Buying a Straight Razor Part 1: Kamisori vs Western
February 26, 20213 min read
There are two main categories within the world of straights, namely the western design and the Japanese design, known as kamisori. Considering most films and shows of the past century showcase the use of a western razor, it's the one most people are familiar with. The long handle of the Western razor allows for easy adjustment in the hand so you can find the most comfortable grip while maintaining the appropriate angle (15-30 degrees). The blades come in a variety of different steels, shapes, and sizes, although all of them will have a handle of similar weight to the blade in order to help balance it in the hand and control the amount of pressure that you apply.
The kamisori is a whole other animal that, once practiced with, gives an amazingly fun and efficient shave. Characterized by minimalist steel handle, the kamisori was originally designed to shave other people. Its smaller blade and front heavy design make it very effective at getting into the small areas of the face and are especially suited for detail work and beard-trimming. The grind on the blade makes it seem as if it is designed for shaving only on one side, but in reality both sides of the blade are used albeit at slightly different angles. The truly unique thing about the kamisori is how easy it is to manipulate and control; the simple handle is easier to work with for novices than a European grip and the shorter blade is much easier to maneuver. If you have never tried a kamisori shave, it is an incredible experience. Unlike most European blades kamisoris are hand-forged, which allows them to take a truly remarkable edge.
So the question remains; which should you buy?
Well, both types of razors can rust and require stropping before use, so the amount of care associated with both types is the same. The decision should boil down to some simple questions:
Do you keep a beard? A kamisori is the best detailing razor available, small enough to avoid cutting sideburns and moustaches.
Do you want an ornate handle or tons of steel options? Then a western razor is for you. There are a variety of beautiful handle options, and several steel types to choose from.
Do you have very coarse hair? A thick/heavy bladed western razor or a larger kamisori is the way to go. The heavier and less flexible the blade, the smoother your shave will be.
Do you live in a very humid or wet climate? A stainless steel western razor is probably the best choice for you, as stainless will hold up to moisture and prevent rust from occurring.
Finally, and most importantly, which are you in love with? Some folks love minimalism of a kamisori, while others adore the romance of a classic European razor.
Ultimately, the razor that you like the look and feel of will make you the happiest. You will likely be stuck with it for life, so pick something that you like looking at.