Men started using metal blades to shave their faces around 3,000 BC when copper became the medium of choice for all things utilitarian. Since then, shaving has advanced to electric razors that clean and lubricate themselves, cool your skin, play satellite radio, and that soon will (ostensibly) update your twitter feed. While it’s swell that the process has become more automated, the end goal is ultimately the same: get the damn hair off your face.
With that in mind, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a straight razor shave. In spite of all the gadgets available to the millennial man, the straight razor market is stronger now than it’s ever been; even Bond used one in Skyfall. It may involve a little bit of blood at first and a few extra minutes of work, but using a straight razor makes for a close shave and involves a routine that feels timeless and empowering. If you’re ready to step up your shave game, here are the top five straight blades you ought to consider.
Additional contributions by John Zientek.
The DOVO German Classic 5/8 Blade
Best Straight Razor for the Classic Shaver: In terms of straight shaving, DOVO is what we would call a household name. Founded in 1906 in Solingen, Germany, DOVO produced only straight razors until the 1950s when they also began producing scissors, clippers and other fine grooming tools. While they have produced straight blades for over 100 years, it’s only in the past two years that DOVO has reestablished shaving as the driving force behind production and advertising. This particular blade, The German Classic, is the perfect blade for the beginning shaver or the frequent traveler. The scales are resin, which requires no real maintenance; the blade is high-carbon steel; and let’s not forget that it’s made in Germany, which means it’s made to last.
Hart Steel 5/8 Square Point
Best Straight Razor for the ‘Merican Man: In 2009 Hart Steel was formed with the admirable goal of bringing straight razor production back to the United States. Today Hart is one of the leading straight razor producers in the world, but they’ve maintained their lofty quality standard. Each blade is hand crafted by a single artisan using tool-grade steel; the blades are heat treated and then frozen in liquid nitrogen so as to maintain stability and longevity before they’re stamped with the maker’s initial, hand-honed and stropped. Feel like your blade is getting dull? Hart will hone and strop your razor for twenty bucks to get it back to factory sharpness.
Thiers-Issard Kingwood 6/8 Razor
Best Straight Razor for the Dandy: Thiers-Issard is one of the top two most highly regarded razor companies in the world (the other being DOVO). Pierre Thiers founded Theirs-Issard (Issard was his wife’s last name) in 1884 after studying the art of blade making since the ripe old age of ten; Thiers handmade straight razors until his death in 1929, and it’s said that he actually died while working. Talk about singular purpose. Today, Thiers-Issard continues the handmade tradition begun by its founder by using the toughest carbon steel from England and decorating each blade by hand. Each blade is dipped into molten lead at over 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum strength, and Thiers-Issard’s quality standards are so high that they actually reject 25 percent of their blades during the production process. We like the Kingwood model because the scales have a handsome grain and the blade face has 24-karat gold etching.
Wacker Old Sheffield Straight Razor
Best Straight Razor for the Connoisseur: Wacker Rasiermesser is a razor company from Solingen, Germany that offers a wide variety of traditionally made razors. Each razor is crafted by a worker with over 50 years of professional experience, and takes over 70 steps to make. The Old Sheffield uses a blank that is over three decades old, and the scales are made of genuine buffalo horn.
Discommon ‘Forged Carbon’ Straight Razor
Best Straight Razor for the Absurdist: Sure, spending over two grand on a razor is pretty absurd, but check it out. Its handle is made from chopped carbon fibers that are forged using a steel mold. The blade features a “dual concave grind,” hand worked by Joseph Bowen, and a Richter Precisions functional rose gold color coating. The hardware is titanium and the washers are phosphorous bronze. A beautiful American-made piece of design that may be the last razor you ever buy.
When looking at straight razors, there are a few important things to look for.
1. Steel quality, treatment and thickness, which ranges from 3/8″ to 8/8″, with 5/8″ being the average.
2. Grind: hollow-ground creates thinner, sharper blade than wedge-ground (also called a flat or straight grind).
3. Scale material, which ranges from plastic to tortoise shell. The most common are resin, wood, and ivory.
4. Blade Point: A round point is generally the most forgiving style of blade; square point is more precise but risks pinching the skin; French point is generally similar to a square point, but with a different aesthetic.