Where do you begin when choosing a badger hair shaving brush? So many brands, so many different bristle types, sizes, shapes & materials. Our beginner's guide will answer some of these many questions. If you want to learn more about synthetic shaving brushes check out our Pros and Cons of Synthetic Shaving Brushes blog.
Shaving Brush Bristle Type
Badger's hair is an ideal material for lathering soap because it is soft, elastic, durable and holds water well, remaining firm and supple even when wet.
Badger hair shaving brushes come in different types. For simplicity sake, most retailers will sell pure, best and silvertip. Confusingly different brands may use different words to describe the same bristle type.
The main difference between bristle types is the feel of the shaving brush on the face. The soft luxurious feel from a silvertip is the Holy Grail if you read internet forums but not all men want that. Some prefer a brisker pure badger shaving brush or even boar bristles, which incorporates an exfoliation into the process. Also, hard soaps or hard water areas may benefit from a stiffer bristle. Money also plays a part in selecting a bristle type. Silvertip bristles are taken from a specific area of the badger’s pelt meaning there is less of it making it more expensive. On occasion, the silvertip graded in China is regraded a second time (known as super badger). Such a laborious task costs money.
Shaving Brush Sizes
Shaving brushes are measured by neck width and loft height (loft is the shaving brush head) and the overall height, which includes the handle.
The thicker the neck the more hair is incorporated, which gives the shaving brush structure and longevity. Lofts also feel denser if the hair is shorter. Too thick and the brush does not flow when applying the lather and builds up soap residue in the stocks because it is difficult to clean. Overall pure bristle shaving brushes will have less hair than best and silvertip.
The height of the loft is usually dictated by the handle design but also shape plays a part. Longer bristles give more flow. The length is always the visible length of the bristles. The brush head core, the bit which is glued inside the handle, is not included in the specifications.
Shaving Brush Shape
The most obvious two shapes are bulb or fan. Pros and cons are all to do with personal preference. As a rule of thumb, a short-bristled bulb is going to be scrubbier than a fan, and a long-bristled bulb will have more structure than a fan.
Many pure badger shaving brushes have been machine cut into shape, so the cut ends are less soft. Silvertip is the natural tip of the hair and is softer.
For aesthetic reasons the majority of shaving brush handles are made of resins to emulate ivory and ebony or a traditional butterscotch colour, as well as the brighter colours of contemporary artisan brush makers.
The increased interest in matching shaving brush and razor sets has led to a variety of wooden handles. These are usually made of a close-grained hardwood, which has been sealed and protected against constant immersion in water so you can be assured they will stand the test of time.
For a more contemporary look you can also choose from rust-free polished or satin aluminium shaving brush handles.
Shaving Brush Brands
The number of brands has multiplied in recent years. A shaving brush brand is not necessarily a manufacturer. Well known British shaving brush manufacturers that grade the bristles and glue the knot themselves are Progress Vulfix, who make Simpson, the elusive Rooney, & Kent who provide the lofts for many of the shaving companies.
Alternatively, the larger shaving companies will go directly to China and buy “off the shelf” and put their brand name on the shaving brush or make their handles and put in premade knots from China.
There are many other smaller artisan makers and American companies whose name appear on the internet, alongside Chinese manufacturers selling directly to the public. If I can give any advice it would be not to buy on the internet until you have seen and felt the real thing. Photographs can be very deceptive.