Our culture has been in a constant pursuit to make the products of yesteryear more effective and efficient. No truer example illustrates this than that of the men’s razor. While razors started with simplistic designs, they have evolved into a product of endless blades, impressive designs, and now have just about any feature one can think of. They vibrate. They have blades for trimming and shaving. They are interchangeable or disposable.

While some men love these newer adaptations, many reject this idea and believe the purest, closest shave can only delivered from the single bladed, straight razor.

As there’s an increasing trend the past few years to reverting back to traditional shaving, we thought that it’s about time to prepare a guide for you with the oldest and closest method of shaving. And that of shaving with a straight razor.

Upon researching and testing, we found some of the best straight razors on the market (both shavettes and cut-throat razors), perfect for both beginners and experienced wet shavers.

Before we get started with the article, we’d like to mention our top 3 favorite straight razors. One for the best quality and performance, one great value for money and the cheapest straight razor that delivers good performance if you’re tight on budget. More specifically, we recommend the A.P. Donovan ⅞ Straight Razor with Mahogany Handle (strop and wax included) for a high quality option, Feather Artist Club SS Scotch Wood Folding Razor for a quality replaceable blade straight razor with excellent value for money, and for a cheap option try the Parker Safety Razor Shavette with Stainless Steel Arm and Blade. The shavette from Parker Safety Razor is more suited to beginners to see if straight razor shaving is for them.

History of the Straight Razor

Before looking at the first straight razor, one must understand that the process of removing undesired facial and body hair has been around since the dawn of man.

While many of us imagine that the first of our ancestors were layered with thick, unkempt hair to survive the brutal cold, this is not necessarily the case.

Facial hair was actually a determinant back then. Once hair was wet, it often trapped the water against skin and when it froze it accelerated frostbite. As a result, most humans began to pull their hair out using things like seashells as a primitive tweezer. Over the years, they realized this was a rather unpleasant experience and began to shave using sharp objects they could find or create like shards of shells.

Even later in the course of human history, they began to make creams that were customized to aid the removal of hair.

By the fourth century, cleanliness was placed a high importance on in places like Egypt and they bathed multiple times a day and sought to remove all their hair. This may seem extreme but there’s good reason behind this.

Egypt is really hot and hair is really uncomfortable. Additionally, things could make their home in the hair like lice and they didn’t have a way to treat them. As a result, going bald was more comfortable and safer. In order to remove all their hair, Egyptians regularly applied depilatory creams and would run the skin constantly with a pumice stone so that all hair and even stubble was completely removed.

Around this time, there have been some discoveries of crude bronze razors but these were relatively rare.

We know that facial hair was frowned upon because writings tell us that it was a sign of personal neglect at this time.

A writer describes facial hair back then to be viewed the same as wearing the same clothing to work for a week. If you could afford to shave, you did. As a result, people began to hire barbers to come to their house and shave them.

The early barbers were well thought of in society and often viewed along the same line as a doctor. Many of you maybe thinking that you have seen pictures of Pharaoh with a beard, this is true but the beards and hair of this day were almost always fake among high parts of society so they could be removed and cleaned.

While seeing how the Egyptians were rigid with their shaving, other influential parts of the the world followed their lead.

In Greece and Rome, per the request of Alexander the Great, men shaved off their hair and beards so that their opponents had nothing to grab during hand to hand combat. As this initially served a tactical advantage, it soon became the societal norm and razors began to been made and straightened similar to the straight blade of today. These razors started in bronze and because of it dulling so quickly, copper and iron soon became the norm.

By the Middle Ages, shaving took a slight dip in its popularity but was still done. After the Catholic church severed its ties with the Eastern Orthodox church in 1054, the western church leaders told their clergy to shave so that they did not look like their Jewish and Muslim counterparts. By 1096, the Archbishop of Rouen banned beards in a canonical law.

In the late 18th century razors became even sharper metal but still had the stigma of being only for professional barbers. This was the case until a French inventor, Jean Jacques Perret, decided this was a rather trivial practice. He didn’t understand why men couldn’t shave themselves at their own leisure. As a result, it invented the world’s first straight, safety razor. He did this by placing a wooden guard onto the, then, crude straightish razor.

Shortly after in the early 19th century, the modern straight razor most of us know today was invented. This had a rotating guard that gave a place to safely hold the blade. In 1880, two brothers, Kampfe brothers, patented and sold the first safety razor.

Why choose a straight razor?

Razors have a long tradition among men and while many look for the next best thing, others reject this idea and gravitate back to the traditional razors of our shaving roots. The yearn for the old ways things are done and miss the days of shaving gels, warm lather, and the classic straight razor.

While some think this mentality is counterproductive, some men like to shave with the care of their grandfathers.

Shaving with a straight razor is a great shaving experience. While this is a big selling point, the other big reason is that a straight razor, when done correctly, produces a closer shave and when proper techniques are taken it will produce skin that is healthier and less irritated than other razors.

Still, beginning to practice straight razor shaving in one’s routine, while enticing, can be extremely intimidating. This is because men don’t realize that there is an introductory razor that helps one master the art of straight razor shaving and then can be traded up to a more advanced model.

Understand, still, this razor has a much higher learning curve than any other razor.

How to choose the best straight razor for your needs and expertise?

  • Look for a 5/8 inch blade to start. This is a comfortable size to learn on and is middle of the road length wise so it is easy to handle and helps one to determine if they would like a smaller or larger blade in the future.
  • Make sure the blade claims that it is “Shave Ready.” When beginning to shave they, usually, do not have the ability to sharpen a blade correctly and this ensures that the blade has been properly handled and will not cause problems.
  • Look for a rounded edge blade. Some will evolve to a square edge or a french edge but this is, without question, the best blade for a beginner.
  • Buy an affordable razor. Men often change their razors based on preference and you don’t want to spend so much that you can not get a razor better suited for your personal needs.

When getting into shaving with a straight razor never forget that proper technique is a learned skill, and the more frequently it is done the more one’s ability progresses.

After getting extremely comfortable with the basics, one can move into using more sophisticated blades. If you start with a complex blade, it is extremely hard to get comfortable with and has a much longer learning curve.

Beginning with a Straight Razor

First and foremost, the use of a straight razor is a skill for those who take great pride in grooming. Such men usually apply traditional type of shaving creams and lotions to their face. They, almost, always use a pre-shave oil for a smooth and close shave and a post-shave balm or cream for moisturizing the face after shaving.

The bathroom of a man interested in straight razoring often has strops and shaving bowls. They often have high quality shaving brushes and take great pride in showing off their straight and safety razors.

If this is not the kind of guy you are or would like to be, going the straight razor route wouldn’t be that appealing.

These razors take time and attention to ensure they are working at their proper level (they can become dull and require constant sharpening). This idea is future with the different types of blades. While they can be different sizes, they can, also, come in soft, medium, or hard temper.

Many experienced shavers have their own personal preference because these come with positives and negatives. For example, a hard tempered razor is build to keep a sharp edge much longer but can be difficult to sharpen if it becomes dull. Soft tempered razors are the exact opposite, they dull easily but can be sharpened with little effort.

Here is our recommendation for most men:

  • Look for a straight razor with a good balance. Blades should have an equal weight distribution between the handle and the blade. When these two feel equal, it is easier to shave with and prevents cuts with a consistent swipe of the blade.
  • If a novice or a man that wants to keep a cleaner shaven face, look for a blade that has a “concave grind.” Blades come in a wedge grind and a concave grind. Concave is nice because it allows one to feel the tug of the beard with each stroke. Wedge grind blades are designed for those who sport thick blades sporadically but they can be really hard to sharpen. For this reason, concave grind blades are best suited for most men.
  • As stated above, look for a blade that is referred to as “shave ready.” Once the user gets really comfortable with sharpening they can drop this recommendation but most buy razors with this label their entire life because it is the easiest was to ensure the blade is functioning like it should.
  • Make sure if the blade has any imperfections, it is sent back or returned. The smallest of nicks can drastically impair the shaving effectiveness and enjoyment.

How to shave with a straight razor

How to shave with a straight razor

Image courtesy: 279photo/BigStock.com 

  • Strop the edge of the the blade. The term stropping means to take the leather for sharpening the blade and stretch it out with the white linen side up. Then, carefully, move the blade from one tip to the other ten times on each side. This should be done in a manner that allows it to coincide with the blades natural angle. After this is done, flip the leather over so that the leather side is up. Stroke the blade in the opposite direction that it was just done with the linen side and do it for 50-60 times. This will all the dents or nicks to be removed and the blade will be perfectly sharp.
  • Before shaving it is always recommended to take a shower. This will open of the pores so that facial hair can be cut down even closer to the skin.
  • Many men opt for the brush and cream that most grandfathers used instead of shaving cream. If the desire is to make the shaving process a true experience, this is recommended. When doing this, soak the brush in hot water. After it has soaked for a while, remove the brush and let it drip off then place it in the shave cream. Spin the brush around until a good lather forms. Then, simply, apply the lather to the face by moving the brush in a side-to-side motion.
  • Grab the face and stretch out the skin when using a straight razor. The goal is to try to cut any facial hair at around a 20 degree angle. Don’t ever try to cut facial hair straight on at a 90 degree angle. This can really hurt and deeply cut.
  • After removing excess facial hair, cut from the neck to the cheek line at a 45 degree angle using one long pass then multiple short passes no longer than a couple inches. Try to shave the way the hair grows. After thinking the face has a good shave, re lather and shave the face sideways to ensure the face is completely smooth.

The best straight razors reviewed

Classic Samurai CS-102 Straight Razor

Classic Samurai CS-102 Matte Black Folding Straight Razor, Shavette

This product comes with several color options from black to silver varieties. A straight razor that comes in at a very low price less that could work well as beginner’s shavette. It is made from surgical grade stainless steel with a nice matte black finish. It is intended for personal use or those that could use it professionally. It’s got good balance and comfortable grip. Also, the blades change fairly easily and works as intended.

The particular straight razor comes with 100 single edge derby blades that are wrapped individually for quality. In fact, derby are pretty good blades, not the best you can get but at least above average. These will give you a few hundreds of shaves.

It comes with a nice little plastic pouch so that it can be taken with the user. It weighs 3.2 ounces.

As this a shavette with switchable double edge safety razor blades, many notice that after a few changes the razor doesn’t hold the blades in place securely

Overall, it’s a decent straight razor / shavette but this would be recommended only to those starting out with shaving with such razor.

Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor

Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor

A stylish cutthroat straight razor that is made to stand up to just about everything. The body is made from stainless steel so that it can stand up to heat and rust. It has a smooth rounded shaving head for lots of blade exposure for a nice, soft shave. The handle is really comfortable with a silicon resin. The blade head is spring mounted and can be removed with one touch so that it can be quickly and easily cleaned. All that has to be done is to pinch the razor head and the blade just drops out.

This product has a nice design and the shave is very good although we got the impression that the blade performs as if it’s dull. Pricewise it’s very affordable for a Japanese straight razor. In fact you can’t get the value for price is very good considering that Feather is one of the most well known and reliable manufacturers of safety and straight razors.

The grip is very good and it balances well in your hands. If you shaved with a regular straight razor before you might find it a bit uncomfortable during the first few shaves as you completely change the way you hold it against your face. It weighs around 3.2 ounces and will shave but not as closely as other safety razors but it certainly feels pretty close.

Dovo Straight Razor Carbon, Ebony Wood Handle

Dovo Straight Razor Carbon

A beautiful razor that is well crafted but for experienced shavers they would not consider this blade shave ready. Dovo was founded in 1906 and has been making straight razors since. The name Dovo comes from the founders of the company, Mr. Dorp and Mr. Voos. It’s made in Germany and they have long been trusted for their steelwork. If you’re familiar with safety razors, you might also know that Dovo is the company behind Merkur safety razors which are among the most trusted and popular DE razors available on the market.

It is a ⅝ razor that is made with care. This blade does need a careful strop so that the carbon blade stays free of nicks and tears and requires some regular cleaning. This is of course something that you’re supposed to do with any good straight razor that you want to buy.

The particular razor comes in a decent price for such quality product and rest assured that it’s built to last. It is 6 ¼” when closed and comes with a beautiful black ebony wood handle. It looks nice as it comes in a blue metal storage tin. It is lightweight at 2.1 ounces.

While this product has a price on the high end if you had no prior experience with this type of razors it is a really good product for the beginner and the more experienced. From our research we saw that many users have been using this same razor from their first experience with a straight razor and still use it. It may not be our first straight razor purchase of choice but it won’t disappoint anyone going this direction.

Dovo Full Hollow Carbon Steel ⅝ Straight Razor

Dovo Full Hollow Carbon Steel Straight Razor

Another product from the trusted company, Dovo. This product comes with the options of a black handle or a blond handle. This straight razor has a ⅝ full hollow ground blade made of high carbon steel and a black plastic handle. These razors are a throwback to the razors of the past. To future validate this, the machinery these use to make these blades is no longer made so they make these products the “old way.”

Since the demand for these razors is high and it takes time to produce them, these razors are hard to come by. They are fairly priced compared to similar quality razor and if we judge from what existing users say, they’re satisfied with the performance and quality long after they purchase it. This is a really good option for the beginner and we think that most advanced shavers would be more than happy. It handles well at its 2.4 ounce weight and is hard to find a full hollow blade at this price. The blade does not hold up unless it is constantly given attention. Still, it is a good option for someone looking to upgrade from a shavette.

Dovo Silver Shavette Satin Finish Straight Razor

Dovo Silver Shavette Satin Finish Straight Razor

This is a cheaper shavette from the German company, DOVO. It is cheap and weighs less that an ounce. It has an aluminum blade carrier that the holder fits in. The holder can hold all standard double edge blades and can be bought in silver, black, or red.

A shavette that is really hard to figure out. Many people take a long time to figure out how to get blades to fit and open it up. The picture of this razor may look nice and the truth is that it’s actually a very good shavette considering the price. The blades that come with it feel flimsy and we would recommend against them. Go ahead with persona, derby or feather blades to actually appreciate the shave this razor give you. If the desire is to get into straight razor shaving, this could be a good starting point. I’ve seen many barbers shaving with this razor which means that it can be pretty reliable even with heavy use.

Untold Goods Straight Razor with Stainless Steel Blade and Mahogany Wood Handle

Straight Razor with Mahogany Wood Handle by Sawtooth Shave

A nice looking razor that can be bought at a competitive price compared to others in this guide and if you want to include a strope in the box, it will set you back only a few dollars more. The company that made the blade is called Sawtooth Shave Company. It was established in 2015 in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. The company was inspired by loggers and they want to make the best shave products possible.

This razor works well for the first time shaver or the semi-experienced shaver. It has a ⅞ stainless steel hollow ground blade that is a good size to give a close shave. It has a hardness of 59-61 so it holds an edge better than softer steels but still sharpens well. It sharpens pretty easily and is built to last. The handle is beautiful as it is made from real mahogany. It is a little heavier than others at 4 ounces but you can feel the quality and the good balance helps with holding it.

Some wet shavers like this razor but others think it still doesn’t sharpen enough. At the same time, some other users claim the blade feels cheap. While the handle and appearance are nice, the blade could use some extra work but again, at this price point, it’s a good deal. If you are looking for the very best straight razor, this might not be for you. It is a good product but we are somewhat cautious of its ability to last because of the blade.

A.P. Donovan ⅞ Straight Razor with Mahogany Handle

A.P. Donovan cutthroat straight razor

This is a beautiful blade that comes with a strop and wax so that it can be handled with great care. It comes with an excellent price -not to be mistaken with cheap, considering the quality of both handle and blade as well the excellent performance.

From the box to the case to the strop and razor it says quality. It is handmade and has a blade made from Japanese steel. It has a hardness rating around 64 which gives it a good hybrid of holding its edge and still being able to be sharpened.

The handle is from Madagascar mahogany and it looks great. It has a beautiful dark, reddish brown color and is hard so it will last. Just as with all A.P. Donovan razors it comes in a nice case made from real wood.

The blade has nice carvings and looks like something you will want to show off. The strop is made from high-quality Kazakh cow’s leather with robust linen fabric on the other side. It has metal rinks so that it can be attached to a wall hook and easily held with the other hand. It is 2.8 ounces and feels nice in the hand. This product is well crafted and most shavers will be more than satisfied with the product. Some people think it is a little over priced but A.P. Donovan expects this to be a product that last for years and years and maybe give it to your grandchildren.

Feather SS Folding Handle RazorFeather SS Folding Handle Razor

A product with some interesting color options. It comes with the standard black but also has the options of lime and wine.

This razor is called the ultimate replaceable blade. It has a stainless steel body and a nicely engineered resin handle that grips really well. It is a really high quality straight razor for one with replaceable blades.

Although it does not come with extra blades and they will have to be purchased additionally, it is a pretty good option for the shaver who is a complete novice with a straight razor but will leave a lot to be desired to the seasoned vet.

The replaceable blade feature is nice and it does hold the blade in place well. It is a good razor if you are looking for one that shaves like a straight razor but has, virtually, no up keep. This may be for you but will not be loved by straight razor purest.

Feather Artist Club SS Scotch Wood Folding Razor

FEATHER Artist Club SS Scotch Wood Folding Straight Razor

These replacement blade straight razors are built to be long lasting and feel like a true straight razor. This product is made to feel like the perfect straight razor. It looks a lot similar to the previously reviewed straight razor by Feather and this isn’t really far from the truth but it’s got some extra quality features that makes it a great choice.

The head is made of SUS317 stainless steel that is rounded for perfect blade exposure and a smooth shave. In fact, it has a similar head to the previous shavette from Feather which we saw before. The purpose of a rounded edge is to push down skin and disperse pressure at the blade tip. It is spring-mounted and the blade can be changed with one touch.

The handle is made from quality wood and it looks like an expensive razor which could make for a great gift. It is highly priced for a replaceable blade straight razor but everyone who has purchased this product loves it.

It is good for the beginner and it’s built to last. Feather producers great products and you wouldn’t regret choosing any of them. If you don’t mind spending a little extra and want a blade that doesn’t require learning how to sharpen, this might be the one for you.

Boker Tree Brand Knives Straight Razor

Boker Straight Razor 140521 King Cutter

This razor comes with a nice ⅝ length blade and is fairly recent to the marketplace. It is a premium quality straight razor at a fairly affordable price, all things considered. It is made in Solingen, Germany, same place -and maybe factory, as Dovo’s straight razors, with a keen eye for each and every minor detail.

It is hand-ground and assembled by expert craftsmen. The blade is made from special alloy with a little silver so that it cuts really well. It has a wear-resistant, durable black synthetic handle. It weighs 2.4 ounces.

One thing that we’re not particular fans of this product is the pin where it closes. It’s a bit loose and it can make the razor feel unsafe while using it. The handle seems a bit flimsy and this might be the only thing that you might want to pay attention before/after buying it.

Boker Straight Razor Elite Carbon Fiber Handle

Boker Straight Razor Elite 140614 Carbon Fiber Handle

Boker designs this razor after a razor that was made at the end of the 19th century. Back then there were unique and eccentric straight razors sold under the name “Booker elite.” The goal of this razor to to revive that tradition.

It has a fine hollow grind and two SW edges on the blade spine. The blade is made from carbon steel and is a rare size of 6/8 inch.

Most say that the blade holds an edge and feels really soft to the touch. The handle has scales that are milled with something called CNC technology from solid, high tech carbon material. This makes the handle comfortable and durable. It is really lightweight at 1.4 ounces.

Most people love this razor but it comes with a high price tag but again this really depends on your budget and what you might consider expensive. This is a really good blade. It works well for those that have a little more experience and can handle a lot. Overall, it’s a sleek design and the blade performs well.

Top Swords White Deer Damascus Steel Straight Razor

White Deer Damascus Steel Straight Razor Shaving 100% Handcrafted

A beautiful looking razor that was made by forge welding layers of steel into a solid block. It is folded and rewelded so it gives a really interesting design that looks wave like. They add acid and it brings out these waves so that the pattern pops out.

It is said to have a hardness of 55-60 on the Rockwell scale. The handle is made out of Bison horn and Cocobolo Wood. The handle is frames with brass and the razor comes in a genuine leather sheath.

However, not many razors are made from Damascus steel and there is a reason for that. It does not hold and edge and seems more like a knife than an actual razor. Usually, this type of blades doesn’t perform very well and this is what we found out upon our research as this is the feeling that many users have after buying this product with hours spent trying to sharpen it with no luck. It’s a great looking straight razor but if performance is your priority, this might not be the top choice among the listed razors in this guide.

Parker Safety Straight Edge Barber Razor

Parker Safety Razor Heavy Duty Professional

Parker has been producing quality safety, straight razors for over 40 years. They have been long thought of as a leader of innovation and design when it comes to these razors. The particular made in India blade is an affordable offering from them.

Normally, these razors come with five replacement blades so that they can be easily changed when one becomes dull. For this reason, they were not necessarily built to be stropped or sharpened as this is the case with most shavettes.

It has a unique opening mechanism and design they call “clip to close” that keeps the razor secure in place and perfectly aligned. It is built with a heavyweight stainless steel blade and handle so it will not rust and holds up well. The blade weighs 2.3 ounces assembled and has a nice rounded exposure so that cuts are minimized. The blade has a clip/lock blade holder so that the blade locks in place. It will take most single edge blades or a ½ double edge blade.

This is a one of the best shavettes a beginner can get. Many experienced shavers like to sharpen their own blade and will not like simply switching blades very often. There has been some inconsistency with the locking mechanism for some people but most agree that this is a great bargain. This is a great option overall if you are just getting started and it can last you for many years to come depending on how often and well you maintain it.

Parker Safety Razor Shavette with Stainless Steel Arm and Blade

Parker PTW Push Type Blade Load Straight Edge Barber Shavette Razor

Parker is a long trusted brand with, as stated above, 40 years experience. This shavette is unique as it is made with a stainless steel blade arm and handle and not aluminum like most shavettes. Most people say this performs just like a standard straight razor. It comes with five shark stainless half blades.

This is a cheaper alternative to the Parker reviewed above and it’s fairly decent. But when you compare the two, we’d highly recommend the former by spending a few more bucks. This is a good affordable option for those who are looking to try straight razor shaving and don’t want to spend too much money. Quality wise you don’t get something that is great but it’s certainly one that you won’t regret buying. If you’re an experienced shaver with straight razors, you might want to look at other previously discussed options.

A few closing thoughts

There are many options when it comes to entering the world of straight razor uses. One can opt for the shavettes with replaceable blades or take great care with a cutthroat razor. They come in a variety of styles and designs that fits everyone’s experience, needs and desires.

Let our guide and reviews show help with your future straight razor purchase and take your shaving experience to new levels. Many men who have gone in the direction of straight razor shaving love their results and we think you will too.