OK, so now let’s get controversial …

There is often heated discussion around the naming and grading of hair used in badger shaving brushes. While by no means definitive, the description of the traditional gradings used by Simpsons, posted in a thread here by Gary Young, from the family who used to own the business is a worthwhile starting point –

Modern Simpson Brushes

Now I know that there are various grades of hair ‘sold’ these days so I have categorised into the 3 grades that I know and have worked with – Pure, Best & Super. These 3 grades should give you a good idea on the characteristics expected and should give you a good starting point to compare to the more ‘exotic’ grades available nowadays….

Pure badger hair is the commonest grade of hair. Around about 60% of the hair obtainable from a single badger is graded as ‘Pure’.

Location on Badger: Usually from the underbelly area.

Normal Colour Range: Black to a Dark Brown/Tan, Dark Grey.

Characteristics: Thick filament with less lateral flex than higher grade hair and less tapering along the filament.

Face ‘Feel’: Scratchy/Scrubby – normally thought of as the best hair for exfoliating. Normally brushes made from Pure grade have low density knots (less hair per knot) but still have low flexibility due to the stiffness of the filaments.

Soap or Cream?: Usually good for hard soaps due to the coarseness of the filament ends.

Ageing characteristics: Pure hair tends to ‘bleach’ quicker than higher grade hair giving it a look more akin to a Boar after prolonged exposure to sunshine. The filament ends will soften over time but do tend to keep their scratchy feel – more so than Best grade.

Best badger hair is a ‘mid-range’ hair grade. Around about 25% of the hair obtainable from a single badger is graded as ‘Best’.

Location on Badger:Usually from the belly area.

Normal Colour Range: Grey to Light Brown/Tan with more significant colour difference between bands.

Characteristics: More tapering filaments than Pure grade with softer tips. Better lateral flex along the filament than Pure due to the tapering nature of the hair.

Face ‘Feel’: Less scratchy than Pure grade but still has a scrubby feel. Mid to high density knots (mid level of hair per knot) with better flexibility than Pure due to the tapering filaments.

Soap or Cream?: Good for both soap and cream. Due to the fact that it holds water better than Pure it is ideal for creams that require more water to create lather.

Ageing characteristics: Tends to hold its colour better than Pure grade but the filament tips can grey more over time creating a look of a ‘two band’ brush.

There is no set standard for badger hair grades.  Different names are used by different companies
Caveat Emptor!

Super badger hair is a fine grade of badger hair. Around about 10% of the hair obtainable from a single badger is graded as ‘Super’.

Location on Badger: Usually from the neck/mane area.

Normal Colour Range: Dark Grey/Black central band with silver/white filament ends.

Characteristics: Even finer tapered filaments than Best grade. Extremely pliable filaments – more lateral flex than Best grade.

Face ‘Feel’: Soft feel to the face, no scratch, Can feel firmer than Best grade due to the high density knot (high level of hair per knot) that can be made because of the finer filaments. Can be described as a more ‘velvet’ feel than best.

Soap or Cream?: Tends to be better suited to creams due to the lack of scratch on the filament ends, although densely packed knots can work well with soaps.

Ageing Characteristics: Super grade tends to keep its look over Pure and Best. Colours tend not to fade as much as the lower grades. In some cases the tips can curl or ‘hook’ over time. This can be caused by the initial sterilising process that badger hair is put through by hair suppliers.

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