The dilemma of the first-time brush buyer … What brush should I buy: Pure, Best, Super?
You are confronting one of the problems gents new to the practice of wet shaving all encounter. You have no point of reference to make a comparison.
Now, there are many poobahs and potentates of badger brushes (connoisseurs?) that will speak in absolutes (their own universe's accepted reference) about high this, top that, super fine, mighty fine, and unbelievably fine, but really miss the point. The sensory experience that YOU have with your brush and the brush's ability to produce good lather consistently are the two real determiners of brush quality. Without going into an in-depth hair grading tutorial (best done by those fellows from China who do it all day long), in the past it was generally accepted that there were three classes (grades) of badger hair used in brushes:
These grades are linked to the appearance and other qualities of the hair. From top to bottom stiffer to more soft, holds little water to holds a lot of water. The different grades are culled from different areas of the badger's coat.
At times the market place identified the hair as:
At other times the additional taxonomy of straights and tapers was added to the above, further clarifying and qualifying the desirability/price of the hair. And thus the very simple term "scritchy" came into being to describe the sensory feeling that is created by the level of resilience of the badger hair shafts and the softness of the badger hair tips. The tips of cylindrical hairs are somewhat less soft - that is, more scritchy - than those of the tapered hairs. The softness of the tips increases with the quality of the hair.
As for the color of silvertip hair, it can vary greatly depnding on a variety of factors. Since it's not uncommon for lower hair grades to be bleached, thus lightening tips, color should not be the major concern when looking for genuine silvertip.
Today there are some brush houses and merchants that generate new, more numerous (need we add MORE EXPENSIVE?) grades to extract the last ecu from the consumer's pocket.
Silvertip is identified in some circles as a premium selection of super grade badger hair. One of the qualities ascribed by the venders to this premium hair is a certain resiliency that provides a scritchiness without stiffness that is missing in the other grades of hair. Another quality is exceptional water loading and holding (in excess of the capabilities of the other grades). Many folks find these two qualities highly desirable, yet others just flat out don't like one or both of them. Who's right? Who's wrong? Our take, neither are. Relating back to the original statement: The sensory experience that YOU have with your brush and the brush's ability to produce good lather consistently are the two real determiners of brush quality.
Not ever believing for a moment that, "It is only shaving," some men really get into seeking the perfect this or the ultimate that. This could simply be middle-age crisis, or an obsessive compulsive-related disorder. Such men start buying bunches, heaps and gobs of all kinds of brushes, including brushes the cost of which could feed a family of four in some third world countries for a year. No criticism intended, this is just to give a point of reference. They compare the qualities, capacities, human-factors (like design), and PRICE ... after all, isn't more costly mo' better? Not necessarily.
There are many brands and models available. Ask for advice based on experience. BUT always remember that these are personal evaluations, not absolutes. One gent's pleasantly scritchy is another’s unpleasant scratchy.
NOTE: QED has been selling shaving brushes to gentlemen for over 25 years. We've developed close relationships with the finest manufacturers and have obviously garnered a great deal of information about the construction of shaving brushes and the quality of badger hair. Yet the above simple, clear, concise explanation is not from a manufacturer or an experienced merchant, but from one of our customers, who wishes to remain anonymous.