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What Is an Afro Comb?

Cindy Quarters
Cindy Quarters

An afro is a hairstyle where very curly hair is combed out so that is stands as straight out from the wearer’s head as possible. This style was popular in the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s. An afro comb is a large comb or pick with big, wide teeth that can get into tightly curled hair and lift it up and out from the head without destroying the curl. This type of comb is often used to create an afro hairstyle.

The term “afro” comes from the phrase “Afro-American” or “African-American.” The afro of the 1960s was as much a statement of identity as it was a hairstyle. Many famous African-Americans such as Jimi Hendrix and Angela Davis styled their hair into prominent afros during the 1960s. These styles were often exaggerated into huge clouds of hair surrounding the person’s head, styles that could never be accomplished with a regular comb or brush.

A person who has tightly-curled hair will be better able to achieve an Afro than a person with straight hair.
A person who has tightly-curled hair will be better able to achieve an Afro than a person with straight hair.

The afro comb is based on a traditional African hair care tool that used long teeth attached to a handle to work the hair into the desired style. The original African hair picks were usually made of wood or bone, but the more modern combs, often still called "afro picks", or even "‘fro picks", are usually made of plastic, though some are made of metal or at least have metal teeth. The teeth are extremely long, at least 3 or 4 inches (about 7.6 to 10.1 cm), so that they can reach down into the hair.

Sometimes the afro comb is quite plain and strictly functional, but at other times it may have ornamentation, unusual colors, shapes or designs. The traditional picks in Africa were decorated so as to reflect important aspects of the user’s culture, and that continues to be true today. Specialty afro combs have handles with detailed carvings depicting African themes or other illustrations significant to the owner.

To create an afro, the hair cannot be combed or brushed with regular hairstyling tools, but instead must be lifted from the scalp outward with an afro comb. This style is not limited to African-Americans, and can be used with some degree of success by almost anyone with thick, very curly hair using the proper tools. The afro comb will work equally well on long or short hair, lifting it out and away from the head to form the thick, rounded hairstyle known as the afro.

Discussion Comments


I have several afro combs/picks But my favorite comb is one that I picked up at a pharmacy a few years ago. It was very affordable and I honestly did not expect it to be as good as it turned out. It has a plastic handle and metal teeth. But it works great and makes my afro look even and perfect every time. For those shopping for one right now, you might want to pick up a few different affordable ones and just give them a try.


@donasmrs-- I think it's just a matter of personal preference. I use a plastic pick but my sister uses a metal one and we're both happy with what you're using. So I can't really say that one is better than the other but you will probably have an easier time with one type over the other. You might want to ask your hair stylist for a recommendation or the employees at the beauty store can be helpful too. Not all African American hair is the same. The shape and density of the curls vary.

If I had to give a recommendation though, I'd say go for the plastic. I've heard that the metal ones, especially the ones with very narrow spaced teeth, don't work too well for extremely thick, dense hair.


I've decided to wear an afro so I need to buy a nice pick comb that will help me get the style. There are lots of options out there. I'm just undecided about whether I should get one with plastic teeth or metal teeth. The handle can be anything, it doesn't matter. I just want something that works well and that's durable. I have very, very thick hair so the pick needs to get into it properly.

Does anyone have a recommendation for me? What type of pick comb do you use for your afro?

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    • A person who has tightly-curled hair will be better able to achieve an Afro than a person with straight hair.
      By: ysbrandcosijn
      A person who has tightly-curled hair will be better able to achieve an Afro than a person with straight hair.