Good things, so they say, come to those who wait. And that’s exactly what using a double edge razor is all about. A smooth, irritation-free face comes to the man with time, patience, and dedication to the craft of shaving. Unlike the regular and more common cartridge razor – which usually has five blades or, in some recent models, a whopping seven – double edge razors have a single, replaceable blade. That means, in short, that when the blade is no longer sharp enough, you can switch it for a fresh one.
The razor handle itself can come in different styles: a one piece, which opens like a butterfly so you can extract and replace the blade, or two and three piece versions, which you can unscrew at the head. Unlike with cartridge razors, double edge razors are fuss-free and built to last. Their beauty comes in their simplicity and ergonomic design – there is only one blade to worry about – but they are also a joy to use.
The blades are surgical steel, so generally much sharper than your average cartridge razor, but being able to switch blades also means you can customise your shave by finding one that best suits your skin type and facial hair style. “Razor blades come from many different manufacturers,” says Oran Lasocki, shaving educator with Ruffians barbers. “Some provide longevity by being a little thicker, but they may not be as sharp as another razor blade that is thinner. Choosing the right blade comes down to practice and discovering which type is the best for you.”
Practice is key when it comes to double edge razors. They “can offer as good a shave as any cartridge,” says Paul Chessell, from top safety razor brand MÜHLE. “With practice, one might argue, a double edge blade can offer an even closer shave without irritation. To achieve this one must invest more time when shaving with a double edge razor as the sharp blade allows and encourages you to be precise and to enjoy the ritual of shaving from beginning to end. Coupled with a great shaving cream you can enjoy lovely, soft and smooth skin post-shave. And don’t be discouraged by small cuts or grazes, once you have familiarised yourself with a double edge razor they will rarely occur.”
There are other benefits too. They’re less likely to cause razor burn than cartridge razors, which get clogged and blunted – it’s all too easy to end up scraping five dull, bacteria covered blades across your face. In contrast, having a single blade safety razor means your pores are less irritated, so you get fewer spots and blemishes. They’re also more cost effective in the long run.
“A good double edge razor can last a lifetime,” says Chessell. “You only replace the blades, which come in packs of 10 or more, so they are very economical. You will save a good deal of money over time and do your bit for the planet.”
Another feature that distinguishes the double edge safety razor from the standard cartridge razor is a protective comb that covers the blade. The comb can either be ‘open’ or ‘closed’ (wide teeth vs narrow teeth), which each suit different types of facial hair.
“The wider the teeth on the comb, the more bulk you’ll be able to shave, which is ideal for people with very thick facial hair,” says Ruffians’s Lasocki. “For people with more sensitive skin and finer facial hair, they will want to use the closed comb because it provides a nice even pressure across the skin while you shave, allowing you to avoiding nicking yourself.”
If you’re new to using a safety razor, here are some tips to take into account:
The new (but also thoroughly hip and reliable) kid on the block, Bluebeards Revenge is hailed by aficionados as a top brand on the cutting (razor’s) edge of modern grooming. The company has an extensive line of products, from creams to brushes, and boasts two award-winning, precision-engineered doubled-edge safety razors – the Cutlass and Scimitar – which come complete with the brand’s pirate-themed logo laser-etched into the head of the razor. We like the darker finish of the Cutlass razor.
Buy Now: £34.99
The premier name in ye olde world-style grooming, Taylor of Old Bond Street has been plying its trade from its traditional London barber shops since 1854. The company has a well-earned rep for high-end products – luxuriously scented shaving soaps, colognes, and as-sharp-as-they’ve-ever-been razors.
Taylor’s safety razor is at the top end of the market, but you get what you pay for. It would make a handsome addition to any grooming kit with its chrome head and high-quality birchwood handle.
Buy Now: £129.00
The precision and efficiency of German engineering applies to more than electronics and autobahns. As an old stalwart of the grooming game, German brand Merkur has been crafting brilliant safety razors for over 100 years. The Futur 761 has a chrome finish and adjustable blade, but beginners should try the 34C Heavy Duty Classic – a throwback type of razor for a classic type of gentleman.
Buy Now: £28.79
Another brand that prides itself on excellent craftsmanship, the Sheffield-based Edwin Jagger has been making razors, brushes and other wet-shave products since 1988. Fusing both classic and contemporary looks, it has a wide range of double edge safety razors available in multiple colourways and designs, or a selection of more traditional chromes, silvers and even golds if you prefer your shaving kit to have a little more bling.
Buy Now: £26.00
A trusty brand for the casual wet shavers – though probably not for the hardcore, high-end enthusiast – Parker’s is one of most popular names in mid-range, affordable shaving products. The company makes both three-piece and one-piece butterfly razors. The three-pieces are more contemporary (and some of the handle designs are very handsome indeed), while the butterflies tend to have a more classic look. The chrome-plated 66R has an easy to use butterfly action and an effective grip.
Buy Now: £26.99
Another classic German brand, MÜHLE has been making shaving products since 1945, and is well known for its precision-perfect razors. MÜHLE came from humble beginnings. It was started by a former prisoner-of-war who made brushes by hand and built the company with relentless hard work and determination, and has since become one of the world’s most renowned shaving brands. It produces several double edge safety razor variations – such as the closed comb, porcelain-handled R84 – which are pricey but worth the money.
Buy Now: £106.00
The only Japanese brand to make the list, Feather earned its spot as the first company in Japan to produce replaceable blade razors. Originally based in Seki, the city most associated with Japanese sword-making, the company continues the tradition and keeps production local to ensure a certain level of precision with its uniquely Japanese blades. The best of them is the AS-D2, a flat-combed razor with blades angled to cut through the toughest stubble for a brilliantly close shave.
Buy Now: £200.00
Wilkinson Sword may be better known for its multiple-blade cartridge razors these days, but the shaving specialists haven’t given up on the old timer yet, producing an entry-level double edge razor that won’t break the bank. Combine with the brand’s shaving soap bowl and you’ve got a perfectly respectable and effective retro set-up – plus, you can top up on five blades at a time for just £2.49. Win win.
Buy Now: £4.99
Here’s another German manufacturer known for world-class, expert-level razor quality. The company is based in the city of Soligen – where it’s been since 1920 – which is also, quite scarily, known as ‘blade city’ due to its long history of producing razors and cutlery, as well as knives and daggers for centuries before that. The company aims to pass on its knowledge to the next generation of blade-makers, in order to keep the tradition, well, razor-sharp.
Buy Now: £20.99
Half of the joy of double edge razors is actually using them – with these solid metal, weighted tools you’ll appreciate the process of shaving, the ritual of it. Baxter of California recognises this, and has produced a beautiful example made from chrome-plated steel and featuring textured engraving for improved grip. The American brand is well-respected for its extensive and good-looking grooming products, and this razor is no exception.
Buy Now: £60.00
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