We’ve seen the progress of affiliated branding happen before. A company makes a successful product and decides to offer a new product related to their original offering. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, the successful company X pays another company to take one of their own products, slap X company’s label on the “new” product, and then X sells the rebranded product as their own, often at a significant markup due to the “prestige” of the X brand name being added to the rebranded merchandise. Ho hum.
Besides the example above, Taylor’s, Truefitt & Hill, Trumpers, & St. James all have taken advantage of their national affinity with the prestige brush makers and now offer shaving brushes under their own marquee, most of these being rebranded brushes from UK makers Vulfix, Simpsons, & Rooney. (St. James states their brushes are denser than Simpson’s base models and they are also allegedly bringing out a new line of their own design in the next few months.)
But now there is something new in the staid world of shave brushes. Smaller merchants and artisans, known for direct sales of shave soaps and other wet shaving merchandise are offering their own brushes, sourced from (in theory) the same Chinese vendors that supply the larger better known brush makers. (Yes, snobby badger fans: China supplies close to 100% of the badger offered in brushes made by all manufacturers, even the three hundred dollar models.) These “little guy” brushes offer a potential breath of fresh air and also, in theory, high performance at lower prices.
Let’s look today at a badger brush being offered from a wet shaving retailer, one that is constructed of the semi-mythological “High Mountain White” badger fur…
Maker Profile: Shave Revolution (hereafter SR) has been in business for several years; their site does not say how long. They have selected a good mix of mainstream and artisanal product for their site and have commissioned limited edition shave soaps from such makers as Tim’s, Dr. Jon, and Beaver Woodwright. Besides the website, the company has a single brick and mortar location, in southern California.
The company has begun to produce their own shave soap in the last year, and just recently have started to offer a variety of their own branded shave brushes. They offer synthetic, standard silvertip, and High Mountain White models in various knot sizes, all sharing the same style handle. Details on manufacturer and location are not given, but we presume the knots at the very least come from China. We’ll cover the SR synthetic model in some peripheral detail in the next article, but today we are looking at the top of the line model.
Brush Intro: Priced at $70, the 24mm High Mountain White (HMW) model is currently sold out at the site, as are all other combinations of badger and knot sizes. (Some synthetics are all that is in stock at time of this writing.) All of the actual knots (without handles) are also available now on the site for do it yourself types or those who wish to supply a knot for a custom made handle being made by another party.
“High Mountain White” has become the “Corinthian Leather” of shaving brushes. It sounds fancy, usually involves an extra charge, and is objectively questionable in terms of its merit, simply because there are no uniform industry standards as to badger grades and defining characteristics. One company’s “Best” is another’s “Super” which might be a third’s HMW, etc.
To generalize, the origin myth for High Mountain White is that it tastes great but is also less filling…oh, no, wait, HMW is softer yet has lots of backbone, that’s it. The badgers that live high in the mountains of China need soft yet firm fur to… urm, well, they have it for some reason or another, and the intrepid Chinese badger hunters track them down for months and months in search of their magical fur.
Or maybe, more prosaically, the High Mountain badgers are from the slightly elevated section of the massive captive badger farm, and those few extra meters of elevation cause their fur to grow firmly while also retaining its softness because… ah…due to… enh.. hm, let’s just move on!
The simple reason for the growth of the High Mountain myth is that most non-self mortifying types want softness in their brush, yet no one likes floppy. The HMW supposedly uses longer, firmer badger hairs to give soft tips, yet while allegedly also maximizing backbone and flow through. Marketing brilliance!
As mentioned, there is no uniform definition of what the standard construction or performance of HMW is in the industry, and Shave Revolution makes no effort to provide their own standard, saying the HMW has “soft face feel with high density bristles”.
Besides this rather vague mission statement, the 24 MM HMW has a loft (hair height) of roughly 58mm, and the black marbleized injected resin handle is roughly 54 mm tall, so the brush is pretty tall at roughly 112mm high. (4.5 inches for you non-metric folk.) The SR logo is discretely branded on the underside of the handle.
The brush also currently comes with a free carrying case and a randomly selected 4 oz tub of one of SR’s house brand soaps, which are both good products. The added case and soap give the buyer about $20 worth of free gear when you buy the brush.
Build Quality: Impressive enough. No glue lump or visible glue at the base of the knot. The handle is well articulated and feels good in the hand, with plenty of tactile control areas to grip. The one problem here is that the brush had a nasty chemical odor to it when unboxed, not sure if this was a disinfectant or cleaning agent left over from the factory, but this brush had no badger funk, but instead smelled like pesticide. A few test lathers in the scuttle got rid of the chemical odor, and the more typical badger funk never appeared.
I will give the HMW a B+ score here; odorless would have moved it into the A grade level, but an acrid chemical odor that needed a few nullifying lathers before use did not impress me. The brush shed very few hairs over 3 weeks of use, though, so I will award a B+ score.
It should be noted (as a neutral point) that the initial bulb like shape of the 24mm HMW went away very quickly after a lather or two and I was left with a dramatically bloomed fan shape. This was rather unexpected, but I liked it well enough, as the density was still fine even after the immense bloom and there were no visible holes in the bloom pattern, as there are in cheaper “big fan” brushes. Just be aware that if you want a big bulb, you will not get what you are looking for here.
Lather Creation: The SR HMW did a fine job with creams and soaps. It is perhaps too easy to over load product, and you have to finetune your first few loadings so as to avoid getting a thick impasto on the brush tips. Be especially careful with creams; 12 swirls of St James seemed as if it could have shaved several men with multi pass shaves. The brush absorbed all the water it needed in less than a minute of soaking and probably could get by with 10-20 seconds of soaking / rinsing. No complaint here, A.
Bowl / Face Lather: Long handle and wide bloom make this an excellent bowl latherer. That wide bloom makes this a more challenging face latherer, as the expansive mass of fur makes it all too easy to paint your nose or ears. Will work as a face lather instrument with some work, but the moderate-at-best backbone also affects precision to some degree. Scores an A as a bowl latherer, and a B minus as a face lather device.
Face Feel: Soft and pleasant, no scratchiness at all. However, if you are looking for exfoliation, look elsewhere. I like soft so for me personally, I call this an A.
Lather Application: Pretty much perfect, flow through is efficient, with no lather hogging seen. I do an “emergency lather” drill when I get to my chin, as the lather there has usually been clipped a bit and / or thinned out by the time I get to it in each pass, so I pick up the brush and try to get a thick, hydrated layer of cushioning foam on the chin quickly and without adding water right before I shave that delicate spot. The HMW 24mm performed very well, delivering a lot of well hydrated product even at the midpoint of the pass.
A 30 second swirl of soap from a tub provided enough lather retained for 3 passes, and an equivalent effect could be had with about 8-10 seconds of cream swirling. Does fine with both circular and painting motions. An easy A here.
Backbone Sufficiency: Some, low to moderate I would say. I think the standard SR silvertip “finest” would be quite mushy indeed if the HMW standard is considered firm by the SR designers. I enjoyed this as a change of pace from my vigorous and focused Simpson Best models, but the SR HMW was also much floppier than a Semogue Owners Club Badger.
The 24mm HMW was at least firmer than a Parker Pure or a WSP Prince Silvertip, but if you want typical British rigidity, you will be disappointed. A tad more firmness, and maybe 5 to 7 mm less loft might have made this more useful for face lathering, but as it stands, this is a great bowl latherer, and not altogether deficient as a face lather device. Grade: B. Adequate for face lathering due to density and reasonably precise, but not ideal, and pretty incapable of both exfoliation and massage.
Clean Up Ease and Durability: Excellent, rinses quickly and thoroughly without squeezing or compression of knot needed. Shed several hairs in its first week of use and none since then. As mentioned above, there was a bad chemical odor which vanished entirely in the first week of use. Score of A for this category.
From left to right: SR HMW, SOC Silvertip, Simpson Colonel, WSP Prince.
Wet Shaving Products Prince ($60): Prince is mushier than the HMW, noticeably less backbone, similar excellent flow through, about as soft. Density of the Prince is slightly lower, and the Prince is also smaller (22 X 55 mm knot) and does not bloom anywhere near as vigorously. WSP handle is worse, durability is similar, few hairs lost over time.
Semogue Owners Club Silvertip ($65 from mfgr and many retailers): The SOC has far more backbone, and retains a much smaller fan / bulb shape, with a 24 X 53mm knot. The SOC is a better face latherer, and a great bowl latherer. Face feel is not quite as soft at the SR HMW, but is softer than Simpson Best. Density is good, equal to the HMW, and flow through is similarly excellent. Nice wooden handle on the Semogue!
Density Comparisons: From upper left corner, clockwise: WSP Prince, Simpsons Colonel, SR HMW, Semogue OC.
Simpsons Colonel ($65): The grim efficient Stoic compared to the indulgent Epicurean that is the HMW. The Colonel in Best is not as soft as the HMW, but has the best backbone of any of the brushes mentioned here. The 22 X 46 knot looks tiny out of the box, but opens up respectably once lathered a few times. The long handle of the Colonel makes it a good bowl latherer, as does the dense, precise fan, but the Colonel also face lathers like a champ. The Colonel though needs extra product when loading and also delivers the lather a bit more reluctantly due to the density of the hair. This also makes cleaning the Colonel a tad more challenging as well.
HMW on top, Colonel on the bottom.
Value: The HMW is fairly priced for what it offers. Its competition comes from similarly priced brushes, which generally cost 5-10% less but which are also smaller brushes. If you want a large, soft well-made brush that is also quite dense, you cannot really find anything much cheaper than the HMW. The base $70 price would give the HMW an A- by my estimate, but the added bonus of a tub of good quality shave soap and carrying tube as bonuses nudge the value rating to an A.
Conclusion: The Shave Revolution High Mountain White has been called “the poor man’s Kent BK8” by a few posters on the net. I do not own a BK8 myself, and so cannot personally assess this claim (but, gee, if someone would like to send me a Kent for an assessment, I would be happy to analyze and report ☺ !).
But from looking at the BK8 specs (variously reported as 24-26 mm diameter and 54-58mm loft from different reviews and vendor sites) along with reviews and photos of the bloomed BK8, I have to say the comparison seems valid. The BK8 is around $200, while the HMW is roughly a third of that price. Additionally, the HMW is not terrible at face lathering, which is a bit of a point of contention among BK8 owners and reviewers, with most saying their Kent is too floppy to be good at face lathering.
If you want a big soft brush that is well made and not too floppy, the HMW is a great contender. I’m giving the big soft fella an A- overall score.
There are a few caveats though:
- The Shave Revolution site has been sold out for more than 10 days now. As they are a small artisan, I am not sure if they can restock this product in adequate volume to ensure regular fulfillment of orders. If this is a great brush that no one can ever buy, the above rating needs to be rethought.
- The “High Mountain White” nomenclature is pretty silly and should be done away with. Call the cheaper badger “Best” and this higher quality “Super” and avoid all the silliness of evoking some mythical apex-dwelling badger with fur that is soft yet firm all at once.
- The chemical odor out of the package was off-putting. In my case, it went away quickly, but newcomers buying this as a first / only brush may be unnerved by such an initial bad scent impression.
- The loft could be trimmed by 5-8mm and would make the HMW a more capable and versatile brush. The makers might want to consider this as an option, as this will make the HMW a brush that can offer both soft tips and good backbone.
But these are minor issues overall, and there is no denying the fact that the HMW offers British quality at a price that is a fraction of comparable models. There is some tough competition at this price point though, so buyers looking at the SR HMW should also look carefully at smaller knot sized brushes, like the Simpson Colonel, and SOC Owners Club ST, to see if they might prefer the feature sets of those slightly cheaper competitors.
Coming next from Shave Revolution? A “stubby Manchurian” badger model… https://www.facebook.com/shaverevolution/