Iíve been wet shaving for going on 2 years now. When I first started, I loved the nostalgia of safety razors and lathering with a brush. I also loved the challenge of straights. But, as much as I love using old school razors, I remembered that the whole reason for venturing down this path in the first place was to find the best shave. With 2 years experience (1 year with safeties and 1 with straights), I think Iíve refined my technique sufficiently to be able to run an informative comparison. So, I spent the past couple of weeks shaving half of my face with one type of razor and half with another. My results may or may not surprise you, but I thought Iíd share them because there is so often so much discussion on the relative effectiveness of straights versus safeties versus cartridges.
Since this was a comparison of razors, I endeavored to keep all other aspects of my shave routine consistent (i.e. beard prep, lather, brush and post shave). The only variation I allowed was my cartridge shaves were 2 passes (1xWTG & 1xATG) while my single blade shaves were 3 passes (1xWTG, 1xXTG & 1xATG). This was simply because a 3 pass shave with a cartridge irritates my face beyond belief. Since this was a comparison of razor types and not of specific razors, the razors I chose were my personal favorites again with the exception of the cartridge. Since I threw out my last M3 about a year and a half ago, I had to purchase a new cartridge for the test. In fairness, I chose what appears to be the best cartridge available today.
- Straight Ė 6/8 Thiers-Issard ground Le Grelot
- Safety Ė Merkur head on Bull Mastiff handle with Astra blades
- Cartridge Ė Gillette Fusion ProGlide
- Brush Ė Simpsons Chubby 1 Super
- Lather Ė MWF
- Post Shave Ė Thayers Original Witch Hazel & The Gentlemanís Refinery ASB
All shaves were done after my morning shower. I wet my face, lather up with MWF, strop my blade, rinse my face and re-lather. To keep things consistent, I stropped my straight even when I wasnít shaving with it. As mentioned above, I did a pair-wise comparison by shaving half of my face with one razor and half with another. I compared cartridge to straight, cartridge to safety and safety to straight. I compared the look and feel of each shave immediately after shaving, throughout the day and prior to shaving the next day.
Probably not a surprise to most, I did find a slight but noticeable difference between each and would rank my straight as the best, safety second and the cartridge third. What may be a surprise (and possible heresy to some) is how remarkably similar the shaves were. I donít consider any of my instruments a hands down winner. It was definitely a close race. Considering the challenges of learning straights, I can see why folks adopted safeties, and I can see where nowadays folks wouldnít want to put up with learning straights. Given that even safeties have a small learning curve and cartridges are practically fool proof (and heavily marketed), I can see why the bulk of the market uses a cartridge.
As an adjunct, in terms of comfort of the shave, I would still rate my straight as the most comfortable but I would rate the cartridge second and my safety last. This too was a close race, but for me, the distance between the finishers was a bit more marked than when comparing closeness and staying power. And yes, all shaves were done with fresh blades with the exception of the straight which was honed once and stropped before each shave.
So, all things considered, the best this man can get is a straight, followed closely by a safety, followed closely by a cartridge.