There are some men for whom a sense of unflappable style is intrinsic to their very make up, and one such of those men is Mr. Tim Matthew. A well respected musician, songwriter and audio guru, I met Mr. Matthew during a season in David Bates' Famous Spiegelgarden in Edinburgh in 2005. I was performing with the Black Sea Gentlemen that year, Tim was our sound man, and it never had the group sounded so good. As promotion for our show we had our own signature combs produced in the hope of bringing some grooming tips to the ailing men of Scotland. Little did we know that Tim had been staging his own one-man revolution, changing Scottish louts into Gentlemen through his fine style, great music and dapper inclination. As much as I am known for my fine quiff, I doff my hat to Mr. Matthew, as his prowess with pomade and comb far exceed my own. Thus, I have asked him to share some of the arcane secrets of the comb for the greater good of all. I do hope you find his sage words of use in your own personal grooming journey. So here I pass the baton to Tim Matthew, Northern Hemisphere male grooming correspondent.
C is for COMB by Tim Matthew
The humble comb has been with us almost unchanged for millennia with archaeological finds dating back to 3000 BC Persia. At its simplest, a shape cut from a flat sheet of metal or a mass-produced, injection-moulded piece of plastic; at its zenith, a hand-carved piece of ivory, tortoiseshell or wood. Either way, it’s the same object – a straight line of teeth for arranging ones barnet.
My comb of choice is a cheap metal alloy comb. Small enough to fit in a trouser back-pocket without protruding from the top (very bad form). A great advantage of the metal comb is that the teeth are flat-ended which provides a more pleasant sensation on the scalp than the pointed teeth of a plastic comb (I shan’t go into the misuse of the steel comb as weapon by teddyboys which brought the implement into disrepute: some people will make a weapon out of anything).
The back-pocket comb is of course liable to work its way out of your pocket and I have left a trail of slightly bent metal combs around the bus, train and aeroplane seats of the world. Bearing this in mind, and wishing to avoid being caught comb-less, I always buy my combs in bulk and have a large reserve packed into a drawer in my house.
My favourite comb format is the kind which has half the teeth widely spaced and half closely packed. This is a very useful feature.
For casual occasions while wishing to appear nonchalant and devil-may-care yet at the same time debonair and be-quiffed, I favour the wide-toothed end. The more loosely arranged strands of hair give the impression that one’s hair naturally sits in this remarkable shape without any intervention. This makes the wearer appear relaxed, friendly and approachable.
For a more formal event such as a dinner-dance or a visit to a foreign embassy, I flip to the other end of the comb and, partnered of course with a suitable pomade or brilliantine, with a few careful comb strokes the hair becomes a crisp sculpture with immaculate sheen. Who indeed could resist your invitation to a Gay Gordons or your request to enter their country?
And so we see that the comb is far more than a hair-arranging implement; it is a tool of social cohesion, an instrument of courtship and an aid to international diplomacy. No wonder mankind has been unable to survive without it for 5000 years. It will undoubtedly be with us for at least 5000 more.
So endeth the lesson from Mr. Matthew. If you have enjoyed his words, I strongly urge you to look up his fabulous bands: