This is the third in a series of articles on synthetic fibers and how they relate to shaving brushes, including a brief history of synthetic fibers, their development, stagnation, and resurrection in the market place. In the previous article, the discussion was based on the creation of new fibers, how World War II effectively limited the new Nylon fiber from use in shaving brushes, and how after the war, Nylon brushes began to appear.
When Nylon brushes were introduced to the market, it was a time in which other similar products were making a complete change over in their methods of production. Toothbrushes were made for decades from boar bristles. However, as soon as new Nylon bristles began to make their way into the toothbrush industry, everyone wanted to cease from putting boar hairs in their mouths. The nylon toothbrush bristle and the boar bristle were close enough in composition and flex and were more comfortable than boar bristles. In addition, vegetarians, practicing Muslim and Jews (who don’t consume pork products) had a product that they could use with a clear conscience. The first such toothbrush was called Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft Toothbrush as seen in this advertisement from the Saturday Evening Post in late 1945.
With the advertising machine in full effect in the late 1940s forward, the public demanded Nylon and the entire industry crossed over quickly.
Shaving brushes did not cross over into the exclusive realm of synthetic, unlike the toothbrush for several reasons. Fiber length, excess stiffness, water retention (or lack thereof), and harsh tips seemed to make the early Nylon brushes ill suited for a user base that demanded softer tips, variable stiffness choices, and medium to high water retention. Some brush companies even tried to combine nylon and natural fibers to try to make the Nylon brush more appealing. Ever Ready did just that with their Badgerlon brush. The Badgerlon was an attempt to bundle both badger and Nylon fibers together into one knot. A picture of a Badgerlon brush is shown above.
The Badgerlon along with a few other attempts were made to increase sales of Nylon based brushes into the market. It seemed that Nylon fibers would have to be improved, over the initial hard strand offerings, in order to make inroads into the market owned by badger and boar fibers. As stated in an earlier article, a new product would soon eliminate the push for Nylon development for an additional fifty plus years. We will discuss this invention and the unlikely source of fibers to allow synthetics to be resurrected in the world of shaving brushes in a later article.