When it comes to form follows function there is little to beat the classic safety razor. In use for well over 100 years, the design has been honed and - dare we say - sharpened to provide the closest possible shaves. New names are joining established brands, not least because of the return of traditional shaving in the resurgent barber shop industry. It's not just hipster trendiness: the single blade shave is, its many adherents point out, better for the skin in the longer term and, used properly, offers a better shave than multi-blade disposable razors. Eco-conscious too, since most of those disposables end up in landfill. Time for you to switch? We've picked out some of the best safety razors on the market - and some hot tips for the best shave possible.
Why you need a safety razor
Safety razor enthusiasts say that, used properly, the safety razor really can offer a closer shave than the multi-blade disposables that have come to dominate the market. First off, it's better for the skin, they maintain, simply because there's only one blade shaving your skin at a time rather than the multiple passes of the average multi-blade cartridge razor.
The environment will benefit too. You'll be recycling blades, certainly, but not throwing out the entire razor - as you do with a plastic disposable - at regular intervals.
There's another issue. Multiple blades mean that everything from shaving foam to facial hair can build up between them, allowing bacteria in their turn potentially to thrive. Single blade safety razors have no such issues. You'll find using a safety razor is cheaper on the whole too.
Naturally it requires a little adjustment to shaving routines, but, trust us, once these are mastered you're unlikely to look back.
How to use a safety razor
First, follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to insert a blade. Once you've done this a few times it really does become second nature. A blade should last a week or two. Replace as often as it feels necessary to do so.
Use your usual shaving foam, cream or traditional shaving soap to work up a lather over your beard hair.
Hold your safety razor at about a 30 degree angle to the skin and begin your usual shaving routine. General advice is to use downward strokes first, working with the direction of beard growth and starting from the cheeks downward.
Once that's done, wash your face and apply more shaving cream, soap or foam. Repeat the shaving action as above, but this time shave across - rather than down - the beard grain. Job done.
Which blade should you choose?
Just about all safety razors today use double edge blades. Look for the abbreviation - DE - to be sure. Single edge blades are now very much a specialist item, and there are razors which use them. General advice, however, is to use double edged blades for a simpler, closer shave.
Beyond that, there are a variety of materials used for razor blades. You're not going to go wrong here: most are in stainless steel and are precision made, often in renowned blade-making cities, for the finest possible shave.
Best safety razors for men in 2023
Edwin Jagger 3ONE6 Stainless Steel Knurled DE Safety Razor
A razor that draws on a deep British heritage - while simultaneously foregrounding new technology. Edwin Jagger's 3ONE6 is handmade in Sheffield, traditional home of the sharpest blades. The 3ONE6's construction is of super-tough Sheffield 316 grade stainless steel, with a diamond knurled handle for a sure and certain grip. Head is a fresh two-part design crafted using injection moulding, allowing the 3ONE6 to make the most of double-edged blades.
Mühle Traditional Safety Razor
German engineering is the key to Mühle's passion for the ideal safety razor. They've been hand-crafting fine safety razors for more than 75 years, constantly evolving designs in their constant quest for the perfect shave. Mühle's Traditional Safety Razor is the result of all of this work, a deceptively simple piece of shaving design that has been expertly crafted to provide, as Mühle themselves put it, "peerless quality and longevity".
Merkur & Dovo HD 34C Safety Razor Chrome 8cm
Merkur & Dovo can trace their heritage back to the early years of the last century, always based in the German knife and blade making centre of Solingen. Each of their HD 34C Safety Razors is handmade by expert artisans and features a shorter handle for easier access to those hard-to-shave areas. Handle is crafted from chromed brass with precision milling to offer a better grip for wet hands.
Rockwell Razors Rockwell 2C - Double Edge Safety Razor
Another winner from the Canadian razor specialists at Rockwell. The 2C is, say Rockwell, for those just starting out with a safety razor and features two settings, including what Rockwell describe as their "beginner setting", aimed at preventing you from cutting yourself while shaving. Construction is from chromed zinc alloys, with a variety of striking finishes available, to make the Rockwell 2C a highly individual addition to your bathroom.
Gillette King C. Gillette Double Edge Safety Razor for Men
The classic, reinvented. One of the biggest names in shaving has produced a design that draws on more than 100 years of offering the very best razors. Gillette are so proud of their design that it bears the name of their founder - the American entrepreneur King Camp Gillette, who is credited with invented the double-edged safety razor. Handle is chrome plated for longevity, while knurling offers easier grip.
The Bluebeards Revenge Cutlass Double-Edge Safety Razor
Young British brand based in the south-west of England with a burgeoning popularity for its mission to "provide all-conquering shave, hair, beard and beauty products". Bluebeard is a part of the new male grooming revolution, and their Cutlass Double-Edge Safety Razor is both characteristically wittily named and designed - with gunmetal finish to aluminium handle - to offer a close, sure shave.