As I’ve said before, I sometimes shave with a straight razor. Honestly, straight razors are worse than safety razors by just about any metric you pick1 — except the most important one: fun.
They turn a 40 second routine into a 40 minute ritual. It takes more work, to get a slightly coarser cut, but when I’m done I feel pampered yet accomplished. Kind of like if I went to an invigorating spa, but actually made something instead of relaxing.
If you are thinking about trying straight razor shaving, here’s my advice on what razor to try first.
The Hess EZY Shave Razor is the best all-around razor to see if straight-razor shaving is for you.
It’s easy to maintain, because it takes disposable blades. No sharpening or stropping required.
It has exactly the same size and ergonomics as a real straight razor.
Of course, the blade is different. But the long and stiff hair shaper blades it takes aren’t too far off.
It’s affordable, and not just the sticker price. Because, it takes easy-to-find “injector” blades as well as hair shaper blades, it’s affordable to keep using. (Tip: to find cheap injector blades, look for “mini shaper blades“, they are the same thing, but without the “key” for loading into an injector razor).
I’ve been throughly satisfied with my EZY Shave, and I still use it today. It’s handy for trimming places like the upper lip, that are difficult to reach with a safety razor.
Actually, this is the cheap.
FROMM Hair Shapers can be had for $3 to $7. Check your local beauty supply store first, so you don’t pay more in shipping than the razor itself costs!
LIke the EZY Shave, it uses disposable hair shaper blades, so it’s easy to maintain.
This little fellow isn’t made for shaving, and it feels cheap, but when you take the guard off, it works … well enough. I’ve gotten descent shaves from one. The ergonomics aren’t exactly like a real straight razor, but they are close enough to give you a feel for what using one is like.
The bottom line is that it’s such a small investment that there’s very little risk in trying the FROMM. If all else fails, it’s still a perfectly good hair shaper. I still use mine to trim my sideburns.
Another good option is to ask around on forums like Straight Razor Place, and see if an old-timer will sell you a no-frills shave-ready razor on the cheap ($10-$30).
The disadvantage of starting with the real thing, is that it adds more variables, and you’ll need to get a strop to prepare the razor for each shave. (Sorry, I don’t know any good deals on strops, try a local knife shop.)
In other words, you’ll have to learn how to shave and maintain a straight razor. Bad stropping technique will dull a blade, or make it uncomfortable to use. That means more to go wrong. It also means one more thing to rule out as the cause of a bad shave, making it harder to evaluate the experience.
This is how I learned to use a straight razor. In retrospect, I don’t think it was the wisest way to go. But for many people, you haven’t tried something, unless you’ve really tried it.
1Some folks really believe a straight razor gives the closest (and yes, most nick free) shaves of their lives. I’m not one of them. I don’t think most people who’ve tried a straight razor are. That’s not to say true believers are wrong — preparing and using a bare blade give you ultimate control of every aspect of the shave. But machines still make sharper blades, while people inevitably make mistakes. And in my experience, some nooks and curves (eg. bottom of chin) can be reached better with a safety razor.