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Guys accumulate combs like ballpoint pens — they’ve got a few of them in the drawer, never quite sure where they picked them up along the way. And while there’s a pretty straightforward function to hair combing, the best combs for men prove that the little details matter a lot. (For starters, don’t use any static-inducing plastic combs.)
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To hit that point again, the right comb can make a world of difference in hair styling, and each person should understand their specific needs. What suits one guy’s hair density, length, and curl pattern won’t necessarily serve the next guy’s hair.
Then again, if someone is already using a stellar comb and not getting the right results, it may not be the comb’s doing: “If your hair isn’t drying in a satisfying way, you should try combing it into shape while damp,” suggests Cameron Wickliffe, who cuts hair at Church Barber in San Francisco. “You should also comb the hair into the desired shape just before applying product.”
Read on for more advice on the comb front, plus SPY’s picks of the best ones on the market now.
What the Experts Say
For this story, SPY consulted Wickliffe and his fellow barber Olivia Gomez, who also cuts at Church Barber.
First things first: No more plastic combs. Plastic breaks the hair and causes static, say both experts. There are plenty of terrific alternatives — namely cellulose acetate, carbon fiber, and rubber — which are anti-static, won’t break hair, and which are easier to clean. (Wickliffe does make an exception for plastic hair picks, which he outlines below in his product choice.)
As for choosing the best type of comb for oneself, here is Gomez’s topmost advice: “It’s really all in knowing your hair pattern and knowing the way your hair falls,” she says. “For example, most of us have cowlicks, and if you use your tool wrong, that style you’re trying to accomplish might fight against the cowlick.”
It’s also important to think about own’s own hair density. Thicker strands might not fit through finer combs, whereas a dense mass of hair might provide more resistance than overall thinned-out hair.
There are two primary “teeth” types on everyday styling combs: wide and fine.
Fine-Tooth Combs: “These are great for slicked-back looks, and sectioning the hair,” says Gomez, since the close-togetherness of fine teeth helps “finish” a style and lock it into place. “These are the only real reasons for using a fine-toothed comb. It also doesn’t have enough strength to support thicker or curlier hair types.”
Wide-Tooth Combs: There are varying degrees of width on combs, but in this instance, “wide teeth” refers to the slightly less taut styling comb — like the wider half of a double-ended tooth. These are better for thicker hair densities and “are generally used to detangle long hair or to blow out hair,” says Gomez. “They can be used on most textures of hair for styling and detangling.” They won’t “set” a style the same way a fine-tooth comb might, but that’s A-OK, seeing as some guys want to wear their hair looser or more textured in the first place. But super curly hair textures, take note: “Wide-tooth combs are typically not used on 4C (tightly curled and coiled) hair,” Gomez adds.
These are the other most common types of combs that every guy should understand and consider.
Double-Ended Combs: A double-ended comb has both fine and wide halves, which allow the user to detangle and coach hair into its intended direction (with the wider end), and then set the style (using the finer end).
Detangling Combs: These are ultra-wide-tooth combs that help separate tangled hair without breaking or tugging on the strands too much. Some are even designed for use in wet hair.
Hair Picks: While picks are best known for detangling and straightening coarse hair, Wickliffe likes using them for styling high-volume hairstyles. “The best example for this is when I’m styling a pompadour,” he says. “The depth of the pick allows me to comb deep into the style and create volume that way.”
Beard Combs: While these will often resemble hair combs (and can be used in place of many wide-tooth combs), they tend to be thicker and better reinforced than hair combs, in order to avoid any tugging and pulling on the facial hairs.
Cleopatra #420 Comb
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There are a lot more “editorially sexy” options out there, but the top spot on this roster goes to this tried-and-true barbershop staple. Cleopatra is Gomez’s go-to double-ended comb, and it uses nitrile rubber instead of plastic, to reduce everything from static to product buildup.
“Cleopatra 420s are super old-school but are the best double ended comb perfect for both cutting and styling,” she says. “It’s a multi-purpose comb that’s great for beards, mustaches, and eyebrows.”
Plus, on top of that, these combs are extremely inexpensive, so it’s no stress if one goes missing. The price point also makes it easy to keep one in the dopp kit, another in the work drawer, and a final one in the bathroom vanity.
BEST POCKET COMB
Kent 20T Folding Pocket Comb
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Think of a pocket comb as a great midday restyling tool. “A pocket comb should be adequate for taming short to midlength styles,” says Wickliffe. “If you have longer hair then a longer comb can be beneficial for managing all of that length.” (They should also be durable enough to resist bending and breaking inside the pocket.)
That’s why Wickliffe loves Kent’s 20T comb; Kent is perhaps the most revered name in comb making. It’s a sturdy cellulose acetate tool, and its teeth aren’t so fine that they polarize slightly thicker hair types. “The folding style makes it more portable and low-profile while not in use,” Wickliffe adds.
BEST HAIR PICK
Cricket Ultra Smooth Hair Pick
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Here is Wickliffe’s go-to for detangling hair and volumizing tall-order styles. “You won’t need to replace it, since it’s durable against deforming,” he says. “It also has enough ‘give’ to it that it won’t snag too hard if it gets caught in your hair.”
And no-plastic be damned, here: “I personally prefer a plastic hair pick,” he says. “Plastic picks are easy to clean and have a little bit of flex to them, which grants me some forgiveness if it gets snagged in someone’s hair.” Plus, Cricket infuses its plastic with argan and olive oils before setting the mold, which helps the plastic prevent static and improve movement through the strands.
BEST CUTTING COMB
Y.S. Park 332 Cutting Comb Red
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Not only is this Wickliffe’s favorite comb to use as he tapers and cuts hair, but it’s also his favorite comb brand. “The company makes professional-quality combs and brushes to suit all use cases. They make them with all sorts of teeth spacing, sizes, and even some heat-resistant combs, as well, if you’re going to use them alongside any heat tools,” he explains.
Here’s one more instance where plastic is forgiven, since it’s more about the cutting and detailing in the barber’s chair, as opposed to applying finishing touches at home. “The Y.S. Park 332 is made from resilient plastic so it won’t lose its shape,” he adds.
BEST BEARD COMB
Beardbrand Beard Comb
Here is one of my all-time favorite combs, and not just for beards. It has a sturdy, reinforced cellulose acetate body, and its fine end is perfect for taming the mustache or for coaching stray beard hairs back into place.
Along with combing beard oils through my facial hair, I often use it as a wet-hair detangler fresh out of the shower, because those wider teeth are spaced apart far enough — and again, the reinforced frame prevents any tugging, and allows the tool to breeze through my longer, straight strands without any breakage or resistance. I’d be remiss not to call out the pocket-sized version, too, which won’t snap in your pocket, nor will any of its teeth bend or break.
BEST FOR WET HAIR
Wet Brush Detangling Comb
FOR THICK HAIR
FOR THIN HAIR
Wet Brush is all in the name: This is the brand to trust with detangling wet hair, as well as with combing any hair masks and styling creams throughout the strands. (Of course, the brush is the signature product, but these two combs are imperative for anyone whose hair is long enough to require the extra help.)
The wider brush has sturdy but squiggled teeth to help wet hair glide through without resistance, while the thin-hair brush achieves its means with brush-like bristles to prevent breakage in otherwise susceptible strands. People with shorter strands won’t require this as much — although highly textured hair types may get mileage at those lower lengths — but in my household these tools are requisite anytime the hair grows long enough to tuck behind the ears. (Along with using the signature Wet Brush itself, you’ll immediately notice fewer strands in the bathroom sink.)
Frequently Asked Questions About Combs for Men
How Do You Clean a Comb?
Caring for your comb can be very basic, says Wickliffe. Warm water and dish soap should be enough to clean off any buildup of product or oils that may get transferred to your comb. If you’re sharing your comb with others, you should consider sanitizing it with disinfectant spray or barbicide.
Do You Comb Hair Before or After Applying Styling Product?
“I think the number one mistake people use when using a comb is only using it after applying product to finish the style,” says Wickliffe. “Combs are a barber’s number one way to control the hair and that’s how they should be used at home, as well.”
What Is the Best Material for Combs?
If there is a single best material for hair combs, it’s cellulose acetate. This sturdy material won’t produce static or breakage in the strands (unlike plastic), is resistant to blow dryer heat, and is easy to clean. Honorable mention goes to rubber and carbon fiber for the same reasons.
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