We recently posted about the joys of using and collecting vintage Gillette safety razors. They give great shaves and are a lot of fun to collect. But there is something that’s an even better part of the wet shaving experience: using a good shave brush.
Why is it called wet shaving? Because you use a lot of water in the shave. The water and soap and your shaving brush all work together to moisten your face and beard, instead of relying on multiple blades like modern razors do, to power through your beard with brute force.
Truth be told, I could go back to using a modern multi-blade razor tomorrow if I had to, with only moderate grumbling. But try to make me give up my shave brushes…and you’ve got a fight on your hands.
Restored Vintage Ever Ready Brush and Moss Scuttle
Brushes really are the secret of why the wet shaving experience has been embraced by thousands and thousands of guys all over the world who are several generations removed from the heyday of shaving brushes and their general usage. (Think the 1950s and earlier.)
The secret? The brush massages your beard and face, and it feels good. That's pretty much it. Add an interesting razor and other accoutrements of the wet shave like a hot towel and you turn what used to be a soulless, boring morning ritual into something that's a little slower paced, and definitely more enjoyable; something almost zen-like.
Cold modern shaving cream—the canned goo stuff—just can’t compare with a good brush and hot water and soap or cream.
Even if you’ve only been to the The Art of Shaving shop at the mall, you know there has been something of a renaissance in shaving the past few years. Places like AOS didn’t even exist 20 years ago.
Educated consumers today aren’t satisfied with cold canned goo and a plastic multi-blade razor. They crave something more and the market has responded. The fact that the multi-blades can cause skin irritation and bumps is almost beside the point.
Badger hair brushes are great, but synthetic hair shave brushes have come a long way, too, and we will cover them in part two of this brush article, along with boar hair brushes.
But this entry is all about the badgers.
I got back into wet shaving in 2009. When I began looking online for tips and inspiration, I found a new world opened up to me. Above all, I found Badger & Blade.
After binging on tutorials and videos and almost OD'ing on shaving knowledge at B&B, I began sourcing brushes. I quickly discovered the fun that comes from using restored vintage brush handles. There is just something cool to me about giving a 50 or 60 year-old brush handle a new lease on life.
Several of my favorite brushes were restored by a very good hobbyist brush restorer I met through Badger & Blade. They all still give great service years later. The black wooden handle brush in the header photo (with the straight razor) was restored with an 18mm Golden Nib silver tip badger knot.
Vintage Ever Ready Brush, pre-Restoration, and Ugly
I found this blue and white handled Ever Ready brush in an antique shop, and bought it even before I knew how to fix it. It was a leap of faith, to say the least. But thanks to Badger & Blade, I was soon put in touch with the brush resto maestro who made short work of the project.
He pulled out the original, dead knot and added a 22mm Golden Nib finest badger knot (with a height - or loft - of about 52-53mm) and polished the old handle, and voilà: a great restored brush that has enough backbone to be a great face latherer.
I have some modern brushes, too. I really like this Savile Row 3824. It's a sliver tip badger brush with a 24mm knot. It's my favorite brush for shave creams (my other brushes get the nod when I am face lathering soaps). It has some backbone, but not as much as my finest badgers. That makes it perfect for the creams.
These days, I use two brushes more than any others. They are the Ever Ready, and a restored orange and black handle Rubberset with a 20-21 mm Golden Nib finest knot.
Another favorite was a beautiful old marbled green and black Simms handle restored with a 24mm Golden Nib finest knot. It went missing in a move a few years ago and I have mourned its loss ever since.
In Favorite Brushes II, we'll look at some solid boar hair brushes and a couple of new and exciting, excellent quality synthetics that are also stone cold bargains.