“Which straight razor would you recommend for a beginner?”
This is perhaps the most frequently asked question we receive, and one we address by saying: there’s no such thing as a “beginner razor”.
This answer reflects the goal set for all of our customers: we want to help you find the last razor you will ever need. Our recommendation is to start with a quality straight razor which is guaranteed shave-ready that will last a lifetime. All other considerations including point shape, size, and length, and on and on for 10,000 forum pages are secondary. A straight razor is a lifetime investment, so go with your gut and get the one that looks and feels right to you. That razor is the only one with which you will enjoy practicing your shaving skills and take pride in using day after day. Because straight shaving is a skill you will need to practice, you should choose the straight razor that you’ll be excited about using! Making the investment for a quality razor as someone who is new to straight shaving is safer, shortens the learning curve, and saves you money in the long term. After that, it’s just about enjoying your shave.
Buying quality assures that your razor will be sharper, and therefore safer to use. A sharp blade cuts through hair smoothly, predictably, and reliably with little effort. A dull blade might pull, tug, snag, or require additional pressure to cut hair. Imagine applying more pressure to your face with a dull blade, snagging on tough hair. You push a little harder and the razor suddenly snaps free… Hopefully it’s traveling in a safe direction when you overcorrect out of reflex. Need we say more?
The Learning Curve
Straight shaving can seem awfully complicated. One way to learn a new, complicated skill more effectively is to break it down into smaller, simpler, more manageable tasks. Crawl, then walk, then run.
Buying a quality razor from a reputable manufacturer allows you to feel what “shave-ready” really means from the start. It also spares you the uncertainty of manufacturer defect and leaves fewer variables to consider when a shave doesn’t go well. For example, if your razor is sharp but you’re still experiencing pulling/irritation, then we know you should look at your shave prep: has the hair had enough time with moisture to soften? Is your shave lather too dry? If your razor was shave-ready but suddenly isn’t, you might have damaged the edge with improper stropping or hitting it on the faucet.
These are all problems that can be figured out. To fix manufacturing defects like faulty grinds and bevel angles, which are hard to notice much less fix, you’ll need special tools and skills. Improper heat treatment or a ruined temper is practically invisible until you attempt to hone the razor, and cannot be repaired at all. Buying quality allows you to focus on the things you can control, like prep and shaving technique.
Simply put, quality razors are easier to use, they shave better, the edges are sharper and last longer thanks to proper heat treatment and handling, and they last forever. They cost more upfront, however. The price tag can be hard to swallow, but what you are paying for is craftsmanship and materials. Cutting corners on production costs to make a razor more affordable typically result in something that won’t shave at all.
If you are the type of person who likes to “test the waters” by trying the cheapest version of something before investing in a more quality option, understand that your experience with a cheaply-made razor will not be comparable to one made by skilled craftspeople. Sooner rather than later you’ll have to pay for it to be sharpened, or replaced with a better razor because it couldn’t be sharpened to begin with. In the long run, the more expensive razor will require less maintenance, be easier to fix when something goes wrong, and will last longer than a cheaper alternative.
Story time: I learned to drive in a beat-up manual transmission vehicle that was barely road-worthy and had all kinds of problems. But (and this is the important part) it was cheap! A “perfect first car”, according to my dad. And since I didn’t have anything to compare it to… well, I honestly thought I was just a bad driver. It wasn’t until years later, when I had the opportunity to drive a stick shift in decent condition, that I realized it might not have been my fault driving that clunker was such a pain. Learning to drive on a broken-down piece of junk had also taught me a lot of bad habits which then had to be unlearned when I was finally able to upgrade. All this to say: it would have spared us all a lot of time, money, and inconvenience if we’d been willing to spend a little more on the front end.
We may be straight razor enthusiasts to our core, but we can appreciate why they might not be for everyone. If you find yourself disinterested, don’t fret or throw the razor in the trash! You can always keep it tucked away in a drawer or proudly on display as a work of functional art until you feel the urge to try again. If you are secure in your decision to move on, consider gifting it to a friend or selling it online! A quality straight razor holds value and will be snatched up by straight shavers more eager than yourself.
Now, if you find you’ve caught the razor bug and you want to upgrade to something custom, go for it! Your old razor will be ready for you in the event you want to revisit it, or you can pass it on to another budding enthusiast when the time is right.