February 16, 2022 5 min read
The straight razor. Not as clumsy or random as an electric razor. An elegant tool, for a more civilized age. Once, the only way to get a shave, the practice needed from a barber was so developed that very often the town surgeon was the same man - who else knew how to wield a blade with such skill? Unfortunately, this worthy tool has fallen in popularity in recent decades. Since the introduction of the double-edge safety razor, which democratized shaving and made blade maintenance a less essential skill, the straight razor has become a rarefied tool, shrouded in legend and mystique.
In the movies, a straight razor can convey manliness, refinement anddanger. Moneypenny’s suggestive shaving of Her Majesty’s most famous secret agent inSkyfall is a favourite that comes to mind. This is all not to mention the straight razor as the weapon of choice for notorious demon barber Sweeney Todd.
Because of this imagery, the straight razor is enjoying a modern revival. After hitting a production low in 2006,Dovo has increased its output four-fold since 2012’sSkyfall. As society becomes more conscious about waste and concern for the environment, alternatives to disposable plastics are actively sought out. Even in lean times, the relative expense of a straight razor is offset by substantial long-term savings.
As a service to you, our dear customer, who may be new to the straight razor, I have crafted a list of some of my favourite straight razors to give you an idea of where to start.
One of my favourite straight razors is the Bergischer Lowe, and is it ever a gorgeous blade! The 5/8” height is the most common blade size, and it is comfortable for both a first-time user, and a seasoned wet shaver. Its full hollow grind (which is to say, extremely thin) produces an edge that surprises with how gently it cuts the hair on even the coarsest of beards. The Bergischer Lowe is also an object of nearly unmatched beauty: the naturally unique horn scales give each razor its own character, highlighted by a stylized spine that has been plated in 14-karat gold.
Young guns in the straight razor game, Portland Razor Co. have been crafting their blades from O1 tool steel, for its incredible hardness and sharpenability. Now they have added a high-carbon stainless steel, known as “Cascade Steel", to their lineup.The cascade-steel razors were born out of a desire to bring proper straight-razors back to barbering, rather than settling on sub-par disposable blades. Paired with their program of education on proper sanitization and care of a razor, the Portland Professional line has made waves in the American barbering industry with professionals who take the time to care for their tools and sanitize them properly.
By using Cascade Steel, the Portland Razor Co. has crafted a razor that will not corrode and lose its edge in barbicide, while maintaining all of the workability and edge-retention of traditional carbon-steel. The durable Kirinite scales are sexy, while also completely resistant to damage from disinfectant chemicals. This razor is the epitome of traditional craftsmanship and modern material technology. The rounded tip is easy to use for any skill-level but still offers expert precision.The thickness of the Portland lends itself to plowing through your beard and asserting itself as a great shave.
How cool is it to shave with a blade titled "Spartacus"? Don't be intimidated: it's taller than the previous two razors, coming in at 7/8”, and is fittingly held by scales of cherry-red stamina wood. The taller blade lends it more momentum, allowing it to glide through your beard with unprecedented smoothness. Thiers-Issard has a pedigree stretching back to 1884. Their handmade razors are second to none, and you will shave with the weight of 135 years of history.
Wacker is a four-generation family run business that proudly carries German blade smithing tradition without compromise. The master razor smith has been trained for decades, using grinding technology that has not been changed in 80 years due to its incredible success and quality. Each step of razor-crafting is carried out by hand, the same hands that have mastered those tasks with decades of practice from a young age. By refusing to compromise, Wacker crafts some of the best razors in Germany, and the world in general.
This razor's name is no coincidence, it is truly reminiscent of the style of razor used by barbers of days gone by. The thick, heavy spine gives it a confident weight when shaving, without feeling under control. The squared-off point allows for the precise detailing needed around the sideburns, beard, or nostrils. This razor is designed to make you feel like a pro, regardless of your experience level.
As a young blacksmith working on his own, Amano-san began steel forging and crafting Kamisori (Japanese straight razors) around the time that Kent of Inglewood opened in 2014. In 2015 he began mailing us prototypes to shave with, and report back our results. Right from the beginning his edges were fantastic, and with a little bit of feedback his blades quickly became the comfortable, balanced blade that you see today. He makes a non-traditional ambidextrous razor all from White Carbon Steel, a steel known for its hardness and edge retention. Typically Japanese razors are right-handed, but we feel this western-style razor is a true masterpiece.
Kamisori is Japanese for razor, and is a style of straight razor unto itself. It is a thoroughly Japanese style of straight razor, in its history, its simple-but-elegant design, and its hand-forged craftsmanship. Though the style is hundreds of years old, famous blacksmith Iwasaki-san revived it and pursued making the perfect razor. Since then, many blacksmith have continued this work as the style gains popularity, including Amano-san.
This is it. The ultimate. When tasked with the challenge of crafting the most legendary straight razor ever made in the Thiers Issard factory, their craftspeople rose to the challenge. The Thiers Issard Damascus is hand folded, acid etched, and scaled with two slices of stunning water buffalo horn. The 6/8” blade is a standard size, and good to learn on as it is easy to maneuver while not so narrow that it gets lost in your hand. Japanese carbon steel makes an amazing shaving edge that will last a solid year for most shavers, and the horn scales add extra heft that makes for smoother shaving while also looking and feeling exceptionally cool.
While these are some of the best razors that we have to offer, a straight razor is a very personal thing and we have a wide selection to choose from. You can check out more here.
If you’d like to do some more learning, check out our in-depth exploration on different point styles or get in touch with us directly, we are happy to answer any questions you may have.