Essay #7: The Anatomy of The Simpson's Shaving Brush
About This Essay
Several years ago Charles A. Roberts, creator of the Hydrolast brand and Method Shaving movement, authored a series of essays that ignited a surge of interest in wet shaving. These essays offered an innovative approach to maximizing the results of the razor and shaving brush, and provided many men a great introduction to a world of luxury shaving they never knew existed. The Original "Shaving Graces" Resurrected!
Indeed, if one simply looks around the world today, the truth of Juran’s perspective is readily apparent—albeit in isolated instances. Nearly all of our favorite products, everything of real value that we use—and use up—in everyday life, are inevitably perfect for their intended use. A bar of soap for instance should not only clean our bodies. It should also do something to revive our spirits as well. Food should not only nourish us; it should offer our palates a pleasing experience. A car should not just convey a body; it should create a pleasurable driving experience.
Much the same can be said for a myriad of other objects and their wider relation to everyday life. Certainly in this context we can readily conclude that man is not only a tool-making animal. He is invariably a tool-perfecting creature as well. And when the perfect tool—one that is eminently “fit for use”—is not readily available at hand, man will invariably find some means to invent it.
It is probably uneventful to remark that every man has his favorite tool for getting certain jobs done. Some cherish hammers, anvils, screwdrivers, laptop computers and so on. Other men believe that fast cars, boats, and airplanes are also singularly worthy creations. I, however, happen to believe that the Simpsons shaving brush ranks among the finest artifacts of human ingenuity ever created. It is, in every distinct respect, an object conceived for the most exacting “fitness for use” possible.
The Simpsons shaving brush company is located in a small shire in Somerset, England. The company has been in continuous existence since 1875. Indeed, its continuity over the decades has been so unperturbed, that several of its employees have successfully passed their entire working lives within the company’s environs. There they have quietly worked producing the world’s greatest shaving brushes one piece at a time. Indeed, this amazing fact was recently brought to my attention with astonishing clarity. Recently I was honored to have breakfast with the owner of Simpsons, Mr. David Carter. While discussing the myriad marvels of Simpson’s brushes, he remarked that one of his most gifted brush makers had recently passed away at the age of 97. He had made shaving brushes for over sixty years.
A man who has never shaved with a Simpsons brush is a man who has walked the earth in partial stupefaction. It is even possible to describe him as an “idiot.” By this expression I do not mean the modern scurrilous definition of someone who is insufferably stupid. But rather the ancient Greek rendering of the term: a man without a home, a lost soul, if you will; a man who is without the grace of great things to betide him through the difficult times of life. A man who has never shaved with a Simpsons brush is a man forever encased in a frigid block of insensibility. He is compelled by little else but the impulse to get and get by. He is the living shade of sadness in our midst, walking the earth in mute gravitas like Priam’s ghost.
At first glance, the Simpsons brush looks much like any other produced in the world today ( this view, however, applies only to the pure badger range of brushes. The best and silver tip ranges are astonishing to behold). Just like every other shaving brush, it consists of essentially two parts—brush and handle. However, the similarities with any other shaving brush terminate with this superficial relation. For unlike other shaving brushes, every Simpsons is totally handmade. This fact instantly separates the intrinsic qualities of Simpsons brushes from every other available for possible consideration.
Indeed, it is this unique process of handmade manufacture—a painstaking process that has been performed continuously for over 125 years—that distinguishes the Simpsons brush as the ultimate shaving instrument. For unlike a machine made shaving brush, Simpsons is constructed in one joint fusion of brush and handle. In other words, the two chief elements of the brush—brush head and handle—are constructed together in one seamless unity. It is this distinctive method of construction that gives the Simpsons brush its unchallenged status as the high flex masterpiece of shaving in the world today.
This incredibly difficult process of producing each Simpson brush as one unified piece is the distinctive trademark of Simpsons brushes. Indeed, it is only by knotting each brush by hand that the perfect degree of flexion can be achieved. It is this flexion that moves water through the brush itself. It is also this flex action that infuses water into the shaving cream. Without sufficient water, even the best shaving cream is useless.
This process results in the full, rapid infusion of shaving cream with water. In this way, the shave cream is neither over hydrated, nor is it dried prematurely through too much brush action. Clear evidence of this remarkable fact can be seen in the amount of time that is required to load and release shaving cream through the Simpson brush. An entire load of shaving cream can be packed, fully infused and released onto a man’s beard in less time than it takes to change a razor blade: incredible!
To best understand the amazing quality advantage of the Simpsons shaving brush, it is important to briefly discuss the difference between handmade and mass-produced shaving brushes. By looking closely at the very different processes by which both of these brushes are produced, we can better judge the impressive intrinsic virtues of Simpsons brushes in the appropriate and most compelling manner possible.
Nearly every shaving brush made in the world today is the product of the mass production process. And like most such procedures, this method yields a shaving brush that is suited to the very lowest denomination of user. The industry describes this wretch as the “average brush shaver.” Amazingly, I have never seen such a creature in over ten years of teaching wet shaving to thousands of individuals. Thus, I will simply refer to the “average shaver” as the man least likely to get a decent shave from the mass produced shaving brush that he happened to purchase from the “average” salesman who knows nothing about shaving. In short, any man who purchases a mass produced shaving brush is not a real wet shaver. He is merely a dabbler in his own facial hair. Only a man equipped with a Simpsons brush can, I feel, be rightfully called a wet shaver.
The manufacture of mass produced brushes is commonly done in two different steps. First, large volumes of badger hair are unpacked, washed and sterilized in high speed autoclaves using intense steam pressure. This process is usually repeated for three cycles. Once cleaned the hair is then sorted into various grades of quality.
Next, the hair is cut to specified lengths (usually too short, in my opinion) based on the size of brush handle to be used later. Shaving brush handles are typically produced through ejection molding. This results in a high degree of manufactured uniformity, but very low functional standard. Both badger hair and shaving brush handle are then married with a glue gun, packed. These are then shipped for later use by poor blokes who know nothing of the glories of perfect-cut shaving. And most, sadly, will never have the chance to experience them.
I must admit at this point, that despite my knowledge on the manufacture of mass market shaving brushes, I actually know very little about the specifics of how the Simpsons shaving brush is actually made. This fact affords a curious irony in the strange ways that personal expertise is often acquired.
For instance, I am the one who invented the concept of the “full” and the “half release” technique for a shaving brush. Yet I can not explain exactly why this technique only works correctly on a Simpsons brush and no other. I am also the one who has made the most noise about the supreme importance of “flex” in the head of a shaving brush. Yet I can not explain in any compelling detail why the flex of a Simpsons brush is so vastly superior to that of any other shaving brush made in the world today. And, finally, I am fascinated by the fact that my own Simpson’s brush has seen more than half a decade of daily use, Yet it continues to keep its precise shape, even though it is dried every day without a drip stand.
How, indeed, is such manifest excellence in a man made product even conceivable in this dull, technologically manacled age in which we live? The answer is simple: the Simpsons brush is supremely perfect for shaving because it is created exclusively to amply satisfy the most discerning and demanding shaving customers on the planet---mine!
In much the same way that the riddle of the Sphinx or the mysteries of the catacombs continue to transfix the minds of men, I continue to be amazed by the marvelous—and even—miraculous quality of the Simpsons shaving brush. And, indeed, I am not alone. Many thoughtful men who are my customers have also expressed an equally profound admiration for their favorite brush.
I sincerely hope that this brief consideration of the many virtues of my favorite shaving brushes has been suitably informative.