Badgers, and the badger brushes produced from their hair, have a strong link to traditional shaving, but describing grades of hair remains controversial.

We have posted previously, see here, on badger hair grades.  In looking further into this topic we found this media release from 28 January 2014.  It refers to comments on the topic, amongst other things, by the current Managing Director of Simpson Shaving Brushes, Mark Watterson.

Unfortunately Kaliandee, a Canadian ‘Purveyor of fine shaving and grooming tools, and exquisite leather items‘, who undertook the original interview is no longer in business.  The link to the full interview in that release is now a dead link.

This is the second part of this interview we have tracked down where Mark talks about the ethics of badger hair, and his recommendation for a novice shaver.

You can read the first part here.

Interview with Mark Watterson of Simpson's and VulfixJan 2014

Simpsons Stand with Brushes and stuffed badger
Exhibit at the British Industry Fair (including brushes and stuffed badgers!)

5. As far as I’m aware, all brush manufacturers using badger hair today source their hair from China. Does sourcing such an important component from overseas present any challenges in ensuring the reliability, quality and ethical credentials of your supply?

Badger hair is a natural product & can only legally be procured from China despite claims from other manufacturers. Like human hair, no two follicles will ever be the same. There will always be variety in batches. Achieving quality & consistent supply is an ever evolving challenge as more & more producers try & establish a share of the market. Progress Shaving use specialist hair brokers to ensure that our hair is the finest offered to the marketplace.

In response to the growing concern of the ecologically aware retailer and indeed most important of all the conservation orientated person in the street, it is necessary to clarify one or two points concerning the use of Badger Hair in Shaving Brushes. All Badger Hair is imported from China. At this point it is important to note that British, American and Canadian Badger are of no interest to brush manufacturers and cannot be connected with today’s limited trade. China being the main exporter of Badger hair, do so with very strict control on the amount exported each year, clearly displaying their awareness of environmental conservation. The Badger population is carefully monitored avoiding any decreases in their numbers. (It should be remembered that the Badger is a source of meat to the Chinese people and is available in the markets). Chinese Badgers are collected from the wild and are not in contravention of the Washington Treaty of Endangered Species.

This has been an industry for the people of China for hundreds of years and it should also be remembered that an increase in the Badger population would quickly be regarded as vermin and a pest to agriculture. The high prices paid for Badger Hair, its removal being a costly operation, means that any significant growth predicted in its demand has little foundation. Such an expensive product will never be part of the fashion boom. Britain, Europe and America all operate very strict import controls ensuring that any Badger hair brought into these countries is done so with all legislative agreements being strictly adhered to.

The ecologists in both the exporting and importing communities of Badger Hair have created a system preserving the Badger, an important source of livelihood for hundreds of years in the Far East and ensuring that a small market does exist, creating valuable work in an industry which dates back to the time when wet shaving was first recorded.

6. You recently tweeted that the first run of Simpson synthetics brushes are in the works, which many of us are eagerly awaiting. Have you found that the development and manufacture of a synthetic brush has presented any particular or unexpected challenges?

Synthetic materials used in the production of shaving brushes have been around for a long time but recently technological advances have led our company to take a real interest. Imitation badger in filament form opens up an entirely new market. We have been working with a specialist manufacturer for the last eighteen months to produce what we believe will be the most revolutionary synthetic fibre available in production run shaving brushes. Vulfix & Simpson brushes will be offered using this material and we anticipate huge demand around the globe.

7. You have previously stated that part of the reason for Vulfix’s purchase of the Simpsons brand in 2008 was because the former owner had trouble finding suitable replacements for his craftspeople as they retired. As an employer, have you had any difficulties finding new employees willing to learn the more traditional crafts involved in brush making?

Staff & particularly key operational employee training are a vital & an ongoing part of any business. We try & ensure that our workforce is skilled in a variety of facets to cover every area in the manufacture of a truly hand-made traditional product. This is what makes a Simpson brush truly unique. Skilled operatives are involved throughout the entire production process. Our staff are well rewarded & some of our work force have been with the company for over thirty years. A happy workforce makes an excellent shaving brush!

8. Finally; are there any specific models you would recommend as ideal for a complete novice to shaving with a brush?

For an entry level budget Vulfix shaving brush I’d recommend the 2199 Pure Badger. It comes with a traditionally built lathe turned handle and the knot offers a nice combination of scrub & flex.

When it comes to a Simpson brush you can look no further than the legendary Duke 3 in Best Badger. This brush outsells any other model in its class & just about does everything you want a brush to do. Firm, soft, beautiful are words often used to describe this workhorse of the Simpson stable.

If you want something iconic, reach for the top – the Simpson Chubby 2 in Manchurian Badger. It’s at the top end of the end of the price structure but for good reason. This shaving brush handle is packed solid with the finest hair available on the planet. Yes, the fabled Manchurian Badger from the High Mountainous region of China.

Finally, we hope our excellent wholesale partnership with Kaliandee continues to grow as the worldwide wet shaving renaissance gathers pace.

Kind regards,

Mark Watterson

Managing Director

Progress Shaving Brush (Vulfix) Limited

[Original Source:]

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