultra Fan. I can't post the link here or it might be perceived as selling (which I don't). But it sounds like a very good read for someone who wants to know all about the characters!
Pacificsun raddad 14 months ago
In today's world of fashion wouldn't be so noticeable. But coming out of the late fifties and into the early Sixties he offered a radical approach (theory). (If I remember) it was all about the angle of the cut, and interested stylists learned the novel technique from him. And then spread it to their own salons (with credit going back to him, and his devotees). My hunch it was styling to compliment the "Mod" fashions coming out of Britain (Twiggy, and all that). Clipped, polished, accenting the face and features, large eyes. I think he made over James Doohan, but (IMO there wasn't much of a change in DK, except he appeared clean-cut and professional. Look closely at the back of LN's head (Spock's) appearance, makes you wonder if the same approach influenced that very precise shaping, as well. Never a hair out of place, or any deviation per scene.
Runeshaper 14 months ago
Haircuts are important!
McGillahooala Runeshaper 14 months ago
Very much so. Thanks to Covid, I learned that they are also fairly easy to do for yourself. $35 is too much for a haircut today, let alone in the 60s. To make a lot of money, you only need to convince people that they are helpless and unable to perform simple tasks for themselves.
Coldnorth Runeshaper 14 months ago
Like the flow be? Can’t remember how to spell it. A vacuum cleaner like hair cutter
Zip Coldnorth 14 months ago
I bought a Flowbee in the early 2000's. It can't do things like trim your neckline, but it does a pretty decent job, and it is still going strong. I still use it. It has more than paid for itself.
Coldnorth Zip 14 months ago
I always wondered if it actually worked. Now I know. At the time it looked like a perfect gadget for cutting hair by yourself. I love gadgets. Especially the ones that work. Thanks for the info
Zip Coldnorth 14 months ago
Yes, it works. Just don't expect a fancy "do". It does trim hair nicely though.
KMP50 Zip 14 months ago
George Clooney admitted to successfully cutting his own hair at home using a Flowbee.
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