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Straight Razors Versus Safety Razors: Is There An Outright Winner?

Aug 17, 2007
Straight razors are the new-old kid on the block in men's shaving - but how do they measure up to the modern safety razor? Here are some facts . . .

Durability: Winner by KO, the straight razor. Looked after properly, a straight razor will literally last a lifetime, providing as good a shave when you're eighty as when you were eighteen. A modern safety razor - the body, not the blades - might last a few years if you're lucky.

Ease of use: Winner by TKO, the safety razor. Very little practice is needed to produce a good result, whereas the straight razor demands a certain level of skill before you will get a decent shave. It's a patience thing - no patience equals a rough shave and maybe a few nicks as well!

Convenience: Split decision - although maybe the win goes to the safety razor as no preparation of the razor is needed prior to shaving. Just pick it up and use it - not something you can do with a straight razor, which needs whetting on a strop before each use.

Cost: Straight points win for the straight razor. Although some straight razors can cost hundreds of dollars, a good, workmanlike model (no fancy handles or expensive engraving) will probably set you back about eighty dollars. A perfectly good vintage model for half that cost will still last years. Total how many blade cartridges you throw in the bin in a year. Multiply it by how many more years you think you'll be shaving. It's a no-brainer.

Smoothness of shave: It's a draw. There's a limit to how smooth your skin can be and both types of razor achieve this level of slickness. A downside for the safety razor is that the multi-blade cartridge can pull the beard hair out from the skin prior to cutting it. Although this gives a really smooth finish, the end of the hair can retreat beneath the skin surface, resulting in ingrowing hairs. The single blade of the straight razor can't do this.

Environmental value: Another clear win for the straight razor. No blade cartridges or plastic packaging to go into the landfill, no need to get the 'latest model' - there simply isn't a latest model for the straight razor, which reached its design zenith in about 1930. You cannot make a better one. It makes you wonder how many more blades can be fitted into a safety razor cartridge as a marketing gimmick, doesn't it?

Macho score: First round KO to the straight razor. If scraping off your stubble with three inches of frighteningly sharp, unguarded, highly-polished steel isn't macho, I don't know what is. Skill, patience and dexterity are desirable. Safety razors? Don't make me laugh.

So it looks like the straight razor wins the championship!

Whatever the reason, more and more men seem to be taking up this almost-forgotten skill as part of their daily routine. Although I think it's safe to say (at this point in time anyway) that the likes of Gillette and Wilkinson won't be trembling in their boots, there's no doubt that the straight razor is making a comeback. Whilst firms like Dovo and Thiers-Issard may at the moment be the last bastion of straight razor manufacture, perhaps the next few years will see more manufacturers returning to making this grooming design classic.
About the Author
Steve Dempster regularly attacks his stubble with a straight razor and has lived to tell the tale. For more information and advice about straight razors, have a look at his website The Invisible Edge
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