Why shaving used to be a death sentence?
The interesting history of the essential badger Brush is a jolly good way to start. . .
The shaving brush lineage can trace its roots back to the good year of 1750, when the badger-hair shaving brush was invented. Most records indicate France as the source of this invention. When the folding-handle straight razor was designed making it practical for men to shave themselves rather than visit a barber on a weekly basis, a shave brush became a status symbol, and an expensive or eccentric brush was a way of asserting one's personality or even affluence. It is not known which monarch started the status symbol of officially recognising badger brushes as a symbol of wealth and the Gentlemen owners position in the levels of aristocracy. It may have been - Louis XV or King George II that created the societal view that the handle should be made of something of notable worth and the rarer the species of badger used in the hairs on the brush equated to a fine status symbol - The Badger Shaving Brush.
Several brushes were created with the levels of badger brushes to reflect the owners level of social class. The brushes, were made from ivory, gold and rare woods, and as you can imagine those on the lower working class rungs were destined to suffer from shaving burn or appear unkempt.
I still have not answered why shaving could be considered a death sentence have I? Well - During this era IF you were caught with a shaving brush considered above your station it was a hang-able offense - after all you either had to have stolen it, and therefore a thief - or you were as they called it a "familionaire" someone who pretended to be of wealthy or noble back ground.
Despite the centuries passing, the badger hair shaving brush has changed little from those early days and can still be considered a status symbol by the quality and rarity of the goods used to manufacture them. An entry level shaving badger shaving brush would be expected to go for around $100 AU however, it is the quality of the badger hair bristles in the brush that determine how well it will perform, and therefore you really do get what you pay for.
The most expensive 'average' mans badger brushes on market today sell for around $550 AU, and this is all to do with the quality and absorbance of the hair used - it doesn't even use rare materials for the handle.
There are a lot of mechanics in play when understanding a shave brush, from knot to loft and to the handle.
What? A Knot? A knot when talking about shaving brushes - is the diameter of the base of a brush.
Generally 24mm knot size gives good balance of spread vs precision.
Smaller knots will carry less shaving cream and require you to lather up a couple of times. yet be precises with the application.
On the other hand, larger knot sizes will carry a ton of shaving cream and lather. Therefore those with larger knot sizes may waste excess shaving cream.
The loft is the height of the bristles. (when standing on its end)
So from the knot base to the tip of the brush is referred to as the loft:
Why are these too distinct features important when researching for shave brushes?
During the application of shaving cream to your face, a shave brush also acts as a gentle pre-exfoliation to your face before a razor blade ever touches it.
This is key in that it will remove excess oils and dirt that may have been left behind in your pores after you took a shower.
When you choose a shaving brush with a much medium knot and shorter loft, you will have a lot more control over the brush leading to both a deeper exfoliation..
This will have a direct impact on the performance of your razor.
So much to take in and we are not even at the bristles - yet.
There different fibers used to create a shaving brush including horse, boar, synthetic, and badger, with Horse being the cheaper version of the badger brush - Very popular until WWI when anthrax (contained in the horse hair) killed over 50 people - that we know of.
This scare however, didn't overcome the need for a cheaper source of shaving brush bristle materials and lately you may have begun noticing them starting to popup in men's grooming boutiques. Also to note the collection effort for horse hair can depend on the manufacturer. Some may collect hair from the mane or tail making them 100% cruelty free and others may gather the hairs for slaughtered horses. So it can vary manufacturer to manufacturer, and often you never know and there is always the known fact that many people are allergic to horse hair so if the anthrax doesn't kill you the allergy could...
We did say shaving can be a death sentence and you wanted to know why right?
Boars hair will generally be a bit on the cheaper end – which can be great for beginners just dipping their toes in the water. Boar hairs are stiffer and adsorb less moisture than badger hair creating a flicking effect and that uses more shaving cream.
Synthetic brushes are also available and great for first timers in that they can also be a bit on the lower end and for the animal conscious shavers.
Last but not least, the badger brush:
Badger brushes are by and far still the most popular shave brushes of wet shavers everywhere. From pure to silver-tip and everything in between, badger hair shaving brushes come in many different grades.
Badger hair is considered among the best fibers for shaving creams and are used in many different beauty products outside of shaving brushes. There ability to retain both heat and moisture as equivalent to human hair as a product can get- make them the ideal fibers for shaving brushes.
When you have both heat and moisture contained within a brush, you are able to build up a terrific cushion and lubrication with the shaving cream lathering far more than any type of brush -helping exfoliate an lift the skin off hairs that grow at weird angles and soften the hair doesn't - helping prevent razor burn.
so there you have it - everything you never needed to know how shaving could have been hazardous to your health and some centuries ago- considered deadly.