Badger hair has been widely considered the ideal material for a shaving brush because of its natural water absorbing capability which allows it to absorb hot water and then infuse it into a shaving soap or cream. Recently, however, this paradigm has been shattered by shaving brushes that offer impressive results with other types of hair. Some brushes with horse or boar hair are receiving a lot of praise on the market – and it is easy to see why. This article takes a closer look at the Semogue Excelsior 1520, an impressive little shaving brush with quality boar bristles.
Semogue brushes are handmade in Portugal by a family-run business that has gained a very loyal following among traditional wetshavers. While several popular brush manufacturers produce low-cost boar brushes set in basic light weight plastic handles, Semogue offers a range of brushes that are not only cost effective, but are also much more visually appealing. The model 1520 brush features a densely filled 21mm knot with a very nicely painted black and white wooden handle decorated with the red Excelsior decal (the original brand of the company dating back to 1955) and Portuguese grading “Cerda Pura” meaning “Pure Bristle.”
The bristles of the 1520 are colorized with a very nice three-banded pattern that mimics the look of a badger hair brush. The coloring is very uniform and looks more natural than some low quality boar bristle brushes that I have seen in the past. At the base of the knot is a silver metal band which Semogue uses on their brushes to maintain the shape of the brush loft as well as provide a stiffer backbone and prevent the brush from splaying out excessively. In addition to its function to maintain the look and feel of the brush loft, it also gives the brush an overall classy appearance.
As a longtime user of badger shaving brushes, the first thing that I immediately noticed about the 1520 is how stiff the hair feels. Boar hair is very rigid and has more of a scratchy feeling at the tips, unlike the soft and luxurious feel of quality badger hair. Without ever using one, many would immediately assume the brush would be far too rough on your face to be comfortable during shaving. After soaking the brush for several minutes in hot water to prepare for lathering, the bristles soften significantly and are much more flexible. While boar bristle, by nature, does not have the water absorbing capability that badger hair has, the dense knot of the Semogue 1520 holds more than enough water than is needing for adequately creating a lather. After several uses, the tips of the bristles start to split, which is normal for boar hair, giving the canopy of the brush loft a fuller appearance and softer feel against the skin.
The Semogue 1520 is perfectly capable of creating lather using any quality shaving cream; however, shaving soaps is where the performance of the brush truly excels. I used the brush with several popular soaps, and it was immediately evident why boar bristle brushes have such a loyal following among shaving soap users. The extra backbone of the brush combined with the more rigid tips of the boar bristles do an outstanding job of agitating the surface of a shaving soap and creating a very rich and creamy lather in a matter of seconds. Even soaps that are notorious for being difficult to lather, such as Mitchell’s Wool Fat, produce a copious amount of creamy and hydrated lather with relative ease with this brush.
The bristles of the 1520 also do a great job of gently scrubbing and exfoliating the face during lathering, which lifts the beard stubble very well and coats the face with a uniform layer of soap. The only negative to its performance with lathering is that the brush does not tend to load with as much soap as my badger brushes so it is sometimes necessary to re-lather on the soap puck for a few seconds to get the amount needed for my third pass or any areas of the face that require touchup at the end of my shaves.
The performance of the Semogue 1520 has proven that boar brushes are no longer cheap alternatives, but are real players on the shaving brush stage. The aesthetics and design along with the high-quality bristles and craftsmanship make this brush worthy of attention. Budget-conscious wetshavers will appreciate that the Semogue Excelsior 1520 is available from Fendrihan for only $23.50, which is a bargain for a quality shaving brush. This little boar brush has been an outstanding addition to my regular shaving rotation and I am looking forward to trying more brushes from the Semogue range in the future.