Face it: We’ve done too good a job mass-producing multi-blade disposable razors. Zip, zop, you’re done, and sure, the shave is passable — but at what cost? Rashes, slashes, and burns.
Although the long practiced art of wet shaving with a double edge safety razor is taking a step back in convenience, more and more men are finding it’s exactly what they need. Your face is not flat; it’s covered with peaks and valleys, and double edge forces us to slow down, learn the skill of shaving, and find the right tool to get the job done correctly. Besides, if DE razors didn’t give a top-notch shave, they wouldn’t have been around for a hundred-plus years. Here's everything you need to dump the disposable and go full DE.
Your first step is to choose a solid razor body, one that fits in your hand and is neither too heavy nor too light. There are two main kinds, the Butterfly and the 3-Piece. Most consider the Butterfly to be simpler, but both are quality options. The Merkur 34c HD by DOVO-Solingen (above, $30 at Amazon) is not one of the more elegant razors — and it doesn’t need to be. It was designed to perform with most beard types and adapts as well for small fingers as it does for large hands. The quality and entry-level price point make it an excellent first choice when considering the switch from multi-blade disposables or electrics.
A global leader in men's grooming products, Edwin Jagger’s offering into the DE market is the chrome-lined DE89Lbl ($41 at Sears). This stylish and sturdy razor consistently ranks among the best for affordable entry-level double edge razors. Lighter than other brands, this razor claims superior balance and ease of use for the newly acquainted wet shaver. Comes with five blades.
Finally, the Parker 24c three-piece (above, $28 from West Coast Shaving) is a smart choice for beginning wet shavers with tough facial hair. Heavier than most, the “open comb” rakes the hair between its teeth for a smoother cut — but it also exposes more blade surface to the skin, making for a harsh experience for those with sensitive skin or finer beards.
There is more to the wet-shave game than just having a quality razor body, though. What about blades? Soaps? After-shave tinctures and balms? Getting into the practice of wet shaving is not inexpensive, but once you’ve got all the right stuff for your face, the savings far eclipses disposable razors.
Surprisingly, razor blades are not all the same, and finding just the right one to work for your particular beard can be challenging. That's why we recommend a sampler pack (below, $33 from West Coast Shaving). With a variety of blade types, thicknesses, and features, you’ll have complete control over the finish of your shave and the health of your skin. Once you find a brand and style you like, buy it in bulk (easy on the internet) and save a bundle.
While there is nothing wrong with using conventional canned shaving creams with your new DE razor, the traditional method is to draw a wet brush vigorously across a puck of hard shave soap in a ceramic bowl called a scuttle (and yes, an old coffee mug works just fine). Croap is hard cream soap (from $10 at West Coast Shaving) that’s also lathered with a brush and bowl. Another excellent option that's great for beginners and travelers is the soap stick. It’s applied directly to the face and a moistened brush lathers it up right on the skin, skipping the scuttle and bowl altogether.
Oh yes, your brush. Simply put, you need one. They’re not all the same, and no other kind of brush will suit this job. Boar bristle and synthetic alternatives are fair, but nothing matches the absorption, whisker-lifting, and softness of pure or silver tipped badger hair (from $22 at West Coast Shaving). For those concerned about the welfare of a cute, furry mammal like the badger, rest assured those little M.F.'s are bad-ass and will just as soon rip your throat out as let you dab a little lather on its tail. So yeah, no worries. You're good.
Alum is a brittle substance containing ammonium or potassium, and the alum block was the aftershave go-to before the advent of alcohol-based tinctures and lotions. In block form, alum is rubbed directly on wet skin immediately after shaving, where it acts like an astringent to help protect, heal, and tighten the skin. Used by men and women for generations, both recipes do exactly the same thing, so it’s mostly a matter of preference. Bloc Osma in France offers an excellent handcrafted alum block ($7 from Amazon).
If you still need some convincing as to whether or not double edge wet shaving is right for you, why not try Gentleman Jon's Complete Wet Shave Kit ($55 from Amazon)? It's got all the stuff we’ve talked about here (and honestly, is a gem of a gift idea), and if you decide DE is not for you, you won't be out too much dough. We suspect, however, that given the art and zen of wet shaving, you may never go back to your multi-blade disposable.