I recently got some items from Sharpologist sponsor Antica Barberia and the brush they included has challenged my views on boar hair brushes.
Antica Barberia, a recent Sharpologist advertiser (part of Mondial), recently sent me a set of products to try: a shaving cream soap, boar hair shave brush, pre-shave oil, and aftershave gel. I had a lot “on my plate” at the time so the box sat in the corner for a while. I decided to send it off to one of Sharpologist’s (usually) reliable freelance writers to use and review. After a couple months I inquired about how he was doing with it and found out he hadn’t gotten around to it either (to be fair, there were some extenuating circumstances so I wasn’t really upset). He sent it back to me and I and started using it myself.
And things were moving along pretty much as I expected as I used each item–as I mentioned a few months ago, the Italian shave market of artisans, brands, and companies has been robust and continues to evolve while still remaining true to its roots. They’re making some great products.
The last thing I tried was the shave brush. I admit to being a bit of a “brush snob,” first with badger hair shaving brushes then with the latest generation of synthetic fiber shaving brushes, so an old-school boar brush didn’t really trip my trigger.
When I finally tried it I was gobsmacked. I’ve tried the cheap drug store “natural fiber” shave brushes, the “Pro” boar brushes, and even the “owner’s club” boar brushes. But this boar hair shave brush was unlike any other boar brush I had used:
- It doesn’t smell bad (or hardly at all, for that matter).
- The handle is firm and hefty in my hand instead of cheap plastic or lightweight wood.
- The knot is well-packed and secure.
- The brush “splays” better with less “scratchiness” than other boar brushes I have used.
- It “broke in” very quickly (albeit I did use the accelerated break-in method).
- It actually builds a really good lather in a short time.
I wanted…needed…to find out more about this brush….
The first place I visited was the Antica Barberia’s US website:
“Hand-assembled professional use shaving brushes from Antica Barberia feature large, precision-milled aluminum handles mated with a premium extra-large knot built for longevity and durability.
The first quality pure boar bristle used for this brush provides a firm massaging action and is bleached for greater shine. Its color gives it a distinct appearance in contrast with the brushed aluminum base featuring the Antica Barberia Mondial logo as a mark of its excellence. Also suitable for the home user.”
“Each Antica Barberia Mondial brush is created with the expertise handed down through five generations of family artisans. Our journey began with the Attilio Bagnoli & Co. Brush Factory– a ‘pennellificio’ near the gates of the city of Firenze in 1908. Today, our brushes are used by wet shaving enthusiasts and barbers around the world as a benchmark for quality and style.”
Getting More Detail
OK, so they obviously have some experience making shave brushes. And it looks like this brush is produced with the classic Italian barber in mind. But I wanted to find out more detail so I contacted Antica Barberia’s US distributor to help me.
Bear in mind the following may not be a perfectly accurate translation but I think the concepts come through easily enough.
Basically, instead of using the hair of feral boar they use domesticated pig–“pink pigs” was the literal translation. They source the highest grades available then go through a proprietary and much more extensive treatment process than what is usually done.
There are also a couple variations. The brush I used was their version of a “natural bristle” style that goes through an even more extensive boiling process than competitors to kill pathogens and bacteria. Personally I think it would be quite unfair to compare this version of “natural bristle” with the lousy “natural bristle” brushes found in other brushes though.
They also have a “bleached bristle” style that makes the hair even whiter (and they add a badger-like stripe for aesthetics. An example of that can be found in Mondial 1908’s Boston Collection). Here’s a video from Youtube’s Latherhog using that brush:
And here is a video from Kensurfs:
The brush is the star of this post but I do want to mention the other products that were included in the original “care package.”
The Pre-shave oil works well and is competitive with other good pre-shave oils.
The Antica Barberia “Balsamic” shave cream soap (“croap”) is minty/mentholated but quite mild to my insensitive nose (and the cooling sensation of menthol pleasantly mild as well–this is not a “face freeezer”). Used by itself the performance is very good; paired with the pre-shave oil performance is outstanding and competitive with the best out there.
The aftershave gel is only the second aftershave gel I’ve seen. Maybe this is becoming a new variant of aftershave in addition to splashes and balms? In any case I think it works quite well and leaves a nice matte finish–without being tacky–on my skin.
The Italian traditional shave niche’ continues to impress me: they continue to make quality products that acknowledge the modern while still staying true to their roots, unlike some of the other European brands that seem to have become frozen in time. Specifically, Antica Barberia’s boar hair shaving brush uses a mix of traditional and updated techniques to produce a product that has challenged my “snob” view of the brush type.