Skip to content

Why Pay $200 For A Silvertip Badger Brush?

Listen to this article

Why pay $200 for a silvertip badger brush when a $10 synthetic does a fine job?

Why do some brushes sell for $200 when a $20 brush can do the job quite well? The reasons people buy luxury items are complex, and I’ll set out a few in this article. 

A Recent Email

[Editor’s note: Aliexpress and Amazon links are Sharpologist affiliate.]

I recently received this email from a reader [with my comments added]:

I recently purchased a Yaqi Sagrada Familia shaving brush. [Like the one in the photo above – LG]

I used it for the first time this morning and followed their instructions just to shake the brush once. [My own experience has been that synthetics tend to harbor more water than natural-bristle brushes, and if the excess water is not shaken out of the brush, it will flood the puck when you begin to load, making loading difficult. For that reason, I shake a synthetic two or three times — I can always add a little water if needed. But I have not yet tried that particular brush. Synthetic knots do vary somewhat. – LG]

Got a fantastic lather from the l’Occitane shaving soap. [He had mentioned previously that he had trouble getting a good lather from this soap using a badger brush. I have in the past experienced the same difficulty with that soap (and a badger brush), and my workaround was to make a superlather using Cade shaving cream along with the soap. I should note that he also commented on the soap’s unusual efficacy, comparable, he said, to that of J.M. Fraser shaving cream. It’s interesting that Barrister & Mann specifically recommend using a synthetic knot with their Reserve line of shaving soaps; perhaps l’Occitane should make the same recommendation for Cade. I’ll certainly give it a try. – LG]

I paid CAD 24 for this brush, and so far it performs better than any other “natural “ brushes 

In light of this…why would anyone spend upwards of $200 / $300 for a badger silvertip brush?!

In the past I  purchased a couple of Yaqi shaving brushes, and they did seem quite good to me, though the knot was somewhat larger than I prefer, so I passed them along. Yaqi brushes generally are 24mm, 26mm, or even 28mm. (I did just find a couple in 22mm, my preferred size.)

Why People Buy Luxury Items

In some cases, a luxury item is simply better in terms of materials, construction, performance, and endurance — clothing, shoes, furniture, and tools often follow that rule. And the better materials and better workmanship inevitably cost more than inferior materials and workmanship. The price must cover those costs.

In other cases, the luxury item is inferior in performance and endurance, but has interesting construction/workmanship/backstory. For example, the stainless-steel Casio G-Shock Atomic Solar Watch keeps perfect time (automatically synchronizing with the atomic clock standard), displays time, date, and day of week, requires no batteries, and is strongly resistant to damage — and it costs $95 because it is made using industrial manufacturing methods rather than painstaking handwork by a skilled artisan. 

Compare that with a Patek Phillipe watch at $50,160. In addition to the information the Casio displays, the Patek Phillipe watch also shows the phases of the moon —  but the watch is much more fragile, cannot be so accurate, and has a display not so readily read. Just in terms of performance capability, paying more than $50,000 additional to get the phases of the moon seems a bit much.

But what is purchased in this instance is not so much the display of the moon’s phases as the display of one’s wealth. The watch serves much the same function as a peacock’s tail: a visible and extravagant display that demonstrates strength, health, and fitness — in the case of the peacock, physical strength, health, and fitness; in the case of the man, financial strength, health, and fitness. In both cases the display is part of a competition with others (peacocks or men) for the attention of potential mates (peahens, for peacocks).

Related post: Everything You Wanted to Know About Luxury Watches (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Of course, some men might find great pleasure in the intricacies and workmanship of such a watch and rather than wearing it for display would enjoy wearing it only in private. A watch such as this Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Watch ($300,595) is a fascinating product of tradition and skilled craftsmen. Robert Louis Stevenson has a wonderful essay “The Lantern Bearers” that describes the pure love that blooms only privately as a quiet and secret version of pride of ownership.

And it must be considered that the value of money is not a constant but depends on circumstances, so a price that seems high to one can be negligible to another. The value of a fungible item (and money is the most fungible of all things) dwindles the more of the item one possesses. For me, $10,000 is a substantial amount, but for Jeff Bezos that amount is indiscernibly small — if his fortune (currently US$196 billion, give or take a billion or so) were to diminish by $10,000, he literally could not tell. $10,000 is a fleck of dust on his mountain of money.

People of such wealth create an opportunity for some artisans to build (and sell) their dream projects — thus the Patek Phillippe watches cited above (and others of that ilk) and other high-cost high-quality goods such as automobiles, houses, and the like. Still, the peacock function cannot be denied — see Thorsten Veblen’s “The Theory of the Leisure Class” (available as a free ebook) and its discussion of conspicuous consumption. Scarce products that serve as a display to signal wealth are in fact called “Veblen goods.” For those products, an increase in price creates an increase in demand.

Cultural Inertia

In the specific case of costly badger brushes, I think another factor comes into play: cultural inertia caused by the reluctance most exhibit toward trying something new (thus the idea behind the saying, “Better the devil you know”). 

Here’s an example of cultural inertia that shows the difficulty of making a cultural change: A doctor found that washing one’s hands after working on a cadaver before delivering a baby resulted in a significant reduction in the number of deaths from puerperal fever in the new mothers. But even though that fact was clear and demonstrable, it took a generation before the practice of washing hands before delivering babies and doing surgery became common: an entire generation of doctors — those who began their practice without handwashing and refused to change their methods — had to pass from the scene and be replaced by younger doctors who from the outset were taught to wash hands before working with patients. (That doctor who first urged his colleagues to wash their hands lost his job as a result.)

As a less extreme level, consider how World War I’s circumstances and demands overcame prior stable practice and produced cultural change.  The war led to wider acceptance of several innovations that previously had met some resistance: wrist watches (previously thought effeminate), the double-edge safety razor (Gillette secured a contract to deliver Gillette shaving kits to US Army soldiers), and tobacco companies provided cigarettes with soldiers’ rations. While some already used the products, the wartime push meant many more were introduced to them and saw them in common use around them (as a cultural norm in that context). While cultural inertia makes it difficult to bring about a cultural change, it also means that a change once made will tend to persist.

Once a new cultural norm is established, the usual response from the market will ensure a steady stream of products to maintain the momentum, and most people become reluctant to abandon the (new) current common practice. Many readers have doubtless observed this reluctance when trying to convince friends to set aside cartridge razors and canned foam and try true lather and a double-edge safety razor. True lather and a DE razor are no longer riding the wave of cultural inertia and no longer are the cultural norm, so many men will simply not understand why they should try them and will resist a change. Their view is “What I’m doing now is fine. Why should I try something different?” (and see the question as rhetorical).


So for some men, the fact that badger brushes were once the best is a sufficient reason to continue to consider badger brushes as still the best. It helps that silvertip badger brushes have a more interesting story and tradition and are not so common as synthetic brushes — all that adds to their appeal. Badger brushes have a scarcity factor that does not apply to brushes mass-produced by modern manufacturing methods. And, as noted, for some men the cost of the brush is simply not an issue, and a higher price seems to promise higher quality of performance (rather than reflecting merely the cost of materials and manufacture) plus, if the price is high enough, it carries cachet and the brush becomes a Veblen good. 


Michael Ham, author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way, is retired and follows his interests in shaving and shaving products, cooking and creating recipes, reading books and watching movies. His blog,, reflects those interests. He can be found on Mastodon at [email protected].View Author posts

14 thoughts on “Why Pay $200 For A Silvertip Badger Brush?”

  1. I have a Saville Row super badger. It is a floppy stinky worthless brush. I use a $20 synthetic, works great.

  2. Fantastic post. I have almost all of the Yaqi synthetic brushes and one 2band Badger from Yaqi also, the 26mm Moka. I really don’t feel the need to get another badger, ok maybe another one in 24mm also 2Band knot, as the 26mm is way to big to load properly from a smaller puck (and I am a direct puck-loader).

    I absolutely dislike the Silvertips just because the have zero backbone and the loading time for me is longer. Even then, they will lose their shape once pressed harder on the face and even though they feel luxurious, they will still sting my face like needles, unlike a Tuxedo knot or a Plissoft style knot.
    This happens to me especially on the second/third pass, the critical moment that I want to have a less irritated face, so if the brush gives me irritation, then here it comes the razor and ruin the shave that seemed to had started well for me.

    I have absolutely no desire to get a brush more than 25€, I refuse to pay more for an artisan handle, even though it is beautiful.
    The exact opposite happens with soaps. I stopped using low quality shave creams and soaps with the basic ingredients that dry that dry the skin and invested more money in artisan handmade soaps made mostly in the US (I have an obsession with these soaps)

    Software for me is more important than the hardware, of course that doesn’t mean I would buy a brush that costs 2€ just to avoid spending money, this way you just throw 2 euros in the trash while you could get some great blades. Yaqi does the job perfectly for me, so I don’t see why I would buy something else. Ok, Apshave’s SynBad 24mm caught my attention, the one with the Emerald handle and because the price including shipping is excellent for me that I live in Greece, I could get this brush easily in the future. If this brush had a handle from real Ivory with diamonds all of it,let’s say, and price was 500€ it would be a “no” for me.

    Also, there is a big difference between a cheap and cheap-ish product. The first one does not look cheap and costs for example 10€ and does the job while it is beautiful and the second one may cost 3€ and looks terrible and is unusable from shave 1 of we are talking about a brush.

    Also, a Tuxedo knot will always be a Tuxedo knot made in China. So why would I get a brush with such a knot in a handle that costs 300€ made from a great respect artisan? I would definitely choose the mass produced one, becausw the knot touchea my face not the handle. I have no exhibition or a gallery to expose my handles, so I don’t care if someone find them unattractive or/and ugly.

    So, in conclusion, I have ended up with 12 synthetics, the most expensive being the Fine Stout 24mm (35€ in Greece). I don’t regret buying it, but it doesn’t offer me a better lather experience than my Razorock Plissoft Bruce 24mm (13€).

    I always checking for discounts on Aliexpress, so for less than 10 € I could bring to Greece a great tool to add in my collection, having in mind that all the 20 brushes that I have hardly reach the price of a Paladin.

    Sorry for the long post, I really liked your article and felt the need to comment.

    Stay safe
    George from Greece

    1. Interesting that you fid that silvertip badger brushes lack backbone/resilience. That has not been my experience at all, though certainly some silvertip brushes are quite gentle — I point out a few in my post on my brush collection. To some extent the degree of resilience depends on loft and knot density, so that given the same bristles a lightly packed knot with a long loft being gentler on the face (less resilience/resistance/backbone) than the same bristles tightly packed with short loft.

      From your comment “they will lose their shape once pressed harder on the face and even though they feel luxurious, they will still sting my face like needles,” it sounds as though you are simply pressing the brush too hard against your face. If you use a lighter pressure, the knot will maintain its shape better, and no great pressure is required to work up lather and spread it over the stubble. That might also reduce or eliminate the stinging (though not if it’s due to an allergic skin reaction).

      Loading time for me, even with the softest knots, runs about 10 seconds. It’s a matter of using a damp brush and some pressure (not enough to squash the knot) and brushing briskly.

      Your mention of the aesthetic appeal of some shaving equipment (brushes, straight razors, and even some safety razors) is worth noting. Aesthetic appeal certainly has financial value for many (cf. fashion, automobiles, art, etc.), but the weight of aesthetic considerations vary a lot from person to person — and of course even more variable is individual judgment on what is beautiful, beauty being a characteristic proverbially found in the beholder’s eye and not in the object viewed. All will agree on an objective description of the object (dimensions, color, material, etc.) but may disagree strongly on whether they find it beautiful. (Note: not on whether it “is” beautiful — “beauty” is the observer’s (individual) judgment and does not reside in the object.)

      Here’s an interesting difference in what we like: I tried both the Fine Stout and the Fine Classic. The Stout was just too stiff for my taste and did not feel good on my face. The Classic has a fluffy knot and is very gentle on my face and I like it a lot. (It is among the most gentle of the brushes I own.

      Thank you for your comment.

  3. Too true. Too many mindlessly fall prey to that old saw, “You get what you pay for”. All that means is that you were too lazy to look into the matter and just assumed that a $200. brush is ipso facto superior to a less expensive one. Your examples of watches is right on point. A digital quartz watch for $20. is always much more accurate than a “classic” Rolex or Patek Phillipe in the tens of thousands. I just want to know the time, not walk around with a price tag dangling from my wrist.
    I’ve tried badger, boar, horsehair and synthetics, granted not the real high end ones, and I prefer the boar, especially if I’m using a firmer soap. For creams I can do with a badger. I guess with time the synthetics may improve, something no other material can say, if they could talk.

    1. Some of the fine watches, it should be noted, are appreciated for the craftsmanship, design, ingenuity, and tradition, with the high price being simply a by-product of those, not the goal. For the same reason, some people much prefer finely crafted furniture (e.g., Thos. Moser furniture, or furniture handcrafted by an artisan) to (say) Ikea, though Ikea will certainly do the job.

      Don’t overlook that the value of a dollar is quite low for those who have a lot of them: what seems very expensive to us is negligible to a person who has a few billion dollars. Such a person might buy an expensive well-made watch for aesthetic reasons and consider it a bargain. Different strokes for different folks.

      I have not found any problem loading a brush and getting a good lather from the hardest of soaps even when using the softest of brushes. (I admit that my tap water is soft.) In this video I am loading a totally dried out puck of Mitchell’s Wool Far with one of the early “good” synthetics, an Omega S-Brush.

  4. This is a fine and interesting discussion that responds to the original question. But it does not address the performance of badger knots versus the performance of synthetic knots. That to me is a far more interesting discussion. My own view, having started on badger hair then moving on to synthetics and boar bristles, is that badger hair just has insufficient backbone. It’s quite soft, sure, but it splays way too easily and you end trying to spread lather on your face with a flattened knot with the lather already migrated to the other side or up onto the handle. It’s like trying to shave with a watercolor brush. SHDs help this problem but, to the reader’s point, you can buy a $25 Fine, Razorock, or PAA brush—I don’t like Yaqi for reasons beyond the scope of this discussion—that is soft and will actually put a good lather on your face without having to chase it around. And if you want pedigree, the Simpson Trafalgar line is a high quality synthetic brush at this same price point. Given that, here’s the question: is there some *performance* related reason people might prefer badger haired brushes?

    1. If you want backbone try a Shavemac D01 two-band knot. I have found that all of the Shavemac knots as well as my Paladin brushes have sufficient backbone to load soap, make lather, and yet feel soft on your face.

      Like synthetics, there is a vast difference in badger brushes. Some, such as was made by Kent, are very soft and some say floppy. Others, such as the D01 two band have a lot of backbone – too much for some. However, I have found the same thing with synthetic knots. My Omega Hi has plenty of backbone. However, the Plisson Cade, H.I.S., etc. lack any backbone and feel floppy to me.

      It may be the badger brushes I have but none of them have any problems releasing lather. In fact, the only brushes I have that result in lather dripping down to the handle are with Plisson knots and brushes made by AP Shaving and Frank Shaving. It may be because of how I lather, however. I do not press down on the brush so splaying is not a problem for me with any of the type of brushes I use. One observation: when I lather with any of my badger brushes I never have an issue with lather flying off the brush and getting on my mirror. However, some of my synthetics seem to have a certain amount of spring to them so that the lather hits the mirror in spots.

      I am not sure how you “measure” performance. For me, I pick my favorites based on two factors: (1) how they make lather, and (2) how it feels on my face.

      1. I would say that if you find lather dripping down the handle, you have not shaken the brush sufficiently before loading and/or have added too much water as you loaded the brush. Try shaking a synthetic knot three or four times over the sink to remove as much water as possible. As I note in the article, synthetic knots tend to retain a lot of water, which can flood the puck during loading or (as you describe) loosen the lather in the loaded brush so that it becomes runny. The issue in this case is the amount of water in the lather, not the substance of the knot — too much water in a badger knot could cause the same problem, but badger knots don’t seem to hold excess water the way synthetic knots do.

        I have noticed that excess of springiness that you describe. The Kent Infinity tends that way a little, though I just adjust my technique to accommodate it and it turns out to be a fine little brush. The Omega Hi-Brush had rather more resilience than I liked, and that’s one I passed along, though now I wonder whether I could adjust my technique to accommodate it. However, on the whole I prefer gentler brushes.

    2. I don’t think one can generalize on performance of badger knots vs. synthetic knots, since one can find a lot of variation in performance among badger brushes as well as among synthetic-knot brushes (and among boar brushes and horsehair brushes as well, for that matter, along with variation among combinations: boar+badger, boar+horsehair, badger+horsehair — I’ve tried brushes in each of those combinatios).

      Backbone — resilience — varies from little resilience (brushes I call “gentle”) to highly resilient (“scrubby”). In my experience, they all perform quite well once gains some practice with them and if the water is soft. Hard water is the enemy of lather, and in hard water perhaps a highly resilient brush might be helpful.

      If you find that the knot is flattened against your face, you are using too much pressure. Lighten up and the knot will regain it’s shape and you will find it easy to move the lather around.

      In terms of feel on the face, personal preference naturally comes into play. Some men like a strongly resilient brush, some prefer a gentler brush, and some (myself, for example) like variety and learning how to get the best from each brush. And even with my gentlest brushes I’ve had no problem with the soaps I use (again, a good variety): they all load easily and quickly, and working the lather up and into my stubble (I’m a face latherer) is a piece oof cake. (I do have soft water.)

      I can’t think of any performance-related reason one would prefer a badger brush provided he has good brush technique that he accommodates to the character of the brush (and soap) he’s using. In loading a soap I begin with a damp brush, and particularly for soaps that contain clay, I may find it helpful to add a small amount of water during the loading. But in terms of loading the brush and generating a good lather and spreading about, all types perform well if one pays attention and gets some practice. (For example, smashing the knot against one’s face is not, as you point out, going to work very well, so one learns not to do that.)

      Where the brushes differ is in feel (and in appearance, of course, but leave that aside, though aesthetics are important to some). From gentle to firm, from smooth to grainy, brushes can vary a lot. Some will like a particular feel, some will like variety.

  5. The intolerance of some DE shavers always amazes me. Some individuals think that since a product works better for them, anybody who finds a different result must not know what he or she is doing.

    I have 40 brushes that I have acquired and use. I have 20 badger brushes that have ranged in price from $5 (I bought that one 30 years ago in a pharmacy) up to $250 for a brush made by Paladin Shaving. I have 10 boar brushes and 10 synthetics including those made by Yaqi, Plisson, Maggards, AP Shaving, Shavemac, and Muhle).

    I, for one, prefer badger brushes. The reason is not that I am a snob – it is because, for me, they perform and feel better. I can make great lather with all of my badger brushes and, for me, the Paladins Shavemac, Simpsons, etc. all perform flawlessly. The synthetics are OK and I have two synthetics that I use in my travel kit. However, they don’t match the performance and feel of my badger brushes. I will agree that synthetics have improved significantly from when they were introduced years ago. My first two synthetics, a Parker and H.I.S, were horrible. I was not impressed with the Plisson Cade synthetic since it felt like a wet mop on my face.

    Perhaps it is because I have been a traditional shaver for a long time that I never have a problem with badger brushes making great lather. It is possible that synthetics work better for those who are starting out and if that is the case, they should go for it.

    1. I don’t really see any intolerance at play here, except perhaps an intolerance for questions. My reader asked what seemed to me a straightforward and reasonable question, and I did my best to answer it.

      My own brush collection current comprises 55 brushes, and over the years I have had and sold or given away at least a couple score of brushes. These are the ones remaining.

      I don’t have a real preference as to material, only as to feel and performance, and even with respect to feel I enjoy variety: the grainy feel of the Plisson European Gray, the gentle feel of the Fine Classic or the G.B. Kent BK4, the gentle but resilient springness of the Omega Pro 48 and 20402, the velvety feel of the Rooney Victorian and Emilion. For me, variety is the spice of life.

      Of course you’re not a snob. I don’t think anyone would say you are. You just, like all of us, have some personal preferences.

      I’ve never tried applying a wet mop to my face, so I’ll just take your word for it. I have several brushes with the kind of knot name Plissoft or Angel Hair and I rather like them. They are at the other extreme from the European Gray, with other brushes in between, the horsehair toward the grainy end and the hooked-tip badgers toward the velvety end.

      I have experience some rare problems with some soaps in using a badger knot. Barrister & Mann specifically recommend using a synthetic knot with their Reserve shaving soap, and that did make a noticeable difference. As I mentioned, I (and others) have found l’Occitane Cade strangely resistant to lathering with a badger knot, so I’m ager now to get a puck and try it with a synthetic.

      I’ve also been a traditional shaver for a long time — indeed, I started long ago but took a break for a few decades when I wore a beard. But since then I have very much enjoyed my daily shave.

      Thanks for commenting. And I share your distaste for intolerance.

Comments are closed.