8 best safety razors

Bin the disposables and side with tradition to get the closest shave

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The Independent Online

Whether you’ve been left scowling at irritation from your electric or disposable, or simply revere the vintage style, a safety razor is a great upgrade for your wet shave.

The safety razor has been around since the 1880s – you’ll probably recognise it as the razor your father or grandfather shaved with. 

The most popular variety is the double edge (DE) razor, in which a double-edged blade is placed in between a guard plate and a comb plate, which in turn is attached to the handle you grip.

The rising popularity for the almost-retro shaving tool can be attributed to the fact that double edge blades are far cheaper than modern disposables and because one blade is gentler on your skin than five. In short, it’s a closer, cheaper, less irritating shave. 

This is our guide to the most reputable DE razors on the market. We’ve tested them ourselves, putting our stubble-growth and skin to the test of the best.

Unless specified otherwise, we used a hot towel, Murdock pre-shave oil and Kiehl’s Lite Flite shave cream – you’re also going to want to open your pores with a single blade.

When, in this piece, we talk about how “aggressive” a shave is given, we’re referring to two aspects of the razor. The first is how exposed or hidden the blade is by the guard, and the second is angle the blade cuts at – the more acute the angle, the cleaner you're likely to cut your hair, depending on your bristles.

We’ve also talked about closed-comb housing – meaning that the traditional “comb” guard plate acts as a barrier between your skin and the blade as you run the razor down your skin. In an open-comb razor, the hair could fit through the gaps in the guard, like a comb.

1. Mühle Kosmo Safety Razor in Bog Oak: £54.49, Waremakers 

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This is quite simply the closest and most comfortable shave we’ve experienced with a safety razor. The aggressive angle of the blade, sheltered in a chrome, closed-comb housing is complemented by a luxurious bog oak handle that sits perfectly in your hand. It’s a shorter handle but the grip is excellent and allows nimble positioning of the blade around the contours of your face. We were pleasantly surprised how easily we got used to the unorthodox handle and suspect we’ll grow to love it. As you’d expect from the renowned Saxony brand, Mühle razors are packaged in a box fit for display. In addition, the Kosmo handles come in a variety of woods and resins, with matching stands and brushes. This razor competes with the significantly pricier options, and is ideal for beginners and experienced wet-shavers alike. A delight. 

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2. Feather All Stainless Steel Double-Edge Razor Model AS-D2S: £199, Amazon

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This 90-gram, stainless steel razor gave us the easiest, most comfortable shave of our life. The Feather is a £199 razor, but we think your money is well returned with an almost surgical product. Made in the Japanese city of Seki, the quality of this instrument is evident as soon as you open the box and see it lovingly coddled in a deep burgundy case. The shave itself is sublime. We could have done it blindfolded. The blade - we used Feather’s own, supplied - is well guarded by the flat comb but also precisely angled for close cutting, meaning even the toughest stubble is sliced through with no resistance or irritation. The cross-hatched grip round the handle, which screws in smoothly, also assures the shaver that you can’t go wrong with this edge - it barely moved in our hand. The price is admittedly huge, but this is simply the best quality on the list. Also available is a stand of the same material, and the combination looks so swish you’ll want to showcase it.

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3. Giesen & Forsthoff Timor 1360 Olive Wood Safety Razor Chrome: £82, Edwards Traditional Shaving 

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www.shavelounge.co.uk

This razor from Giesen & Forsthoff, a maker based in western Germany, exudes quality. From the finish of the olive wood handle to the brand name etched on the cast zinc, when you feel the weight of the razor in your hand, you know it will last for years. The medium aggressive blade angle and closed-comb mean this is a great razor for either a daily shaver or an infrequent user, and would be a welcome present for beginners, or for experienced shavers with a single blade. The shave was thorough and close, but left us with no irritation. Giesen & Forsthoff supplied us with Timor blades for the experience, also made in shave city Solingen, which felt like the shaving equivalent of a kiss on the cheek. The pricing of the razor may put off some beginners, but if you’re looking for a product of supreme craftsmanship, this is the tool for you. You can also buy varieties in steel and oak. 

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4. Rockwell 6C razor: £45, Indiegogo

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Coming in a gunmetal or white chrome finish, the selling point of this product, which for now is only available through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, is versatility. Three reversible plates allow for six different widths between the blade and the guard, meaning you can set your shave as aggressive as you’d like it depending on your requirements. If you’ve grown your stubble out, you can hack it all off with the size six plate, which allows for a more aggressive blade angle – if you have sensitive skin you can go for a pass with the size one plate, which is a much milder, more sheltered shave. The chrome series razor looks sleek and grips well, and the weight of the razor sits nicely in your hand. Our only quibble is that the blade is very well guarded, meaning we needed a second pass in some hard to reach corners or our face – however, this is no bad thing for wary newcomers to a single blade. A lovely display box also means this serves as a brilliant, versatile gift at a very reasonable price.

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5. Edwin Jagger Chatsworth DE Razor: £59, Edwin Jagger

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This Sheffield brand is known for quality, and the bulbous style of the Chatsworth brass razor, finished with chrome, does not disappoint. It’s weighty yet nimble and the closed comb style offers ample protection from the blade. The razor is also balanced in your hand, and is on the less aggressive side, which makes it a great option for newcomers to the single blade. We used this razor in conjunction with Edwin Jagger’s pre-shave lotion and shave cream, which also provided a very smooth and pleasant experience with the blade. We did make two passes with the blade for our desired clean shave, as we’re used to a more incisive blade angle, however we found no irritation whatsoever. You can also buy the Chatsworth in imitation horn, ivory and ebony, on its own or as part of a shaving set, including badger hair brushes. At £55, this is good quality and good value. It comes in a beautiful presentation gift box, too.

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6. Bluebeards Revenge Cutlass Double-Edge Safety Razor: £34.66, Amazon

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The smooth gunmetal finish on the navy blue aluminium razor, paired with the distinctive skull and crossbones logo, is your first signal of a serious product. The head of the razor, which appears very similar to the Maggard V3A closed comb, provides a very aggressive shave, which was to my liking. Newcomers should be aware that, for the smoothest results, apply very little to no pressure – in fact, if you’re worried about a single blade you may be better served with a less aggressive entry level razor. However, if you have a pirate’s mane to tame and like doing it in one pass – and don’t mind some skull-and-crossbones branding to boot – this is the single blade experience for you.

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7. Taylor of Old Bond Street Birchwood Safety Razor: £129, Style

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This razor, made by Taylor of Old Bond Street, is crafted from grained birchwood with chrome fixtures. To touch the birchwood handle is very smooth, yet still grips reasonably for a steady hand, while the chrome plates which house the blade are great quality. The handle screws into place without a squeak. The closed comb, combined with an incisive blade angle allows for a relatively close and comfortable shave. However, the easy joy and irritation-free experience of the aggressive Mühle and Giesen & Forsthoff razors weren’t quite matched in this model – we required a second pass of the razor, but that gave a truly close shave. If you’re looking for a beautifully made product and you’re of softer bristles or sensitive skin, this is a razor you will adore.

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8. Parker 66R Safety Razor: £21.99, Parker

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There are two main selling points to this product: the price and a lovely little butterfly action (more on that below). At £21.99, this razor was the cheapest we reviewed, and is therefore an attractive option for those new to the single blade game, or on the fence about dipping their toe in the market. The razor, made of chrome-plated brass, is very grippy and well-weighted.  Equally delightful is the opening mechanism – twisting the bottom of the handle will reveal the chamber for the blade as the top guard plate opens like a butterfly’s wings. Hence the name. It’s a feature which makes disposal and insertion of blades effortless and the novelty is charming. However, those who are used to a single blade or want to make a significant investment early may find that the superior build quality of another model, such as the Mühle or the Rockwell for only around £20 or £30 more, is an attractive option and a more consistent shave.

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The Verdict: Safety razors

If you really want to invest in a quality product, the Feather razor is an outstanding razor you will cherish for years, if not decades. It’s eye-catching, durable, and makes the usually menial task of shaving an easy joy. Yes, it’s by far the most expensive on our list, but consider the savings you’ll make compared to multiple cartridge blade purchases.  For only £55, the Mühle is also delightful and a divinely close shaving experience, which isn’t far at all from being on par with the Feather. It’s stylish, modern and everything you could want in a smooth shave, and available in a range of colours and materials. It’s the best value, so it gets our Best Buy.

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