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What is a Military Hair Brush?

By Erica Stratton
Updated May 21, 2024
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A military hair brush is a style of brush without a handle. It is a circular piece of wood inset with boar or nylon bristles. Its design is much like that of a horse's currycomb. It is meant for use with short hair and is thus often thought of as a man's hairbrush.

Military-style hair brushes date back to the 1700s. Their compact, handle-less design was considered good for traveling. Sometimes, two brushes were used, one in each hand. This method was useful for quickly styling the hair.

Military brushes are used on buzz cuts and other extremely short hairstyles. They are particularly suited for slicked-back hairstyles, since the dense brushes won't leave definite comb marks. Even though it might appear that a hairstyle is too short to be worth combing, using a military hair brush can help condition the scalp. It removes dandruff and spreads out the natural oils to promote healthy hair.

Originally, all military hair brushes were made with boar's bristles. Today, they are also made with nylon bristles. A general rule is that the more bristles a hair brush has, the softer it will be on the hair.

The base of the hair brush can be made of wood, metal or plastic. Very fine brushes are created of rare woods or engraved silver. Sometimes the bristles are mounted on a rubber cushion. This creates a pleasurable sensation on the scalp while brushing.

Due to its unique design, caring for a military hair brush is a little different from caring for a usual hair brush. It should be stored on its back between uses so that the bristles don't bend. Periodically, hair should be cleaned from the bristles using another brush.

Despite regular maintenance, military hair brushes will sometimes need a deeper cleaning. Plastic military hair brushes can be soaked in a solution of alcohol and water once a week, but wood-backed brushes cannot be submerged, or they will rot. Instead, individuals should swish the bristles in sudsy water and then clean water until the bristles are washed clean. If the brush is an antique, it may need to be cleaned by an expert.

Military hair brushes are considered retro, evoking old portrayals of masculinity. There has been a revival of interest in these brushes with the rise of "retrosexuals," a men's style subculture based on the American television show Mad Men, which is set in the 60s. The brushes are often sold as unique gifts for men.

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Discussion Comments
By anon305186 — On Nov 25, 2012

I had one for a couple years and it worked magnificently. Depending on the type, it is gentler on the hair than plastic combs. If you are worried about going bald it is a good choice for shorter hair lengths. Works wonders on facial hair too.

By Azuza — On Jul 10, 2011

I think this sounds kind of cool but I don't know a single man who uses a brush on their hair. All the men I know prefer a simple plastic comb for styling purposes.

Maybe I'll do an experiment and buy one of these for my dad for Christmas or something like that. A vintage looking one might make a cool gift and who knows, he might even use it!

By sunnySkys — On Jul 10, 2011

I've never seen this kind of hair brush for men in a store anywhere and I think it actually sounds pretty inconvenient. When I brush my hair I prefer to have a handle to hold on to and I imagine it would be the same for a man. The space saving element of leaving the handle of doesn't seem worth it to me.

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