Ever get a hot shave from a barber using a straight razor? It’s awesome. Turn that opulent treat into a daily expectation with one of these great straight razors.
Are you sick of plastic, throwaway culture? Do you feel lost in this modern age? Have you had it up to here with “safety?”
You’re not alone. Part of being a human is doing work and putting in effort with your hands. Things used to take a while, you know? Getting water, shodding your horse, shaving your face—these things took time, but came with a certain satisfaction.
Now, water comes from the tap, automatic horses (cars) don’t need shoes, and folks shave with safety razors—or perhaps risk their very lives (or follicular distress, anyway) with electric razors. It is absolute madness.
Below are some of the best and most reasonably priced ways to get into the straight razor game.
Best Premium Razor: Dovo Special ($127)
At this point, you’re seeing our first price point and thinking, “Oh! So straight razors are kinda pricey.”
Well, it’s all relative. We found some high-end razors (including others from Dovo) that get you into the multiple-hundreds-of-dollars ballpark. Plus, a carbon-steel, traditional, non-shavette (i.e., the blade is integral, rather than using replaceable razor blades) razor is meant to last forever. Hell, you might give it to your kid someday (you know, once they hit peak knife-age). You also won’t be spending money on new razors or new handle units.
You are essentially buying a high-end, highly specialized knife. With that in mind, the Dovo Special is a great example of this comparison. This razor bears many of the qualities of a good, traditional knife: a carbon steel blade (non-stainless) with a high temper. This means the blade will hold a very, very sharp edge. It also means you’ll need to dry and oil it after use to prevent rust, much like one would with, say, a sword. The tip of the blade is rounded—which is useful for avoiding accidental nicks.
And, since history is a part of the allure of straight razors, it’s worth noting that Dovo is a blade company in Solingen, Germany—a place that has been renowned for its steel blades since it used top-secret techniques to produce swords for all of Europe during the Middle Ages. Think of it as Damascus-West. The city’s blade-building tradition has continued unabated, albeit with a greater focus on smaller, more practical blades—like knives, scissors, and shaving razors.
So, yeah. That’s why this costs $127.
Best on Sale: Boker King Cutter ($99 and Up)
Take everything we said about Dovo blades and apply it to Boker. It’s another well-established. long-in-the-tooth razor company from Solingen. Like the Dovo, this blade is carbon steel, though Boker does mix in some silver and refined metals, meaning this is technically a proprietary alloy. You don’t get to know exactly what’s in it, but honestly, what would you even do with that information? Are you really going to try and make your own Boker knockoff?
We both know you will not. Especially not for under $100, which is all it’ll take to make one of these sharp little devils your very own. TECHNICALLY, the King Cutter costs $168 direct from Boker. But, Cutlery Shoppe [sic] sells ’em for a cool $98.40.
Amazon doesn’t carry these at the moment, but here’s the link anyway, in case you’re an Amazon customer review junkie.
Best Whole Kit: A.P. Donovan ($180)
The above razors are fantastic, but they lack a few accoutrements. A dry shave with an unhoned razor may have been a necessity for a Prussian grenadier trying to maintain his regulation mustache while on campaign in France, but you live in relative luxury. That means you’ll need to buy: a honing strop, some shaving soap, a brush, and a little wooden box, so you don’t have to keep it all in a little plastic zippy bag.
Or—OR!—st buy this A.P. Donovan kit, since it has all these things included, without being a head above the other options in price. Some particulars: the strop is Kazakh leather on one side, robust linen on the other, and you can (and will) hone your razor on it as you’ve seen in the movies.
The razor itself is Japanese carbon steel. Is Japanese steel superior to other steels? No, not really. But it is specialized for edge hardness, which means it won’t easily deform (so, less honing on that strop), and has the potential to be a bit sharper than softer steel. The handle is mahogany, which is a dense hardwood that helps to offset the steel business end of the razor and offers better balance in your hand.
Wrapping it up: the shave soap is soap. The brush is made from badger fur (so don’t let your dachshund near it, or there will be terrible violence). If you want more info on shaving brushes and the different materials, check out our look at the best brushes your dollars can buy.
Best Budget Option: Equinox Professional Straight Edge Razor ($11)
“Please, sir: I only make 2 pence monthly as a pinsetter at the local ball-bowling concern. I need a more affordable razor than those aforementioned!”
Have no fear, destitute straight-razor-shaving hopefuls—there is a more economical (and lower-maintenance) option: the Equinox shavette razor.
The shavette class of straight razors has no integral blade. Instead, a disposable razor blade is slid into the place where the razor would typically be. This makes for less upkeep (no honing necessary) and is more sanitary if you’re sharing the razor with others (like if you’re a barber).
Of course, this slightly betrays one’s desire to eliminate waste product in their shaving routine. But consider this: rather than contributing to the mounds of plastic waste at the landfill, your shaving trash will instead be a relatively benign pile of old razor blades. Still dangerous, yes, but there will be less of it, and it won’t contain toxic polymers that leech into the groundwater supply. Pursue the good, not the perfect.
Speaking of piles of razor blades, the Equinox comes with 100 single-edged Derby blades. Each of ’em is good for 2-3 shaves or, if you’re a professional writer, maybe stretch that out to a full week to save money.
Not that anything about this Equinox costs a lot. Did we mention this is $11 in Amazon? Too cheap to be good, right? Well, IT’S A #1 AMAZON BESTSELLER, SO—yikes, sorry. We get a little defensive about incredible deals. Anyway, don’t take our word for it: this Equinox shavette has over 2,100 reviews on Amazon, with an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5).
Post scriptum: There is another, highly unorthodox option for buying a traditional (non-shavette) straight razor for under $100. For a cool $60 (and free shipping), West Coast Shaving will send you a vintage rescue razor. They’ll totally refurbish/restore an old straight razor for you. You won’t get to pick the particular manufacturer (or any other specifics), but you will get a reputable, brand-name razor with a one-year warranty. If it loses its edge, you can send it back to be re-refurbished. It’s a compelling option for someone who really does want a little history in hand and to stick it in the eye of throwaway culture. And, again, it costs less.