What is a Comb Over? Everything You Need to Know About this Classic Hairstyle for Men

You asked, we answered. Find out what a comb-over is and how you can wear a modern version of this old-school look everyday.

Comb-overs are perhaps the most classic of all men’s hairstyles. But if you’re not clued up on your grooming lingo, you might be wondering “what is a comb-over?” Contemporary comb-overs are fresh, stylish and all the rage on the male grooming scene, and we’ll prove it to you.

Having become increasingly popular for men both on and off the runway, comb-overs having a resurgence. And being the investigative types, we’ve decided to delve into the style and discover what the craze is all about, plus how you should be rocking the classic ‘do this season.

Essentially, a comb-over is a term used to describe a men’s hairstyle where the hair is parted to the side and combed across the head. Short at the sides and longer on top, this style is traditionally associated with balding men as the sweeping hair is able to cleverly conceal any areas of hair loss.

While comb-overs are popular with sufferers of male pattern baldness, thanks to a rise in high-fashion runway models sporting the style, it’s having somewhat of a revival—so time to try it out!

How to Create a Classic Comb Over in 5 Steps

If you like the comb-over effect but don’t know how to go about recreating it yourself, we’ve got your back. Follow our 5-step guide below to achieve the retro style.

1. Wash and towel-dry.

2. Use a comb to draw a line through your hair to create a side parting. For a natural finish you should keep this close to your natural part; or for a more authentic comb-over effect, opt for a more dramatic deep side parting as seen on the model above.

3. Once you’ve defined your parting, blow dry your hair using your comb to smooth the hair down into place as you dry.

4. Work a small amount of hair pomade in the palms of your hands (Bed Head for Men by TIGI Slick Trim Firm Hold Pomade is great for creating vintage hairstyles like this). Work the product through your hair from root to tip.

5. Finally, take your comb again and use it to style your hair into your desired shape, focusing on creating a sweeping effect at the front.

And that’s all there is to it! A few practice runs in front of the bathroom mirror and you’ll be rocking this retro style like you own it.

Thought there was just one way to rock a comb-over? Think again, because the modern-day reincarnation of the classic comb-over comes in a variety of different forms.

So, no matter your natural hair type and texture, or whatever vibe you’re hoping to create, there’s bound to be a comb-over combo for you. Check out some of our favorite takes on the trend:

1. Curly Comb Over

What is a comb over curly hair
Curly hair? Don’t worry, you can get in on the comb over action too. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Curly locks? Curls can add a contemporary twist to this strict style and give it a softer, off-duty feel.

Slick down your parting as you would a classic comb-over, but allow your ends to remain relaxed and curly. The contrasting textures will make for a unique, trendy finish.

2. Comb-Over Fade

What is a comb over edgy
Add edge to this traditional style with a shaved detail. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

After something a bit more alternative? If the classic comb over is too pristine for your liking, toughen things up with a shaved fade detail. This will accentuate the longer layers you have on top and give the look a more casual, urban vibe.

3. High-Shine Comb Over

what is a comb over use glossy gel
Smarten up with a slick and shiny style. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Need a formal style for a work event or wedding? Use a high-shine gel, like TRESemmé Tres Two UltraFirm Control Gel, to give your hair an immaculately glossy finish.

Run your comb though your strands after applying the gel to create the individual lines in your hair to add a suave feel to the style.

4. Quiff Comb-Over

what is a comb over model looking down
What is a comb over: Reach new heights with a gravity-defying quiff. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

If you don’t like the thought of having your hair slicked down onto your head, try elevating the style with a coiffed-up quiff.

Retaining the classic elements of this well-loved style (a deep side parting and side-swept bangs), this ‘do also gives off a fuller, more youthful aura, meaning it’s not so high-maintenance.

5. Combed Down

short comb over with sleek hair
Tip the angle slightly backward for a more masculine feel. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Nothing beats the combed down look when you can still see the comb lines. This classic look has stuck around for so long because it never fails to look handsome and put together. Get this combed down look by using a gel and a fine-tooth comb. Apply a bit of the Dove Men+Care Control Gel to your hair and work it through with your fingers. Then, while the gel is still wet, comb your hair into place. Don’t touch your hair until it’s totally dry to keep the lines intact.

6. Tousled & Wavy

wavy short comb over for men
A wavy comb over is quite the dapper look. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Having a short comb-over doesn’t mean you have to fight your natural hair texture. We say if you have naturally wavy hair, show it off. The best part is you don’t even need to do anything special! Just wash your hair and let it air-dry. When it’s dry, use your fingers to make sure your hair stays styled to one side and you’re golden.

7. Defined Waves

short comb over with waves
Lose the stuffy connotations by keeping your comb-over short. Photo credit: Dvora

So let’s say that you don’t love your wavy texture. If you don’t want to leave it as is (we get that) try subtly defining your waves instead. Use AXE Clean Cut Look: Classic Pomade to define your waves. The classic pomade texture works best for wavy hair because it isn’t too shiny. Too shiny will make your laid-back waves look almost fake.

8. Subtle Shine

short comb over sleek styles
A molten, subtly shiny look-as opposed to a wet– is the goal. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Not into the super shiny look? It can be a bit much for wearing every single day. To get a subtle shine without using any product you’ll need to style your hair while it is wet and let it air-dry. This technique works best for fine and straight hair textures. Just comb your hair the way you like it styled and let your natural subtly shiny hair do its own magic.

9. Comb-Over Undercut

short comb over slicked hair
Comb over undercuts are best when shiny, but not greasy.

Make your short comb over a little different this holiday season by adding in an undercut. This cut only takes an extra minute in the barbers, or you can even do it at home. All you need is a good set of clippers and someone to help you get a nice clean line.

10. Comb-Over Quiff

what is a comb over short comb over sleek
Sleek styles look controlled and polished.

Add even more vintage appeal to your short comb over by styling your hair into a quiff. The only difference you’ll make while styling your hair is instead of combing straight over to the side, you’ll comb the front part back at an angle. This gives the quiff effect without losing your comb-over.

11. Slicked Down & Shiny

what is a comb over short comb over slicked hair
Use slick-shine pomade for a truly gleamy comb over. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

For the ultimate slick short comb-over look, you’ll need to use a shiny pomade. Pomade, as opposed to gel, helps give your hair shine but is a bit more pliable. Using Bed Head for Men by TIGI Slick Trick Firm Hold Pomade, working a dime-sized amount of the product throughout your hair until you achieve the right amount of sleekness.

So, now that you’re no longer wondering what a comb-over looks like, will you be trying it out? If you do, remember to share your comb-over creations with us on Twitter @AllThingsHairUS, as we love seeing how you make these styles you own.

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