Who invented the Comb? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Hair combs have become such a typical piece of the household that it’s quite easy to neglect. If you ask most people about the history of the comb, they’ll likely tell you one of two things. Either they have no idea, or they’ll make a comment about combs probably being around forever. The fascinating thing about the comb is that peering into its history is akin to peering into the culture of ancient civilizations. Here’s a quick rundown on the history of the comb.

Who invented the comb?

The inventors of the comb — and quite a few other things we take for granted — are the early Egyptians. It’s unlikely that we’ll find any proof of combs earlier than that, but there’s always a chance.

The comb’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • The Egyptians
    Inventors of the first combs

    The Egyptians have quite the knack for inventing all sorts of useful tools and gadgets. The hair comb is just one of many. Many of Egypt’s dynasties have different designs for the comb

  • The Persians
    The next in line as far as the earliest combs go

    The Persians have a similar habit for innovation and creativity. While not as old as the Egyptian combs, the Persian combs are nonetheless crucial pieces of the puzzle.

  • The Romans
    The closest to modern combs

    After the Egyptians and the Persians came the Romans, and their design for the hair comb is much closer to the combs we know today.

  • Leo Haubert
    Patented the modern comb

    Leo Haubert patented what we know as the modern comb. While the design of the comb has changed quite a bit over the years, the function remains largely the same.

When was the comb invented?

The first comb was invented around 4000 BC by the ancient Egyptians. The fascinating thing is that there are now combs that could be over 7000 years old, still invented by the Egyptians.

A brief history of the comb

The history of the comb is one of a growing culture. The ancient Egyptians are known as the people responsible for the very first comb. The crazy thing is that there are so many different designs and discoveries being made that there could be proof of combs being as old as 7000 years old. It just goes to show what ancient civilizations thought of the comb, and its overall importance. You could say that people have been considering hair combs as a device for as long as we’ve had hair!

The Egyptians play a pivotal role in the development of the hair combs, as there are various designs from the different dynasties. One of the fascinating things about combs in 2000 BC is that the design is much smaller than the rest. Based on the design, archaeologists think that the combs might have been tiny models for tombs.

The Egyptian designs continued through the dynasties, and around 500 BC the design included many different animals, as well as having finer teeth. The reason for the finer ends is likely to get rid of headlice. The Persians have a similar design for their combs, and by the time of the Romans around 250 AD, combs were designed to look much closer to the ones we see today.

The development — or should we say the popularity of combs continued on. The use is the same, but the design and materials utilized differ depending on the era. Without a doubt, many cultures have made good use of the hair comb, providing their unique spin. Leo Haubert patented the modern comb in 1923, and the design has largely persisted to this day.

The comb timeline

  1. 4000-7000 BC
    The earliest combs

    The earliest combs were created by the ancient Egyptians. 

  2. 3000-1550 BC
    The hair comb designs in Kemet and Persia

    During the first period of unification in Egypt, the combs had a much smaller design than usual. Persian designs were also found during this time period.

  3. 1550-746 BC
    The hair comb through different Egyptian dynasties

    The 18th and 19th dynasty had a variety of comb designs, which means a change in popular hairstyles over the years.

  4. 250-400 AD
    The Roman designs

    Roman comb designs are quite similar to the ones we have today, though there are still differences depending on the area. The gaps between the teeth look closer to the modern combs.

  5. 1923
    The patent for the modern comb

    Leo Haubert obtains the patent for the modern comb, looking precisely like the comb we see today.

Where was the comb invented?

The first combs were invented in Egypt. It comes as no surprise, as there are so many inventions that got their start in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians were a particularly creative bunch, and many of the different design evolutions for combs were also accomplished by the Egyptians.

The importance of the comb

  • A crucial tool throughout history

    Throughout recorded history there have already been attempts to reign in the clump on our heads we call hair. There have been hair combs for thousands of years, and will likely remain a crucial tool for many more years to come.

  • An unchanged core design

    One of the fascinating things about hair combs is how the only practical things that changed are the gaps between the teeth, and the fine edges. The function remains the same, making it one of the most persistent tools in recorded history.

  • Aesthetically different depending on the culture

    The cool thing about hair combs is how different cultures result in different overall designs. From Islamic and Persian designs to Roman, Egyptian, Chinese and more, the culture is plain to see through the design.

  • Universally practical

    Need to look good for a date? The hair comb has you covered. Need to deal with head lice? There are combs designed specifically for that. So long as we have hair, the comb will remain relevant.

Combs by the numbers

  • 2The sides of the double-sided comb. Back in the old days, one side was used to untangle hair, while the other side was used to help deal with lice. These days, there are specific combs to get the job done.
  • 7000The potential age of the oldest combs unearthed. It would be a wonder if they found combs that were any older!
  • 13The number of patents for afro combs between 1970-1980.
  • 472The age of a wooden hair comb that bears a striking resemblance to the modern comb, in Fitzwilliam Museum.

Five facts about the comb

  • The trouble with sharing

    Even back in the old days, people knew not to share their combs. Sharing combs could have the potential of spreading issues with head lice, among other issues. The double-sided comb was also quite helpful in keeping things hygienic.

  • Decorative accessories

    Hair combs aren’t just about being practical. The reason why so many older designs of combs are so beautiful is that they were used as decorative accessories.

  • Half and half

    You’ll notice that most modern combs are built with two halves. The teeth of one half is spaced slightly apart compared to the other. One is meant to untangle, and the other to style. 

  • A simple instrument

    Due to the overall design of the hair comb, it can be used as a simple instrument! All you have to do is pluck on one of its many teeth and you have yourself a makeshift instrument. The same thing goes for the comb kazoo, where you can make sounds using a comb and a thin piece of paper pressed to it.

  • Cheap and common

    The best part about this essential tool? Combs are usually so cheap and commonplace that you can purchase it in packs and hardly notice the difference in your wallet.

FAQ about combs

  • What are modern combs made of?

    As far as the material goes, it varies depending on the location. That said, it’s usually made of wood, plastic, or metal. Naturally there were also combs made from bone, ivory, and many other materials, but the conservation effort means there are far fewer being products today.

  • Is it possible to damage hair with a comb?

    Overuse of any comb can damage the hair, especially if the comb you choose isn’t ideal. For example, if you have thick and curly hair, it’s not a good idea to use fine-toothed combs or brushes. It’s always best to go for combs that are the ideal partner for your hair, but even then you shouldn’t overdo it.

  • Is combing the hair even necessary?

    Some people prefer to comb with their fingers, or do very little styling at all. It’s understandable to think combing isn’t necessary, but it does stimulate the sebaceous glands, ensuring that the natural oils are spread throughout your hair. While there’s no need to comb all the time, combing your hair now and again can have great results.

  • Is it a good idea to comb wet hair?

    Combing wet hair is a part of the daily routine for some, but it isn’t advisable. Combing your wet hair can lead to breakage.

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