A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO BEARDS AND SHAVING

For centuries, safety razors and straight razors have been the tools of choice when it is time to shave. Depending on your point of view, there are pros and cons to both types of razors. This article will discuss the fundamental differences between the two men’s grooming tools.

Men’s Razors For Shaving

The majority of the population is more familiar with safety razors than straight razors. You probably have seen a straight razor in your grandfather’s bathroom; or maybe you have seen one being used by a barber in a movie or in a television show. It looks like a long piece of metal with a razor tip attached to a rotating handle.

They are often referred to as ‘cutthroat razors’ because it resembles a knife in appearance, and it cuts like one too!

The straight razor was the only real razor for men until Gillette invented the safety razor in the early 1900’s. Since then, the usage of the straight razor has declined and is really only used by professional barbers and stylists. The safety razor is mostly used by the general population, men and women alike!

Safety razors look very much like disposable razors and cartridge razors. The difference is that disposable and cartridge razors are made of plastic and safety razors are almost always made entirely of metal.

If you were to closely observe a safety razor and a straight razor side by side, there is definitely no confusing the two. Their appearance and functionality are very different. Straight razors are popular with professional barbers and stylists, but safety razors are more convenient and are mostly used by the general public.

In recent years, straight razors are making a comeback because of its ‘old school’ feel. The actual shave may or may not be very comfortable and can often lead to shaving irritation, however. That’s why many professional barbers nowadays will use a straight razor to shave the back of the neck, sideburns, and to “line-up” a beard, but few use it on the entire face. It might feel nice while the shave is being performed, but you’ll most likely pay for it with extreme shaving irritation the next day.

It’s All In The Blade!

The main difference between a safety razor and a straight razor is the blade itself. Safety razors have removable, or disposable blades that connect to the razor’s head. Straight razor blades require maintenance and sharpening in order to keep them working properly. It is necessary to strop your razor before each use. If not, the blade will quickly become too dull and will require a specialist to sharpen, which can be very expensive.

Many guys who are new to shaving, and don’t want to use a disposable cartridge razor, prefer the ease and convenience of a safety razor. Whenever it becomes dull, you simply throw away the removable blade and replace it with a new one. There are also many different types and qualities of safety blades making easier to find the perfect razor for your face.

Keeping the blade sharp can be another task within itself. If you prefer to go with the straight razor, then be prepared to spend money on a strop and stropping paste in order to keep the blade sharp. You can think of a straight razor as a long term investment. Safety razors will require you to purchase replacement blades whenever the razor becomes dull. Depending on how often you shave, this can be multiple times a month.

Safety Razor Pros & Cons

Pros

It doesn’t take much practice to get a perfect shave with a safety razor. The biggest benefit is the ability to replace the blade whenever it becomes dull and it is very affordable. If you are a person who shaves everyday of the week, one blade will last for about a week before it needs to be replaced and the blades usually only cost a few cents.

Cons

Even though you are not as likely to get nicks, cuts, and irritation with a safety razor as you are with a straight razor, it is still not as safe and comfortable as most disposable cartridge razors.

Straight Razors Pros & Cons

Pros

The main benefit of using a straight razor is the fact that it makes shaving more of a ritual and and an experience than just a necessary chore. They are very well made, durable and built to last. Since they are usually at least 3 inches wide, it allows you to complete your shave with less strokes. If you decide to purchase a straight razor blade, if cared for properly, it will last you for a lifetime. You will only need to sharpen your blade about twice a year using honing and stropping techniques. You can even get creative and buy a custom handle for your straight razor to fit your personality. And not to mention, it feels pretty ‘bad-ass’ to own a straight razor.

Cons

Shaving with a straight razor is a skill. It takes a lot of practice and training to achieve the perfect shave. Those who are inexperienced will have a much higher chance of getting nicks and cuts on your face. Since it only comes with one blade, if it ever becomes damaged, you will have to replace the whole unit. If you let your blade become dull, it will take a lot of skill and time to sharpen the blade again.

The Take Away: Safety Razors vs. Straight Razors

Now that you are more familiar with the fundamental differences between safety razors and straight razors, now it is time to make a decision. But before you go out and purchase a razor, take the time to do research by reading the reviews and ratings of the brands that are available.

Safety Razors:

  • May provide a closer shave than some disposable razors
  • Easy to use with no learning curve
  • Low initial investment; minimal cost to purchase replacement blades

Straight Razors:

  • Freedom and control while you shave
  • Increased risk of nicks and cuts
  • Must shave with proper technique
  • High initial investment; no cost to maintain (besides sharpening the blade)