This is the question I get asked most. Someone wants to come over from the dark side and start real shaving. Suddenly they are confronted with infinite choice. This is freedom, this is liberation, escape from the walled garden of multibladed system razors. It can also be a bit confusing. Especially as paying more money definitely does not get you better stuff. Far from it. So this article tries to clear the confusion and expands considerably on my previous article.
Real shaving, using a double edged safety razor, started in America in 1902, it rapidly spread to the rest of the world and it has been used by many hundreds of millions of men. So by now everyone involved in bringing you real shaving products knows what they are doing. There is very little bad stuff out there. And you can always use the power of the internet to research any purchase.
One of the best ways of getting a good razor is to ask round friends and relatives and get hold of an old Gillette double edged safety razor. There are vast numbers of these in attics and the bottoms of draws lying unused. And they are brilliant razors, usually made of solid brass plated with nickel they are better engineered than most brand new razors you can buy today. Their life is virtually infinite, they shave nicely and they are going up in value. If you get one just boil it very briefly in water to disinfect it then clean it with an old toothbrush.
If you must have a new Razor then the cheapest option is the Chinese Weishi, available on ebay for about £10. This is lightly and not robustly made, largely out of aluminium. However it is a precision instrument. It is a good beginners razor because it is very mild, it also demands being used at an accurate blade angle. Because it is so light it forces you to put a lot of effort into learning not to put pressure on the blade.
Then there is the razor I would recommend to everyone, the Edwin Jagger DE89L razor, which costs around £20. Lots of people have bought these on my recommendation. This is a heavy razor and the weight does the work, remember you don’t press down like with a multiblade system razor. This one is not aggressive, so ideal for beginners. It is beautifully engineered, British and is getting rave reviews. Amongst the online DE community this is considered one of the very best razors. You can buy one here.
If you must start with what is probably the very best then you want a Mergress. This is a Merkur Progress adjustable razor modified by an American engineer, in small batches, to be as close to perfection ad he can get. A beginner can use one of these on #1 and get a really mild shave, then with improving technique gradually open it up to be more aggressive. The shaving world is raving about this so demand exceeds supply, when they are in stock you can buy them here for $90.
The key thing about a brush is what the hairs are from. Synthetic isn’t so good. Boar is stiff, so works well with hard soaps. With use the ends split and they become softer. Badger is the more expensive classic, very soft and holds a lot of lather. Or you can get the best of both world by having a boar/badger mix. Two big brush manufacturers with outstanding reputations are Omega, in Italy and Vulfix, in the Isle of Man.
You can get a cheap boar brush for £1 or so at a discount chemist. This is perfect and does the job. If you want better then you need to spend about £10, either on this Omega Brofessional Boar brush. Or on a badger and boar Vulfix 404 which you can buy here. Ultimately you will probably want to own both these brushes, they are exceptional and incredible value for money.
Then you can spend a lot more money. I would recommend the two big brands. Just buy the size and hair variety that you want. Remember that they will last at least 10 years so even an expensive brush isn’t too bad when you average the cost out on a per month basis.
Just get a Palmolive shaving soap stick from any discount chemist or supermarket. Rub the stick directly into your wet stubble like a big crayon then lather up with the wet brush. This is a truly excellent quality product at a bargain price of around 50 pence. Every wet shaver should have some, it outperforms many far more expensive soaps. Even if you still use system shavers this is a lot better and cheaper than using aerosol foams and gels, where you are mainly paying for water.
A more expensive soap is Mitchell’s wool fat, this really is the gold standard against which everything else can be measured. A puck of this will cost you about £5 and will last for a very long time, or you can pay more and buy it with a dish. If you really want you can pay a whole lot more for shaving soaps, but the main thing you will be getting is a fancy smell.
Creams are easier to use, less concentrated and generally have a stronger scent. Once again Palmolive make a very acceptable product, available cheaply at any chemist. Though it is not as outstanding as the soap. More expensive is a tube of Proraso shaving cream from Italy, a very famous product, and rightly so. It explodes menthol and eucalyptus on your face and will cost you about £6. For the same price you can get a classical London shaving cream. Taylor’s of Bond Street (TOBS) have a range of scents available in a cream that is outstandingly lush.
As with soaps you can pay a whole pile more, but there really is no need.
To start with just use Tescos or Boots own brand blades for about 20 pence each (a tenth the cost of a multibladed system razor). These are Israeli Personna blades which have a good reputation. Once you get into it I would personally recommend Iridium or Gillette 7 O’clock yellow pack blades bought in bulk over the internet, which are a lot cheaper per blade and which are both trully excellent. These both come out of the state of the art Gillette joint venture factory in St Peterburg, Russia, alongside another 6 brands of double edged blades. If you want to experiment (highly recommended) then you can buy online a sample pack of many different blades and find out what suits you and your razor best.
As you can see you can start real shaving very cheaply. And if you go the Edwin Jagger DE89L, Vulfix 404, Mitchell’s Wool Fat, Iridium route ( which are all exceptional quality products) then they will probably pay for themselves in a few months compared to the cost of using multibladed system razor cartridges and aerosol gels/foams. After that you will be saving yourself about £100 every year. And yet you will be using some of the highest quality luxury goods in the world. And, every day, shaving will be a pleasure that you look forward to.