History of Shave Brushes

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History of Shave Brushes

Postby dappershaves » Tue Jun 29, 2021 10:13 pm

Plisson to my knowledge is the oldest maker of shave brushes still in operation, dating from 1808. The earliest history I could track down for shave brushes was around 1748. It is possible that the shaving brush appeared much earlier but I cant find any concrete evidence. As an example, the catalog for the 2011 "van Otterloo Collection" traveling exhibition lists a painting titled Barber-Surgeon Tending a Peasant's Foot, dated ca. 1649-50, by Isaack Koedijck. In one corner of the painting is a bristly object that the curator describes as a shaving brush. That could place the shaving brush as early as 1649, not 1748.

Nethertheless the shaving brush arrived in England and by the beginning of the 19th century was a common utensil for shaving. During World War I, hostilities interrupted the established markets for boar bristles and badger hair in Germany. By 1916 brushmakers in the USA had turned to black bristles sourced from China, a grade known as "Rachto" whilst boar bristle of any quality was in short supply in the USA brushmakers began using horsehair.

By 1921, many Americans used widely-available and low-priced horse-hair brushes. However, an anthrax scare and related deaths effectively took horse-hair brushes off the market for many years. “Wallace's Death by Shaving” documents one such death.

Synthetic shaving brushes have been around for some years but have only recently started to show promise as a viable alternative to natural hair shaving brushes, such as badger, horse, and boar, thanks in part to the efforts of chemical industry and manufacturers.

Traditionally synthetic shaving brush knots were made of Nylon. These were great for exfoliating the skin (imagine rubbing your face with a toothbrush) but not so good at performing like a traditional shaving brush to create a good lather. You could say it all started in the early 2000s when manufacturers began to taper the Nylon fibre tips, which resulted in a much softer feeling on the face. From here on, manufacturers began to taper the tips more, experiment with a mixture of fibre lengths and thicknesses in individual knots, and also began crimping the fibres to retain water. All of this led to a synthetic shaving bristle that started to look, feel and perform much more like a natural shaving brush.

Fast forward to 2021 and you’ll find that most synthetic shaving brushes are manufactured from a material called Taklon and the individual fibres in the knot are tapered to varying points of thickness that more accurately represent natural hair. This variation in thickness also means there is more space between the fibres allowing the knot to hold more water and feel more like real hair.

A shave brush's price is usually determined more by its bristle load than any other factor, except for brushes with very exotic handles. The most expensive brushes often use exotic materials in the handle. The bristles are fixed together into a knot that is installed into the handle.

So which bristle type is best? Well, its the bristle type that works best for your skin/beard needs and budget, nothing else matters. I have a modern synthetic that performs very well and is super soft, but I also have a cheap boar brush that’s exceptional and a badger that amazing. They all done the same job fantastically but with very different characteristics.
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