Some say “there’s no school like the old school,” and that’s especially true for razors. A good double edge safety razor can give you a much better, smoother shave than a cartridge razor—once you to get used to it.
There is a little bit of a learning curve to using a double edge (DE) safety razor, which is what scares people away from them most of the time. But once you get acclimated to using one, modern cartridge-based razors just won’t cut it (heheh). The shave is smoother and more comfortable, causes less irritation, and best of all, the blades are significantly cheaper (and oftentimes last longer). Seriously, we can’t emphasize that last bit enough.
While some safety razors can be pretty pricey (like, seriously pricey), that doesn’t mean you have to shell out a lot of money to give it a shot. There are, however, a few things to consider before buying your first safety razor:
- Aggressiveness: The angle of the blade is the main factor in determining a razor’s “aggressiveness.” How wide the blade gap is and how much of the blade is exposed will also play a role here, but the main thing you need to know is that a mild aggressiveness is good for beginners, while wet shaving veterans may prefer something more aggressive.
- Weight: This may not be something that you think of when wet shaving comes to mind, but a well weighted and balanced razor is important. The goal is to let the weight of the razor handle do most of the work for you—unlike applying pressure with a modern plastic razor, with a safety razor you let the weight of the body glide the head along. This is likely where many newcomers make their first mistake, so if you do nothing else as a new shaver: use a light hand.
- Razor construction: This is a wide topic, because it not only determines how the blade is inserted into the razor, but also bar slant and comb design. There are razors that hold the blade at certain angles, razors that require you to unscrew the head to insert the blade, razors that “butterfly” open with the twist of a knob for blade changes, and so on.
That last point is a full article on its own, so instead of going into all the details here, I’ll save you hundreds of words and instead point to this excellent article on Prim and Prep. It goes into great details about different safety razor designs (including pictures!). It’s a great resource.
Now that you’ve done your homework, here’s a list of the best razors for both novices and wet shaving vets alike.
And, to help avoid sticker shock for those of you used to buying a $15 plastic razor and replacement cartridges for it, we want to emphasize again how economical double edge shaving is in the long run. You might spend $75-200 on a really, really, nice razor body but the cost of the blades is so incredibly low. You can shave with a brand new razor every single day of your life for less money than swapping out a Mach3 cartridge once a week—that’s how economical double edge shaving is. Over years and years of shaving, the savings are substantial.
The Best Premium Option: Feather AS-D2 ($170)
If you’re an experienced wet shaver and money is no object, the Feather AS-D2 is the best premium razor you can buy. Period.
This razor is made in Japan for precision, has a 3.5-inch handle, and weighs in at 90 grams. It uses a three-piece design, is made of stainless steel, and has a satin finish. The knurled grip provides extra grip even when your hands are slippery smooth with your favorite shave cream.
This razor screams premium by that finely machined profile alone, but the pleasant weight and excellent balance in your hand just confirms it. So if you’re after a premium razor, the Feather AS-D2 is for you.
The Best Adjustable Model: Merkur Futur ($72)
Earlier we talked about razor aggressiveness. While most razors have a set aggressiveness level, the Merkur Futur allows you to adjust this level with a simple dial and replace the razor blades easily thanks to a butterfly-style top. It’s the most technologically advanced razor on this list—where most still use a very traditional design, the Futur is very forward-thinking.
Plus, it looks seriously cool. The Futur has a 3.32 inch handle and weighs 128 grams, but there are three different versions: the 700m, which features a matte silver finish and costs $62.50; the 702G, which is gold and costs $114; and the 701C, which has a polished finish and costs $72.20. They all look great.
The Futur is a great razor to not only get started with, but also grow with since you can adjust how aggressive it is. This is one that you buy for life.
The Best Open Comb Model: Muhle R41 ($63)
Most safety razors have a bar—either straight or curved—just below the blade. But there’s a specific tyle called an “open comb” that replaces the bar with a piece that looks very similar to, well, a comb. This design works very well for people with exceptionally thick hair, as there is more pressure applied to the blade.
If you’re looking for a good open comb model (they’re not super common) the Muhle R41 is a great choice. This three piece razor has a 3.7 inch overall length and weighs 64g. Also the handle is rose gold. Classy.
If you’re a fan of butterfly designs, you can cop an R41 with that head, though it’ll cost you nearly $20 extra ($81).
If you’re looking to try an open comb model and don’t want to shell out $60+, the Parker 24C is also an excellent pick—and it will only set you back $30.
The Best Long-Handle Model: Merkur Long Handle ($25)
Most safety razors are fairly small, which can make them hard to manage for men with bigger hands. If that’s you, you’re going to want to grab a long-handle model. Even if you don’t have huge hands, a lot of guys like a long handle because they find it balances better in their hand as they shave.
The Merkur Long Handle (fitting name, eh?) is a three-piece razor that uses classic Merkur design… just with a slightly longer handle. Instead of the standard 3.3 inch handle, this model features a 3.87 inch handle. The weight still comes in at a standard 60 grams, keep this on the lighter side of the spectrum.
The nice thing about the Long Handle is that it’s one of the most affordable razors on the list at just $25 but you still get the Merkur build quality.
The Best Budget Option: Van Der Hagen Traditional ($13)
If you’re just toying with the idea of checking out a safety razor, it’s understandable why you wouldn’t want to shell out $60 or more on something that you may not even like. But for the same price (or cheaper) than most cartridge razors, you can check out the Van Der Hagen Traditional safety razor.
This butterfly-style razor isn’t the nicest on the list, but it absolutely gets the job done and is a very nice razor for the money. This isn’t a very aggressive razor so it’s great for beginners, has a nice even weight to it, and is just generally an excellent starter safety razor. Plus, at only $13, it’s not going to bust the bank if you don’t like it.
Image Credit: baibaz/shutterstock.com