National comb-over

I’m sure most of us here not only knows what a comb-over is, chances are we actually personally know at least one person who sports a comb over. I once had a science teacher who had one in a pretty advanced stage. The strands of hair he used for the job originated from the right side of his head in an area just above his right ear. They were long enough to be draped clear across the top of his head with their ends landing into the opposite side of his head just above his left ear. Apparently he used some form of adhesive to keep them there because windy days didn’t seem to bother him as far as I recall. By my estimates, if the strands of hair that do the sad job of covering his bald spot (or rather, the area between his hair spots) were allowed to dangle naturally from their roots, they’d easily clear his collar bone.

A few years after I graduated from university, I had the opportunity to see first-hand what a comb-over looked like before it’s been, well, combed over. Me and my boss at the time had to board a ship early in the morning and awaken the captain — a guy who had one wicked comb-over — to discuss some urgent maintenance issues. Considering he was the captain and we were standing on his ship (there is none of that “permission to board, captain” protocol in Philippine inter-island shipping), he seemed to be willing to endure the indignity of meeting with us (my boss was a very impatient man) sans the morning routine he presumably goes through to prepare da hair. So yes. At that very moment the captain walked into the bridge and, years after I formed my original hypothesis on the matter, I got my empirical validation. Strands of hair hung from the side of his head down to just above his right breast pocket. Worse, for him, the discussion stretched to almost half an hour of awkwardness.

There are three key questions one can ask about the comb-over phenomenon that when seen under a different-coloured light (which I will show later) actually tell us a lot about the human condition in general.

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Do people who sport comb-overs actually believe they are effectively masking their baldness?

Obviously not. I’m even quite sure that comb-over folk actually know that they don’t fool anyone. But they do it anyway. It’s a ritual that’s become part of their comfort zone. And lest we hastily judge or make fun of people who sport this ‘do, consider some of the little useless rituals that we do ourselves — like, say, the superstitious gestures or ticks we make just to assure the irrational side of ourselves that we’ll get through the day without a boulder falling on our heads out of nowhere as we stroll down the street.

How does one single out a specific set of strands to grow to an abnormal length and then consciously apply these to the onerous task that is the subject of this article?

Indeed, when one realises how long it takes for a strand of hair to triple or quadruple in length (relative to the rest that are trimmed to normal lengths regularly), a comb-over scalp architecture does not just happen. Setting one’s scalp up for a comb-over ‘do seems to be a carefully planned and measured undertaking.

But is it?

This brings us to the third question:

How does one get to such a point?

The second question above comes from the thinking that comb-overs come about by design. And I purposely answered the above question in a way that further propagates this line of thinking.

Comb-overs don’t just happen.

Sound familiar?

The third question however is a bit more insightful as it leads us down the path to a more sound explanation of how a comb-over ‘do comes about.

I believe that comb-over regimes happen progressively. They start as a small bald patch that can be hidden with a very minor change in the way we comb our hair. In my case, for example, a scar just above my hairline at the left side of my face predisposes me to grow a bit of an extra fringe there (and comb it down a bit) to even things out — achieve that symmetry that is so prized in the animal kingdom, so to speak.

For those of us who are unfortunate enough to possess the male pattern baldness gene, the baldness can advance in a slow enough pace as to elude awareness of the small incremental changes in the way we comb and have our hair trimmed as the shinier spots on our head advance in scope. The majority probably get it at some point and make a decisive correction in their grooming patterns.

Unfortunately, some don’t — at least not until they are way past the point-of-no-return in their emotional and social investment in their chosen hair grooming regime.



Funny that I set out to write this article with the aim of making only one point. Instead I came up with two that are mutually-exclusive (the usual unforeseen outcome of sheer brilliance). Point 1 is the unintended bonus so I won’t elaborate much on it and focus more on Point 2:

Point 1: Just because something looks like it was designed in a single conscious effort does not mean it actually was.

Point 2: Admit it. Comb-overs are funny in a sad sort of way. Thus, the sad and laughable state and nature of Philippine society can be considered a comb-over on a national scale.

We got here because we kept trying to unsustainably mask an increasingly gaping wasteland in our collective psyche as a people. We are so invested in our little quaint rituals and traditions and have crossed a point-of-no-return barrier that becomes more formidable as we soldier on down a path that will lead us to a future of irrelevance that is both pathetic and hilarious.

Next time you see a person sporting a comb-over, stop and think how from your point of view the solution to his predicament is so obvious yet most probably so alien to him.

[A personal favourite of mine, I originally wrote this article in April, 2009 for the now-buried and, fortunately, backed up a copy as a note on Facebook.]

14 Replies to “National comb-over”

  1. the comb-over doesn’t just exist in the state. Our Filipino society in general is full of comb-overs too.

    it makes more sense to shave it all and put a cap on. wigs are just pathetic. (if you can pull it off good for you!)

    but for some, it’s more sensible to buy a ton of pomade, spend hours in front of the mirror and hope the world wouldn’t notice.

    alala ko tuloy ang strip ni Pol Medina about Sen. Cabalfin.

    Polgas: kung papiliin ka, gatas ng anak mo, o pomada?
    Sen. Cabalfin: Pomada, ang importante, pogi!

  2. this is prophetic benign0. imagine way back in 2009 you already thought of COMBOVERS. :)) 
    and on a related note, balding guys are better of just shaving it all off Lex Luthor style. becomes badass rather than sad ass. 🙂

  3. Comb-overs are a somewhat mysterious phenomenon. Although most men find them distasteful, many still end up adopting them in later years of baldness. Sociological thinkers (and people with a great deal of extra time on their hands) suggest that combover practitioners fall prey to the sorites paradox. Essentially, the sorites paradox describes how small steps that seem sensible on their own can lead to an absurd outcome. In the case of comb-overs, the victim may begin moving the part of his hair by a small amount to add fullness to a region of thinning hair. Only as the process of baldness accelerates does this become a futile attempt to hide a glaring patch of skin under the last few stragglers of hair. Incidentally, the Japanese call men with comb-overs barcode men, because the lines of neatly aligned hair resemble barcode symbols.

  4. I suppose the proper analogy for the solutions here would be to allow foreign hair transplants. 😀

    Though I’m more of a shave-it-all-off guy.

      1. …in terms of what’s needed, that is, They are oblivious to the various comb-overs they have shown us. Different styles, same face.

        1. Lookit, yo!  The 50/50 Tres-e-Media are experts on cover-ups,too.  Lookit those balding idiot self-professed, self-proclaimed “professional” media practitioners, they love cover-ups, comb-over.  HOW THEY LOVE GUILT-BY-AFFIDAVIT so are our justice system and GUILTY-BY-ASSOCIATION. !!!!
          The Guilty-by-Affidavit is low-cost justice.  MIght as well rid ourselves of Supreme Court.  What is supreme about our court anyways.  There is nothing supreme

  5. One of the prominent people of the world, with a comb-over; is the mega-billionaire: Donald Trump, of New York, U.S.A. He married several beauties. His present wife is as old, as her daughter. He owns the Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York. …and other real estate investments. He is also a TV personality. He is outspoken and smart…
    We really comb-over our failures, for years. The Oligarch Media, helped hide these failures. Diverted the attentions of people to Wowoowee events…Until, our people became like mendicants; falling in line, like hungry dogs. Waiting to have a chance to participate in the game of luck…

  6. Combovers reminds me of my pops. Its kinda pathetic and sad. But theres really nothing you can do about it. Clinging to the last vestiges that was once a thick frock of a mane.

    With Pnoys case, I suggest he shave it all off na. But, I hope tama na muna yung pa-pogi and lovelife ni PNOY.

    President, tama na muna ang big guns, fast cars and sexy ladies. Pwede ba trabaho muna please? Alisin mo na ung pork barrel at simulan na ang Cha cha, after nun sige, samahan ka naming mag-night out sa Gillies timog, o kaya karera sa Subic Raceway. Sagot mo shempre. Rich kid ka eh.

  7. ah the comb-over… the yellow president might be the immediate vision some of us get from the mere mention of the word, but even more, it describes the way abs-cbn pretends to champion meaningful change.

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