Fashion Style

What happened to the Pocket Comb?

As a child, I watched my father gather his EDC each morning.

BillfoldFish and Wildlife Service badge for special agents
Pocket knife
Pocket comb

I was thinking about the last entry in that list and wondering how many men my father’s age had a black comb in their back pockets.

You will often see men using their pocket combs to do their hair before they meet with women you want to impress.

The Fonz came with a pocket comb.

The Outsiders greasers had pocket combs.

The greasers of Grease used pocket combs.

Edd Byrnes owned a pocket comb and Connie Stevens sang (sort of?) about wanting to borrow one.


I have never carried a pocketcomb, except for the occasional switchblade one I got at Chuck E. Cheese.

Based on my observations of men my own age, I don’t believe most of them have or ever carried a pocket-comb.

What is the answer?

Why was it that men of the past had pocket combs but their children and grandchildren didn’t?

Let’s investigate.

Hairstyles for “Bedhead” and Changing Hair Products

Two factors could be contributing to the decline of the men’s pocketcomb.

According to David Colman, New York Times author, the primary factor responsible for the decline in men’s pocketcombs was a shift in hairstyle trends in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Many men wanted the “bedhead” look, instead of neatly coiffed hair. Many men started to style their hair in a way that looked artfully mangled, thanks to Robert Pattinson, Zac Efron and One-Direction-era Harry Styles.

You don’t have to take a pocket comb with you if you want to go for a messy style.

However, I didn’t go in for the bedhead look so I don’t remember why I stopped carrying a pocket comb.

My generation, like mine, didn’t have a pocket comb. It was because we didn’t need it. Hair products were better than the ones our fathers had.

For the majority of the 20th Century, men used oil-based products to style their hair. These products can give your hair the Cary Grant shine but they don’t hold it in place. To comb your hair properly throughout the day, you would need to keep a comb in your pocket.

You can see the rise in popularity of hair gels in the 1980s.

Hair gel gives your hair shine and all-day hold. Gel can be used to style hair and keep it in place for the whole day. Hair gel was embraced by Gen-Xers and Millennials.

I’m sure I did.

I would slather LA Looks hair gel on my hair and then comb it up like suburban white guys did in the late 1990s. (Shoutouts to the 40-year old dads still sporting this hairstyle — most of whom seem to be in Utah. 1999 Blink-182 would be proud. My hair would stay straight throughout school. It would never need to be restyled. I would get my hair rubbed by the gel from football practice. It was worth it for an all-day hold.

Hair gel held my hair in place so I didn’t have to comb it every day. I no longer needed to keep a pocket comb in my bag. That’s why many men in my generation didn’t, and don’t still use a pocket-comb. They didn’t, and they don’t need to.

Today’s hair products are more durable than ever thanks to modern hair product technology. These products have helped men to relax and do their hair all day. It’s not gone completely, however. Sometimes I see men still reach for a pocket comb. They’re often over 60, or a young hipster.

In the end, the death of the pocket comb was due to changing hairstyles but also changing hair products. This is the end of this mystery in grooming.

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