Thursday, September 25, 2014

Badger Vs. Boar, Premium Vs. Economy

Being a frugal shaver, I would not pay a great deal for a shaving brush.  I have relatively inexpensive brushes: one Van Der Hagen boar and one Tweezerman badger. I find they are both very economical and are completely adequate to the task though they could both be disparagingly labeled as economy or "beginner" brushes. In fact, either is all that is necessary.
Tweezerman badger (left) and Van Der Hagen boar (right). The knot of the VDH boar is normally more fan shaped. This one has been stored recently within a cardboard tube for protection, which has given it that narrow, just-out-of-the box shape.

The four characteristics that I look for in a shaving brush are as follows:

  • Softness
  • Backbone
  • Size
  • Durability
When new, badger is much softer than boar. However, boar bristles split over time, which makes them soften as they are "broken in." This is normal and desirable. 

All other things equal, badger has less backbone (but thicker knots may mitigate this). Backbone becomes slightly more important (perhaps) when one face lathers as I have been doing since using shave sticks. I find my badger brush, with weaker backbone, is still adequate for the task, but the face-lathering process does seem to lay the bristles down every morning. (Perhaps a much thicker, denser knot of a much more expensive brush wouldn't do this; I don't know, but I wouldn't pay for that privilege.)

Often, more expensive means bigger. But my boar brush, which is the larger of my two, is as large as I would want to go. I'm lathering my face, not my bathroom walls, so I think too large of a brush just becomes awkward -- cumbersome both in a lathering bowl or on my face.

Durability is an issue. I do occasionally lose a bristle or two from my badger. And initially, I lost a few bristles from my boar as well, but that seems to have stopped for the most part. But with the money I didn't spend, after some years, when these brushes may be nearing the end of their useful life, I can happily re-enter the market and find another brush that's a good value.

Happy shaving!


  1. Traditionalists will bitch all day about flaking chrome, but those loose hairs are the greater financial loss and actually interfere with shaving. Synthetic all the way for me. These guys were nice enough to send an extra for me to sample with my order, and I've used it ever since.

    1. Thanks for the info. I've been window shopping synthetics for a while now. Maybe it's time to give one a try -- perhaps this one.