For our Nostromo crew costumes we needed shoes.
On first glance the crew are wearing white converse-style trainers, easy enough. Although when you start digging into it they are actually wearing something called a “PF Flyer”, which was around in the late 1970’s and is less so now. I understand it’s still possible to get them, or something reasonably close, but since we were only planning on wearing these shoes to one event I didn’t want to spend a lot on ‘real’ shoes.
I decided just to go for a very cheap pair of no-brand converse style shoes from ebay (£11 delivered). But when they arrived I just kept looking at them and realised I wasn’t very happy to go with something that was pretty far off.
Breaking it down.
Looking at the originals, there are three major things (and a few minor things) that separate them from mine:
- The lace eyelets are very different, with extending D-rings holding the laces.
- The toe caps on the prop shoes have a ridged strip running around them.
- The colour, mine have red and blue stripes around them.
I started with the lace D-rings. From Ebay I bought a bag of 10mm metal D rings. Unfortunately I couldn’t find white ones anywhere, so I went for silver. I also bought a tin of white enamel paint since I know that will hold fairly well over metal. Again from Ebay I bought a sheet of sheet of white rubber to cut into strips to make the D-ring holder loops (it looks like maybe leather on the film stills). From my local toll shop I bought small pop-rivets to rivet the new D-ring strips through the existing eyelet holes on the shoes.
I had to dip the D-rings, I figured it would make a nice thick coating of paint. That was time consuming but not difficult. Then I assembled the D-ring-loop and punched holes through them for the rivets.
Unfortunately at this point I found that the rivets wouldn’t hold into the eyelets, they were just too short and couldn’t get enough grip to really stay in. So I bought some heavy-duty epoxy glue and glued the riveted D-ring loops into the place.
The Toe-Cap Trials.
Those ridges on the toes turned out to be one of the hardest things to do. I originally intended to try to find something that had the same ridging (some other style plimsolls have that ridging), unfortunately I couldn’t find anything that seemed to be just right. Plan B was to use the silicon rubber sheeting I’d already bought for the lace D-rings. I cut strips, glued them (using silicon rubber glue) to a long strip and glued that around the toe cap. It looked good, until I tried to walk in them and all the little strips started to come off.
Plan C… took a little while to come up with, but I ultimately decided to try something I was simultaneously doing for the Ripley Watch at this point – creating a mould of the toe-cap strip and pressing white Sugru into it. If you haven’t come across this stuff it’s a brilliant item that starts off like blu-tac or plasticine and cures into flexible, resilient silicone rubber. It is however fairly expensive for the amount you get, and after a bit of experimenting I realised it would cost more than twice as much to make the toe-caps out of it than the entire pair of shoes cost.
Plan 4. D. “The Last Hope”. So by this point in my parallel development process (AKA scattily jumping between projects) I’d had a bit of a disaster with the Sugru for the orange rubber bit of the Ripley watch project too, and realised I could try Ninjaflex for that. After I realised how brilliant that stuff is I bought some white Ninjaflex and printed off the toe strips, epoxied them on. BANG! Job done.
Painting my shoes.
Finally, the red strips on the shoes. There’s some photographic evidence that the shoes used on the film were (for some reason) painted. In one of those moves that could have gone terribly wrong, I used the rest of the white enamel paint on the shoes. I did everything except the sole, inside and laces.
I’m very happy with the end result, and although they aren’t the prettiest things up close because of all the re-working I’ve had to do, they are visually a pretty decent match for the screen-used shoes. I wore them too and they don’t fall apart!
Live and Learn.
For those of you keeping track, yes this cost a fair bit in the end. The original shoes were £11, the Sugru experiment cost about £8, the Ninjaflex cost almost £10 in total (did it twice since the first batch went wrong). The Enamel paint was about £4 I think. It’s possible that with a little more time invested in finding the right shoes I may have found something closer to the original look for the £30-ish I ended up spending. However for me part of the fun of doing this is working out how to do it, learning techniques and thinking around problems, and if I’d just got myself the perfect shoe to start with I’d never have had this much fun.