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Straight razors are no doubt among the most effective tools for proper men’s grooming, but not all cut throat razors are created equal.
Here’s my comprehensive review on straight razors that can help you make the smoothest decision in purchasing one for yourself.
In this article, you'll also learn about straight razor care, how to strop, the ABC's of shaving with a straight razor and more.
See my definitive list of the best straight razors with detailed reviews below:
Short on time, here's my top picks. Want to learn more? Keep on reading.
What is a straight razor?
Some say that there’s nothing more manly than shaving with a straight razor.
Also known as cut throat and open razor, the straight razor is a straight blade that can be folded open and closed with its handle. Because of the blade’s angle and amount of pressure that is usually applied on the said tool when being used, the open razor delivers the smoothest shave ever.
Compared to other types of razors, the cut throat razor is able to reach deeper and get closer to the hair follicle.
Did you know...?
The straight razor is composed of two main parts – the blade and the handle, which are connected together by a pin. The blade of the razor can either be made of stainless steel or high-carbon steel. The former can last longer because of its resistance to rust, but it's difficult to sharpen. The latter on the hand, is a much more effective material, but with compromised durability.
Why choose a straight razor over any other razor?
The straight razor was first introduced in the early 1680's as a manual shaving companion.
It was the most popular grooming razor until the safety razor was introduced in the mid-20th century.
Because safety razors are easier to use and they come with disposable blades, straight razors became less and less popular, but the straight razor has recently regained its popularity among the general public.
This is because of the benefits and advantages that the open razor offers. These are:
- Smoother finish. The straight razor is capable of providing a deeper clean compared to its multi-blade counterparts.
- Maneuverability. The open razor is a manual type shaving tool where the blade can be freely maneuvered in various difficult and fine angles to effectively plow through the contours of the person’s face. With enough practice and patience, the maneuverability feature of the razor can be maximized for cleaner results.
- Cost-effective. Cut throat razors are more expensive than safety razors – initially. But compared to other types of razors where you are bound to buy refill/replacement cartridges, the straight razor will be the only blade you’ll use for life.
- Eco-friendly. Considering our current issues with pollution, disposable cartridge waste is probably the last thing our Mother Earth needs. With a straight razor, you can say goodbye to throwing away those used blade cartridges from time to time.
- Classic appeal. Enjoy the privilege of shaving your beard old school style. The straight razor has a sleek, classic appeal compared to its modern day counterpart.
Three types of straight razor blades
There are various types of straight razors and they are basically classified according to the shape of the blade’s tip or point.
- Spike/square –The spike or square point is by far the most effective as it is the most dangerous of the group. Its square shape point makes it easy for the blade to be guided through the tightest corners of your face. But using such type of blade requires mastery of the task because the slightest mistake can instantly lead to a cut on your cheek.
- Round – straight razors with round tip blades are by far the safest. If you are still yet to have your first try on straight razors, I would recommend the round tip blade. They are quite easy to maneuver making them the most ideal straight razors for beginners.
- Spanish – for aesthetic reasons, the Spanish point straight razor can be your better choice. The blade has a rounded tip and you may find it as the best looking blade of the group. The design however makes it kind of challenging to hone the blade because you may end up damaging or completely cutting off the strop if you shave carelessly.
Here's a complete list of different types of straight razors according to their blade points.
When wet shaving, use good quality shaving soap and aftershave splash, balm, or lotion. These will help you enjoy a smooth, cool and rash-free finish every time you shave. Go for a shaving soap and aftershave that best suits your skin type.
Best way to shave with a straight razor
Before you begin, bear in mind that shaving with a straight razor requires patience. Typically, one session usually lasts around 12-15 minutes. I think straight razors are the most versatile shaving tool because they can be used even by those with sensitive skin. Just make sure that you condition your skin before and after the deed.
- Wet the concerned or target area of your face with hot water to help soften the skin.
- Lather with your choice of shaving soap for skin conditioning and avoid suffering from razor burn.
- Start on the cheek near your ear.
- Hold the blade at a 30 degree angle with your right hand and pull that specific area of your face to the other side with your left.
- With gentle pressure, stroke the blade downward.
- Wash the blade with hot water after each stroke.
- Apply shorter and gentler strokes on more sensitive areas of your face.
Before making a second pass, make sure to wash your face first with hot water and reapply a shaving soap. Strokes in your second pass are more effective if you do it across (first) and against (second) the grain.
Wash with cold water and splash an aftershave for a cool finish.
Straight razor maintenance tips
With proper maintenance, your straight razor can last a lifetime. Your cut throat razor is not complete without its strop (I’d recommend a fine cowhide leather material).
Stropping helps keep your blade shave-ready every time you need it. A good quality leather strop is also essential in maintaining the blade’s durability.
A good stropping is usually 15-20 strops.
You should also thoroughly rinse your blade with hot water after each use and dry it with towel.
Here are more tips in keeping your straight razor sharp and making it last.
Watch this video to learn how to make your own strop for $10:
My top picks on straight / cut throat razors
Now that I've covered some of the basics, let's get into some of my favorite products.
Equinox International is one of the trusted makers of professional grade straight razors. Its Professional Barber Straight Edge Razor product is made of surgical grade stainless steel. The razor has an easy access blade guard where you can easily change and secure those disposable blades.
Made by another trusted maker of professional straight razors, the Parker Safety Professional Straight Edge Barber Razor is equally sleek in design and ease of use. It is made of high quality stainless steel for dependable durability even under heavy use. Judging the razor’s overall design and functionality, the Professional Straight Edge Razor is basically built for professional barbers. So if you are looking for a straight razor that you can count on for your work or for personal use, this cut throat razor is the one for you.
With more than 40 years of making high quality razors, I believe that it is only fitting to include a second straight razor from Parker. The SRW Straight Edge Razor is as effective as a professional type barber razor – minus the hassles of time to time stropping. The weight of the razor provides perfect balance for an easy and clean shave. Disposable blades are quite easy to replace. Along the blade compartment, the holder has a snap lock mechanism for a secured fit.
To those looking for traditional old school look in a razor, the Sanguine Pure Wood Shavette Razor could be the favorable choice. The razor’s handle is made of pure wood. You can simply enjoy the material’s bold texture as it is not polished and isn't paint-coated. The blade holder on the other hand is made of metal. The two main parts of the razor are joined together by a brass screw. If you want to adjust the razor for ease of use, you can easily do it with its brass screw.
What makes this cut throat razor unique from the other entries in this list is its handle made of silicon resin. The handle has a matte black finish for a sleek look and offers a very firm grip. It is also made to withstand heat up to 135 degrees Celsius. Unlike the rest of the razors in this list, the Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor doesn’t fold. This means that the blade holder is firmly placed on top of the handle. This makes it a whole lot easier to maneuver the razor accurately.
Straight razors are both luxury and necessity for most men. From our list of the best straight razors, I’d choose the Sanguine Pure Wood Shavette Razor as my top pick. Since straight razors have been around for centuries, this razor’s pure wood handle delivers that elegant vintage appeal. It offers a comfortable and secure grip and can be easily adjusted according to the user’s preferences. To top it off, this razor comes with 100 free stainless steel blades and each can be used for 2-3 shaving sessions.
Written by Robert Ordway
Raised in the small mill town of Lake Station, Indiana, Robert’s blue collar upbringing exposed him to little if any of the clothing industry. Robert has been following the menswear industry for over a decade and has been significantly influenced by the book, Dressing the Man by Alan Flusser. From 2009-2012, he worked in retail sales at both Brooks Brothers and JCrew. In 2015, Robert received the Custom Clothier certification from the Custom Tailor and Designers Association (CTDA), the oldest continuously operating trade organization in the United States. He is the former owner of Rusted Oak, a men’s retail clothing store in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Today, Robert's mission is to teach men of all shapes and sizes about grooming care, general life style tips, and of course male fashion stemming from his deep career in the fashion industry.