Industry News

How to Kill a Comb-Over

Ivan Zoot | July 18, 2013 | 8:45 AM

I was inspired to write this blog post as both a how-to for salon professionals and as a public service.  Perhaps I will empower some salon professionals and we can beautify the landscape at the same time.  I was waiting on a flight at O’Hare, deep in my favorite pastime of people watching.  A few of the observed hairstyles left me a bit shaken.  One particularly scary comb-over prompted me to take out my laptop.

How to Kill a Comb-Over

Comb-overs do not happen all at once.  It is a slow creeping insidious process.  Many of the comb-overs you see today are resting atop, or flapping upon, the head of a guy who parted his hair in the middle of his head in the 1970s.  With the gradual thinning of his hair his parting began the slow slide to his ear in an attempt to mask his lack of hair with fewer and fewer available resources.  Friends, family members and close associates fail to live up to their responsibility to dissuade the perpetrator of this crime against nature and the decent into hair fashion tragedy becomes unstoppable.  Advances in firm-hold hairspray technology have only made the situation worse as overlapping applications of lacquer serve to secure the free-flapping ends to the distant, opposite ear.


What follows are my top five tips for how to kill a comb-over, that is to say, how to talk a client out of that thin, stringy last few hairs swept across his bare scalp.  Please apply the information below sooner than later.  Everyone will benefit.

Here are my top five tips for how to kill a comb over:

How to Kill a Comb-Over

Open up a dialog – You have to get the conversation started.  It might not be easy.  No one wants to offend.  No one wants to accuse.  We all have the same goal in mind, a practical, appealing hairstyle created from the available materials.  Begin with a discussion of what is working and what is not with the client’s current hairstyle.  What are his day-to-day challenges?  Ask about his feelings about his image.  Get him talking.  Avoid assigning blame.  It is not his fault.  It is not the fault of the previous haircutters.  Surely he realizes the ruse is not working.

Several years ago we had a candidate for Governor of Illinois who sported a really sever comb-over.  Early on in the election cycle I stated that he would not and should not be elected to the highest office in the state.  I took the position that he has surrounded himself with yes-men.  That he only had advisors who would tell him what he wanted to hear.  No one in his inner circle would be honest with him about the folly that was his hairstyle.  Who would challenge his budget, his tax plan or his economic proposals?  That is no way to build a government.  That was no way to run a campaign.  Bottom line, he lost.  Had he lost the comb-over, he might have won the election.

Suggest a Style – Let’s work with what we have.  What styles are available with the hair he has left?  Can it be slicked back?  Can it be cut short enough to stick up/fluff up? My rule of thumb for thinning and fine hair has always been…” the less hair you have, the less hair you SHOULD have”.  The shorter the better with thin and fine hair.  When his hair is short and he only has half a head of hair you can use the extra appointment time to make the experience that much more special for him.  A longer scalp massage at the shampoo bowl and a neck and shoulder massage at the chair are more than fair trade offs for your time toying with those wispy lengths.  You will still run well and take the next client on time.

Comp the cut – Incentivize him to make the change.  Offer the cut for FREE.  If the first big cut is on you it just might be the push he needs. 


Swap His Spray – Every comb-over is held in place with a nasty spray.  Offer to trade out his can of spray (he will no longer need it) for a quality shampoo you offer from your retail selection. He will enjoy the ease and time savings of shampoo-and-go as opposed to the labor of all that creative combing and secure spraying.  This will introduce him to professional take-home salon product.  A lot of those comb-overs avoid shampooing often.  Eliminating the blow and spray game will lead to more frequesnt shampooing, a healthier scalp and healthier looking hair, too.

Introduce Hats – The huge fashion resurgence of hats in recent years is a boon to the bald.  Men who are self conscious about hair loss can find unique personal style in the selection of fashionable and appropriate hats for all occasions.  Have a few on hand for him to try.  Offer selected styles for sale in your shop.  Have a referral ready for a trendy hat shop in the area.

By positioning yourself as a source of guidance, information and solutions in all hair situations you can strengthen relationships, earn significant loyalty and clean up the look of the airport all at the same time.

Kill a few comb-overs and you will gain the confidence to tackle this sensitive and serious salon issue with professionalism and style.

Happy clippering!


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