There is such a perceived link between virility and hair growth that some men willingly adopt the unfortunate hairstyle known as a "comb over." The comb over is an attempt to overcome the effects of male pattern baldness by growing the remaining hair to an extreme length and then literally combing it over the bare patches of scalp. The outcome of a typical comb over makes many wearers look like balding middle-aged men with thin wisps of hair extending from one side of their scalps to the other. A comb over is rarely mistaken for a full head of hair.
Male pattern baldness, a hereditary condition, can manifest itself in a number of ways, but it often begins as a receding hairline above the forehead. It could also start as a bald patch just behind the top of the head. Over time, this baldness pattern spreads out from the top of the scalp, leaving a strip of relatively healthy hair around the perimeter and back. Some men afflicted with male pattern baldness accept their fate and trim the remaining hairline short. Others, however, opt for the alleged camouflage properties of the comb over.
A comb over starts with growing the remaining hair into long strands. These strands could be combed straight over the bald spot from the sides, or possibly brushed over from the front or back. Some comb over wearers use strong hair gels to spot glue the hairs once they have been aligned properly. Others rely on gravity or the lack of a strong breeze to keep the comb over in place. Wearing a hat or other head covering can be a little problematic for a comb over enthusiast, since the hair may be tossed completely out of alignment. A comb over can become a disastrous comb out at a moment's notice.
There are a number of reasons why a man might choose to adopt the comb over look. Some believe a properly groomed comb over gives them an air of distinction, since many politicians and intellectuals have sported the comb over look for decades. Others may feel like less of a man after suffering hair loss, so a comb over provides at least the illusion of a fuller head of hair. While outsiders may consider the comb over look to be unattractive or immature, the wearer may not share that opinion. Some comb over wearers say they've always combed their hair in that particular style, even before they began balding.
The comb over may not be the most popular hairstyle in the world, but it has outlasted other questionable hairstyling fads such as the ducktail and the mullet. Some even look forward to the day when the comb over wearer finally agrees to trim off the excess hair and accept the harsh reality of hair loss.