With elaborate beards and mustaches taking popular culture by storm comes the need for people to understand how to pick out the perfect grooming tools, such as vintage shave brushes, for their own facial hair in order to have the best at-home barber experience. Shaving brushes have been used to tame facial hair since the mid-18th century, and while you can find modern shaving brushes at your local drug store, those cheaper options don't compare to the craftsmanship of a vintage shave brush. Use this in-depth look at this iconic styling tool to better help guide you on your next vintage shopping trip.
Wet-Shaving and the Shave Brush
Shave brushes are instrumental for completing a wet-shave, which simply involves shaving with water that has been lathered with soap or cream and then applied across the face. This lather is applied using a shave brush, which is a round brush that resembles the heads of kabuki makeup brushes. Most shave brushes are accompanied with a matching mug/bowl where you can mix your lather in. Interestingly, this step is fundamental to getting a close-shave because of the way that rubbing the brush into the skin pushes the sudsy lather into the hair follicles and makes the hairs soft enough to shave.
Vintage Shave Brush Bristles
People have made shave brushes out of all types of materials, but some of the most lasting natural bristles actually come from the animal world. Subsequently, different bristles can have more elasticity and strength, and expert barbers know exactly which shaving brushes to use for which types of facial hair. Here are some of the main materials vintage shaving brushes were made out of.
Badger fur provides the highest quality bristles because of their superior water retention, and silvertip badger fur is the premier material for shaving brushes to be made out of.
Like most historic hairbrushes, boars' hair creates shaving brushes that can really scrub into the face
Horse hair is a less common, though not unseen, material for shaving brush bristles to be made out of.
These nonnatural bristles are made out of manmade fibers and normally cost less than natural fiber brushes do.
Vintage Shaving Brush Manufacturers
Since clean-shaven faces became popular in the 1920s and remained so throughout much of the early and mid-20th century, demand was high for shaving accessories. This meant that there was a proliferation of different shaving brush manufacturers, and these manufacturers are a small representation of the numerous possible companies which produced vintage shaving brushes that you might come across.
A.E. Simpson Company
This eponymous company was established in 1919 by Alexander E. Simpson in London, England and has come to be associated with the highest quality shaving materials available for purchase today.
Progress Shaving Brush Company (Vulfix)
Originally, the Progress Shaving Brush Limited Company began manufacturing shaving brushes in Manchester, England in the post-war years. Colloquially, the company came to be known as Vulfix, and in 2008 they entered into an esteemed partnership with the Simpson brand when they bought the legendary company.
Otto Johannes Müller established Muhle in 1945 after returning from World War II. MÜHLE began as a small shaving accessories business, but eventually grew into a significant shaving brush manufacturer by the 1970s.
Edwin Jagger is one of the younger manufacturers of facial grooming tools having only been founded in 1988. According to their website, the owner and founder, Neil Jagger, "continues to design every piece" of luxury wet-shave accessories that the company produces.
Vintage Shave Brush Values
Unlike some cosmetic and grooming tools, vintage shave brushes are not particularly in demand in the current collectors' market. However, the fact that you can use vintage brushes (so long as you properly clean them), makes these items unique as they are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Retailers like Ebay and Etsy have a wide range of values listed for these small items, but quality silvertip brushes are the most valuable at around $30-$50. Similarly, the more expensive the materials were used to make the brushes, the greater the brushes' values will be. For example, this vintage bakelite shaving brush is listed for almost $20 while this solid silver shaving brush from 1843 is listed for almost $200.
Visit the at-Home Barbership With Your Vintage Shaving Brush
Whether you found a vintage shaving brush at a garage sale or your grandfather passed down his trusty brush to you, you might be wondering what to do with this brush that's obviously seen better days. Well, you can give that vintage shaving brush a new lease on life by having it professionally restored. Companies like Razor Emporium can give your vintage shaving brush a complete restoration for around $50, and giving your shaving tools some much needed TLC can help you get the most out of your at-home barber experience.