A long, long time ago, men would use sea sponges to lather up. Fortunately, the French came up with shaving brushes back in the middle of the 18th century, and that’s what we’ve been using since then—no need to go diving in the sea anymore to get started with wet shaving.
A shaving brush has one, integral role in the process of wet shaving—to whip up nicely rich and foamy lather and then spread it on your face, lifting and hydrating whiskers in preparation for a buttery-smooth razor glide.
Wet shavers all over the world agree that badger hairs are the best nature has to offer for a great shave. There’s simply nothing else that comes close. Brushes with boar bristles and horse hairs do work, but they’re stiffer, coarser, and not as pleasant to the touch—and face—as badger hairs.
All badger hairs come from China, where the badger is not only unendangered but classified as a pest and culled annually.
We carry shaving brushes with three gradations of badger hair brushes.
Best Badger is the most affordable quality of badger hairs we stock. They are generally darker and slightly firmer than Super and Silvertip hairs, and come from the back and sides of the badger. They still do the job admirably, whipping up some great lather. They make for a great starter brush and are certainly better than using a sea sponge.
Super Badger are finer and softer than Best badger hairs. As such, more are required to fill the brush, hence the difference in price. A black band goes around the midsection of Super hairs, transitioning into a mellow golden-white towards the top.
Silvertip hairs are found in the neck area of the badger. These are the highest quality—most luxurious, plushest, softest and finest hairs. Silvertips are by far the rarest and most desirable of badger hairs.
Badger shaving brushes of the highest quality are still made in much the same romantic way that the French crafted them in the previous millennium—by hand, using traditional tools.
First, the hairs are weighed to ensure that each brush gets the same, abundant amount. They are then inserted, head-first, into a concave metal mold to give them the signature dome-like shape. Next, the bundle—as it is called—is tied, the bottoms of the hairs sheared off, and stray hairs removed by going through it with a fine-toothed comb. Finally, the hairs are carefully glued using special, near-indestructible epoxy, into the handle.
A variety of materials may be used for the handle. In the past, when brushes were more of a status symbol, it was not uncommon to see handles from ivory or even gold.
The handles on the brushes we carry are made from wood, metal, or the highest quality resin, designed to imitate ivory, ebony, or horn.
The brushes we carry are made with great dedication and expertise, and should easily last for more than a decade and even longer. Like any other carefully crafted object, though, they do require the right kind of care.
It is of extreme importance that the brush is cleaned and dried fully between shaves. You want to start by rinsing it very well after each shave. Then, give it a few good vigorous shakes over the sink until water no longer comes out.
Finally, leave the brush suspended in a stand.
In case you don’t have one, you can leave it standing upright. Either way, your brush wants to be in a cool, dry place with some ventilation—not inside your medicine cabinet or in the shower stall.
If for whatever reason, the hairs develop mildew, you can soak them a solution of borax, which can be obtained from any pharmacy.
If badger hairs are the best nature has to offer to the wet shaver, then synthetic brushes—the ones we carry, that is!—are the best man has to offer. The properties that make badger hairs so soft and effective for whipping up luxurious lather have been carefully studied and reproduced in man-made fibers. But it is only recently that synthetic brushes have been regarded seriously — it took time for technology to catch up with nature.
As to the question of which is better—badger hair or synthetic brushes—that’s a subjective matter that every wet shaver will have to decide for himself.
The advantages of a synthetic shaving brush are that it’s absolutely vegan and cruelty-free and that because the fibers don’t soak up water, less lather is needed to shave.
In terms of care, because synthetic fibers don’t soak up water like natural hairs, they’ll dry much faster and will not develop mildew. They should still be allowed to dry fully between shaves, though, just like badger shaving brushes.
There are lots of great reasons to get started with traditional shaving, also known as wet shaving.
Maybe you’re a lover of beautifully crafted objects, and you find the flimsy-plasticky-aluminumy feel of your shaving implements immensely dissatisfying. That was why Dave Powell, our founder, started Grown Man Shave — to curate the finest grooming products on the planet.