Boar brushes are relatively inexpensive and found in a wide variety of stores. Synthetic brushes are easy to use and are low maintenance. Boar and synthetic brushes might have badger beat in a few departments, but nothing says “luxury” like a badger hair shave brush. Not all badger brushes are created equally, however. There is a bit of myth and mystery involved when it comes to deciphering badger hair terminology. Cutting through the hair grading system (and the marketing gimmicks) will help you make the most of your badger brush purchase.
I was told to keep these blog posts between 400-800 words. If I listed all the names of badger hair knots and hair grades, I would barely have any room left for content. Silvertip, Finest, Best, Super, High Mountain White, Pure, Manchurian, two band, three band, Blonde Badger, Super Silvertip, Super Duper Silvertip…Ok, I made that last one up. But the rest are names you will see associated with badger hair brushes. Unfortunately, there is no governing body who dictates which name belongs with each type of badger hair. To add to the confusion, two companies might use the same term to describe totally different products (i.e. “Silvertip”). In an effort to break this down more easily, let’s separate the hair into three different types: Pure Badger, two-band badger and three-band badger.
The first category is the least expensive type of badger hair, called “Pure Badger” or “Black Badger.” Pure Badger hair is uniformly colored, coarse, and typically has cut tips. Because the tips are cut, the individual hairs do not end in a fine taper. As a result, a Pure Badger brush will offer the least amount of softness. Some people like the stiffness of Pure Badger. It loads hard soap quickly and offers a good face scrub. However, don’t expect a luxury face feel from a Pure Badger brush.
The next category is two-band badger. Within two-band badger, you’ll find terms like “Finest” and “Manchurian” used. Just forget them for now. Two-band hair is dark on the bottom and has bright white tips. Unlike with Pure Badger, the tips are not trimmed. The tips of two-band knots are often bleached. Aside from making the tips whiter, it makes the tips slightly finer and more brittle which, in turn, gives them a soft face feel. Two-band badger hair is not as coarse as Pure Badger, but is thicker than three-band badger hair. Many shavers, especially those who face lather, consider two-band badger hair as the best all around option, due to its ample backbone and soft tips.
The final category is three-band badger. Three-band knots are light at the bottom, have a thin, dark middle band, and are light at the top. They have the finest hair of all badger brushes. Unlike with two-band brushes, the tips of three-band hair is naturally soft and not chemically treated. When it comes to raw material, high quality three-band badger hair is the most expensive of the different grades. A high quality three-band badger brush will be pillowy soft. Because the hair is so fine, it doesn’t have the backbone of a two-band badger brush. Though shavers have face lathered with three band-brushes for decades, they have fallen out of favor with modern day face latherers. When using an easily lathered cream or soft soap, however, three-band bushes are the most luxurious of all badger hair brushes. Keep in mind, there are different grades of three-band hair. If we use Simpson as a model, the Best grade hair will not be as dense, soft, or well sorted as the Super grade. To some extent, the softness of a three-band brush increases with price.
To summarize, if you like a scrubby brush that loads soap quickly, get a Pure Badger. If you want your brush to feel like a puffy cloud on your face, get a three-band badger brush. If you want the Hopefully, this helps to clear up some of the confusion around badger hair shave brushes. If you want the best of both worlds, consider a two-band brush. A high quality badger hair brush is the quintessential luxury shave item. Luckily, we are currently in the golden age of badger brushes. When you find the right one, it might be hard to go back to your boar or synthetic brush.