Used to be a man always carried a comb in his pocket. Now, a fella gets looked at sideways when he extracts from his back pocket a comb and runs it through his mane. Combs are like fedoras: cool but outdated. But the grooming tools are extremely useful for things like, you know, combing hair. Errant strands is a bad look. In fact, a good comb helps your hair look fuller and healthier, two things that men of a certain age might appreciate. As not all combs are created equal, we sat down with Martial Vivot, a French-born master barber and owner of Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes, to talk about what makes a good one.
“The most important thing,” says Vivot, “is that you want to avoid plastic.” That seems like difficult advice to follow considering the vast majority of high-quality combs are made with cellulose acetate, a type of plastic. But what Vivot means is that one should avoid the standard petrochemical plastic, the kind those cheap-o black combs you find at most drugstores are made of. This type of plastic both causes static — “the enemy of hair,” says Vivot — and easily chips, turning the teeth of your comb into scalp-piercing needles. Holding a plastic comb before him and peering at the pointy teeth, Vivot shakes his head in disgust “Look at these,” he exclaims, “they’ll cut your scalp right up!”
In terms of leveling up, many high-quality combs are made with wood or even horn. The reason? “It’s keratin combing keratin,” Martial says excitedly, adding that this won’t react poorly with your hair. And it’s not just the material that determines the quality of the comb; it’s the manufacturing, too: the best combs are saw-cut then hand-finished to refine the polish and smooth the teeth. In terms of manufacturing, the thing to avoid, says Vivot, are injection molded combs which yield extremely sharp teeth. “A comb should be gentle on your scalp,” he explains gently. Who knew there was so much to a comb? Keeping this criteria in mind, here are four excellent men’s combs at all price levels to seek out.
Kent Fine and Coarse Toothed Pocket Comb
Founded in 1777, Kent bills itself as the world’s oldest hairbrush maker. The comb division is no slouch either. This comb is made with high-quality Italian acetate with saw-cut hand-polished teeth. Like many of these styling combs there are two sets of teeth: narrower and thinner on one side and thicker but more widely spaced on the other. This allows for use on both coarse hair and fine hair.
Speert European Comb Style #10
Speert is a Swiss company known mostly for eyeglasses. They use those same acetate purveyors to make their range of numbered combs. At 5″, the #10 slides perfectly into the pocket while still providing ample purchase for combing. With equidistant teeth, this is a great men’s comb for medium length hair.
Mason Pearson Styling Comb
Mason Pearson is the big dog of high-end combs. Handmade in Switzerland in a comb-only factory, these Italian acetate combs are recognizable for the slight texture in their tortoise shell finish. Each tooth is saw cut individually and then tumbled smooth. As with all true acetate combs, there’s no static and the teeth are pleasingly smooth at the tips.
Martial Vivot Comb
If you want to drop $40 on a comb, this is the one to do it on. Vivot’s own men’s combs are made by Fournival Altesse and are made with cow horn which, like all horn, is made of keratin. Evangelists claim it horn combs are full of amino acid and some claim it prevents grey hair. I’m meh on that. But the idea that you’re combing your hair with the hard hair of a cow is conceptually satisfying. Also, this one comes with a nifty leather case.