Lathering up before a shave with an authentic shaving brush is an old-fashioned comfort that men have enjoyed for over 200 years. The practice has fallen out of favor in recent decades with the rise of cheap, hand-applied shaving creams, but men who try out the somewhat anachronistic brush with a high-quality lather rarely go back to shaving with nothing but a slap of cream on their faces. It’s easy to see why – a good shaving brush conveys warm water to your face, which reduces razor burn and softens the bristles for cutting. The brush applies an even layer of lather all over your beard area, which makes for a more uniform shave on the cheeks and chin. It also gently scrubs off old skin cells for a quick exfoliation before the shave. These factors alone make shaving with a good brush an experience worth having at least once in your life.
The Escali 100% pure badger model is an excellent choice for an entry-level shaving brush. It has a good, thick knot of natural bristles that carry warm water to your skin and a superb balance between exfoliating stiffness and soft tips that evenly spread out the shaving lather over your whole face. The first few uses can be rough going, but once the brush is properly broken in the bristles’ tips soften to the consistency of a sponge that gently massages the skin and prepares your beard for the razor.
As its name implies, the Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush is made from pure badger hair that rises from a stout wooden handle in a dense thicket. “Pure” is the first grade of badger-hair quality, which explains this brush’s relatively low price point and its popularity among beginning brush enthusiasts. Virtually all of the potential drawbacks of the pure badger bristles are minor and temporary. A new brush will naturally shed a few loose bristles with the first few shaves, but it stops after that and should hold together for around three years without undue wear. Users sometimes report a faint and unfamiliar odor from a new brush, but the scent is never very strong and it fades after about the third use, especially if you use scented shaving cream and thoroughly wash the brush after each shave. Like boar-bristle brushes, which have long been a favorite among Italian barbers, pure boar hair can feel uncomfortably stiff at first, but the tips quickly break in and take on a softer, almost fuzzy texture while retaining the basic stiffness of new bristles farther down the loft.
For any shaving brush, finding the right knot width is an exercise in compromise. A very thick knot is stiff and durable, but it has trouble taking up a good head of shaving cream. Too loose, and you’ll get a loose, uneven smear of lather across your face. The optimum knot density is somewhere around 23mm, but you’re free to experiment with tighter or looser weaves. This Escali brush is a little tighter than more upscale brushes, at 20mm, but it isn’t far off from the ideal and still combines a good spread with a strong, resilient bundle of fibers.
You’re striking another balance when you choose for a loft length. Loft is the distance between the base of the bristles and their tips. The typical length for badger hair brushes is 50mm, or almost exactly 2 inches. Shorter lofts increase control and help you get at those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies on your jaw, while longer lofts are harder to control with a full head of lather. Escali’s brush is cut to the 2-inch standard length, but the relatively loose knot spaces out the bristles and gives a softer feeling than a tighter 2-inch loft usually does. The clubbed tip also helps balance a soft texture with ease of use by giving you a pointed tip, for precise application of shaving cream, with a broader fan of soft hairs for the larger patches such as on the cheeks and the area under the jaw.
Pay attention to the length and material of your brush’s handle. Synthetics are durable and generally waterproof, while wood and buffalo horn are traditional and very comfortable to hold. The Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush has a sealed wooden handle with a fine grain and smooth exterior that holds up well through years of humidity and moisture. The handle is unusually short for a beginner’s brush – just under 1 inch, or about 7/8 – but that can work to your advantage. A shorter brush handle fits less obtrusively in the palm of your hand and allows you to manipulate the brush’s angle with your fingertips. This makes it easy to work around earlobes and under the nose, where you definitely don’t want to slip and push shaving cream up a nostril. Longer handles are mostly good for mechanical advantage, since they put the same pressure on the tip with less effort. Stick to shorter handles like this one if you’re shaving yourself, and leave the longer handles to barbers who have to shave a dozen men a day without straining their hands.
Don’t use your Escali brush with dollar store shaving creams. The point of using a good brush like this one is to get a rich lather all over, which is hard to achieve with the most popular shaving creams on the market. Opt for something like Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood shaving cream, and you’ll notice the difference in texture and consistency at once.
The Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush shouldn’t be left on the counter to dry. That encourages wet spots to remain moist and can encourage the growth of mold, which ruins the brush. Instead, hang the brush on a stand to air dry evenly. This brush fits one of the slots on a Fento stainless steel stand, which also has a slot that perfectly fits a Parker safety razor and should complete your kit.
The Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush is altogether an excellent choice for men who are thinking of trying out a shaving brush for the first time, or who aren’t sure how much they want to invest in a new way of shaving. For an alternative, or if you’re just ready to upgrade to a more upscale brush at twice the price, try a silvertip badger brush from ShaveMaxx, which has very similar dimensions to the Escali, but much softer hair.