By Tom Demerly.
An assortment of delightful Kent handmade combs.
There is a saying that class is not distinguished by income. The recession proves this. And while I’d like to be reviewing private First Class cabins on an Emirates A380 on my way to race the Dubai Triathlon, that’s not in the cards right now. So in today’s economy we must turn to the little details of everyday life to experience sublime indulgence into ultimate quality.
G.B. Kent & Sons Ltd. has been making hair combs, brushes and even handmade, natural fiber toothbrushes since 1777. They are not the oldest continuously operating company in the world. That distinction likely belongs to writing instrument brand Faber-Castell who started in 1730. That said, few companies can lay claim to a 236 year history. Like larger companies of its time G.B. Kent & Sons Ltd. enjoyed an early endorsement from the aristocracy of the era. This underwrote their status as an aspirational brand before the term was invented. G.B. Kent & Sons Ltd., now simply called “Kent”, went on to win defense contracts and make combs for the soldiers’ personal kit in WWI. Kent even manufactured special toothbrushes with entirely wooden handles (no animal product) for use by Indian troops whose religion prohibited the use of animal products. The company shows an astonishing 250 varieties of brushes alone, plus other personal care items. Kent made special shaving brushes for intelligence operatives in WWII with hidden maps and compasses for escape and evasion built into the handles.
A typical “Unbreakable” stamped plastic comb with molded teeth and very pointed ends that tends to pull fine hair and scratch the scalp.
Most standard combs are completely injection molded. The plastic is shot into a die in molten form, cools and the combs pop out of the mold. It is a fast, convenient process but most comb molds are worn from making tens of millions of combs and a completely molded comb has rounded surfaces between the teeth of the comb and pointed teeth. There is also a mold parting line on the comb that does not move over hair smoothly.
The precision, saw cut teeth of a Kent comb move smoothly through your hair because of their flat (not rounded) inner surface. Notice the precisely rounded, hand finished tips on each of the teeth.
A Kent comb uses saw cut, not injection molded, teeth. The internal surface of the teeth are flat making the comb move through your hair more smoothly without binding or pulling. Because the interval between the teeth of the comb is much more precise than with a molded comb, the hair is arranged more symmetrically also, making your hair appear fuller and more attractive. Kent combs are also made from dense and consistently pliable but stiff cellulose acetate, not polystyrene plastic. This material has an extremely glossy outer hand finish that also glides over hair more easily and without snags.
The hand made, saw cut teeth on a Kent comb glide through your hair without binding. The rounded tips on the teeth also feel comfortable on the scalp.
Another important feature to the Kent comb design is the tips of the teeth. These are individually hand shaped after the hand saw cutting process. This point-rounded shaping of the tips of the combs prevents the comb from scratching your scalp. Instead, it produces a pleasing sensation that Kent claims stimulates oil production on the scalp to make your hair shinier. I can tell you a Kent comb moves through your hair much more smoothly without snagging and is very comfortable, pleasant even, against your scalp.
Kent’s model 5T combines fine and course hand cut teeth with their hand finish tips and their beautiful tortoiseshell finish. This large comb is a perfect bathroom comb.
Kent makes an incredible variety of combs you can view on their website. They include conventional pocket varieties, full size valet combs and their novel, folding 82T model which hinges into its own cover like a pocket knife. Because of the special materials the combs are hand-made from they feel heavier in hand, making handling more tactile and controllable. All of the models seem to pull through wet hair, even my fine hair when wet, easily and smoothly.
Kent’s unique model 82T is difficult to find in the U.S. but worth searching for since it is a delightful travel companion.
I first learned about Kent combs from a magazine article years ago. I found the brand for sale in a small specialty shop in Christiansted on the island of St. Croix when I was there for diving and the St. Croix 70.3 triathlon. The combs range in price from $7 USD to about $12 USD for the specialty folding comb. Each comb comes in individual clear packaging with a brief history of the product on the back of the package in five languages, a nod to Kent’s international appeal. You can buy Kent combs directly from their website at Kent Brushes and from Amazon.com along with the rest of their handmade brushes.
Kent’s luxurious line of women’s brushes with satin wood handles and beautiful handmade boxes are an opulent luxury if you enjoy brushing a girl’s hair as a special way to spoil her. The LHS5 is entirely handmade using Indian bristles. It comes in a blonde version that is a beautiful match to many shades of blonde hair. It is also sold in black bristles at about $260 USD. Kent makes men’s brushes such as the MC4 using cherry wood bases without handles at around $68 USD. There is a smaller polymer center handle version with molded teeth for use with shampoo while showering at less than $10 USD. I’ve even used their 14T model comb on my long-haired cat since the hand-rounded teeth tips feel good against her skin and the precision teeth do not pull her long hair.
Kent combs and brushes are worth seeking out. They are an affordable no-compromise tribute to making something commonly taken for granted as beautifully and carefully as can be. Using a Kent comb does more than just arrange your hair. It is a reminder that in ever endeavor the pursuit of the very best has advantages, even if they are small ones in everyday practice.