I get asked this question on a fairly regular basis: “what is your favorite razor?” The last time I wrote about this was three years ago and there have been a few changes since.
How my “mileage” has changed–Or Not–Over The Years
One of the foundational concepts in old school wet shaving is “Your Mileage May Vary” (YMMV). Meaning what works for one person may not work as well for another (and vice-versa).
But even for myself, some things have changed.
Twenty years on I find myself not trying as hard for that smooth-as-glass feel as I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I get it–and my wife is thrilled–but I no longer “chase BBS” as they say on the wet shaving forums.
If I’m in a hurry I’m fine with a single pass with a multi-blade cartridge razor (especially if I’m traveling). The modern razor’s front-facing pivot is one of the few design improvements I like and appreciate.
Most of the time I shave two or three passes (depending on my stubble level) and some clean-up with a “mild” (or less efficient, as some would say) single blade safety razor. And my clean-up routine is much less obsessive than it once was: one touch-up pass on an area and that’s it…no trying again if I think I didn’t get the spot. It’s not worth the chance of irritation that might come with being compulsive about it.
I have also learned to appreciate some of the subtleties of safety razors better, especially weight, balance, and build quality.
There was a time that I was perfectly satisfied with a relatively heavy, top-weighted alloy (Zamak or whatever) razor. I couldn’t imagine spending money on a “premium” razor without a really good reason. When I purchased my first stainless steel safety razor (a Feather AS-D2) I had a good deal of “buyer’s remorse” early on.
Now I can appreciate the subtle differences a premium safety razor can offer. Two of my favorite razors below are stainless steel and I have no issue with the commensurate price difference. The feel of the razor in my hand and the ever-so-slight shaving characteristic difference is something I can notice after years of trying a lot of different razors–I have well over 100 safety razors in my shave den.
And I’ve even toyed with lightweight aluminum razors and titanium razors, better appreciating the more nimble handling they can offer. Titanium razors have a much higher price point than other razor materials but I can now see how they can be attractive to a particular segment of razor-buying enthusiasts.
You have probably seen a disclosure like this in many of my posts (and it applies to this article as well):
[Note: Amazon, OneBlade, Rockwell, Supply, and Tatara links are affiliate. Geni.us links may be affiliate.]
Amazon is the “odd man out” on that list because it’s convenient and sort of a default setting. While there is a monetary benefit from getting a modest commission for a purchase, I really believe in the products below. I really enjoy using them and while I acknowledge “YMMV” I have no problem singing the praises of these razors. I have been offered commissions and sponsorships by brands and businesses I don’t believe in, and I’ve turned them down.
It should be no surprise to anyone who has read my posts over the past few years that the OneBlade Genesis is my favorite safety razor. When I’m not specifically testing a shaving product but shaving just for the pleasure of it, the Genesis is usually the razor I pull out.
Yes, some say it’s too mild (though the Genesis is the “least mild” of the OneBlade razors). Yes, some have concerns about blade availability. Yes, some enthusiasts think a razor with a pivot is not a real man’s razor.
I say “bah, humbug” to that. The Genesis consistently gives me a close, comfortable shave and the pivot gives me that shave without rough spots where I may not have the blade angle exactly right.
Rockwell T2 Adjustable In Stainless Steel
The newest addition to my favorite razors, the stainless steel version of Rockwell T2 adjustable razor (“T2SS”) is 3 grams heavier than the stock T2 but feels more dense in my hand. And the balance of the T2SS seems to be just a bit higher on the handle (toward the head) compared to the regular T2 to me.
In my hand the T2SS is quite comfortable to me, despite its size. It’s hard to describe objectively but to me it re-enforces a feeling of a quality industrial tool. And I find that the T2SS has a generous “sweet spot” for finding the correct angle to hold the razor/blade at.
The action of both the adjustment and twist-to-open dials is very smooth and fluid-like. Both dials are somewhat “tight,” requiring a bit more force to turn, but it’s not a huge issue to me–I’m sure this is to avoid a dial loosening during use which sometimes happens with TTO razors.
The Parker Variant adjustable razor has stayed on my ‘favorites’ list for a looong time. It took the place of my first ‘favorite’ razor, the Merkur Progress, and I haven’t looked back. The Variant is a lot like the Progress, without some of the Progress’ nagging little annoyances I had with it.
The Parker Variant is well weighted and well balanced for me, can go from very mild to very aggressive, simple to use, and is reasonably-priced.
While not as heavy as some other razors out there I think the Tatara Masmune razor has a nice “heft” to it (it’s another razor that “feels” heavier than it is to me) and it’s balanced just the way I like. I find fit-and-finish to be excellent.
When I first saw the razor handle I immediately nicknamed it “my golf ball razor” as the handle texturing is dimpled like a golf ball rather than the more common lining or diamond etching designs. I thought to myself “there is no way this razor can feel secure in my hand.” I was wrong.
The razor’s base plate and head mate to the blade in a fashion that sort of incorporates elements of the pin design and the bar design. I have never experienced an issue with blade alignment with this razor.
The closed comb 0.63mm blade gap would normally place this firmly at the high end of “middle-of-the-road” but the razor’s blade exposure is negative. This combination makes the razor more efficient but more comfortable for me as well.
Maybe it’s the design interaction of the blade gap and blade exposure, but I think this razor has a generous “sweet spot” and finding that just-right angle for shaving is easy and intuitive. Lather clogging and rinsing is a non-issue. I get just enough blade feel to know it’s cutting but it’s in no way harsh or irritating.
Tatara recently announced a titanium version of the Masamune which I will be writing about soon!
A shave enthusiast who is familiar with things like open combs and blade exposure might assume the Supply SE would be an very aggressive razor.
But I find the Supply SE razor to be forgiving, drama-free and very effective.
I have used the Supply’s previous razors (both the Stainless Steel model and the Alloy model) that have three base plates to choose from (Sensitive, Classic, and Aggressive). I think the aggressiveness of the SE is somewhere between the Sensitive and Classic settings (probably closer to Classic). However that’s made a little ambiguous because there is essentially no “blade feel” with the SE. I simply don’t feel the blade’s cutting edge across my skin.
The Supply SE razor is very comfortable on my skin. Combined with a very generous blade angle window (Supply suggests a 15 degree angle but I’ve found just about any “natural” angle on the razor–like you might have with a mass-market cartridge razor–works fine) the Supply borders on stupid easy and it’s almost like I’m just wiping away the stubble.
Gillette Exfoliating Razor
I know most Sharpologist readers are enthusiasts and would much rather shave with a quality safety razor with just one blade but my shaves with the GilletteLabs Exfoliating Razor have been surprisingly excellent. Subjectively, I get a better-than-darn-fine-shave (“DFS”) with a single pass so this is my favorite “one and done” razor. Noticeably better than a standard Fusion razor for me, even with the “FlexBall” and cartridge pivot features of the Fusion. I get excellent results whether I’m using it with a lathering product with a brush or a brushless cream or gel.
The Gillette SkinGuard is my favorite razor when I travel and can’t use a single blade safety razor for some reason.
The Gillette SkinGuard cartridge works on any handle that accepts Fusion cartridges. And SkinGuard cartridges are pretty widely available so it’s convenient when I travel.
There is virtually zero “blade feel” from this razor–to me it feels like a piece of plastic is being drawn over my skin. On the other hand, I think the shave is actually quite comfortable. It just doesn’t feel like shaving to me.
My shaves quickly and easily reach DFS territory without a whole lot of focus or energy attached to the process, though BBS shaves are more elusive. Considering how the “SkinGuard Strip” works, and how this razor is marketed, I do not find it particularly surprising that I can’t get that glass-like, BBS finish.
My favorite razors have allowed me to get a close, smooth shave and take better care of my skin. I’ve found them to be reliable and some are also cost-effective.
I was lucky to have my first DE razor be a Parker. That gift was given about 19 years ago. Today , I have about 12 DE razors with some being $20 and some over $100.
When I shave, the Parker is my first choice. The basic Supply is my second choice. My vintage razors have mixed reviews and they are cabinet residents.
Steve Riehle says
And I respect that. Any list of favorite items will be largely subjective and may vary from year to year.
I’m a great fan of adjustable razors. I have about 12 of ’em. A Gillette Fat Boy is fine, but IMO it doesn’t compare with a Gillette Slim or a Gillette Super Adjustable.
Re: Adjustable razors — Have you tried the RazoRock Adjust? It’s made by Baili, and at $15, buying one is a low-risk proposition. I find it a really excellent adjustable, and it is a butterfly open, unlike the (excellent) Merkur Progress or Parker Variant.
Rockwell’s T2 is also excellent but is priced substantially higher than the Adjust.
Steve Riehle says
Not one of the “favorite razors” were from yesteryear? Not even something from Merkur or Muhle, or even from the extensive Super speed genre?
For my shave this morning I picked a 1948 Gillette Super Speed. The shave was unbeatable and ethereal in all respects. It was close, comfortable, and smooth.
I have never been big on vintage razors. I have tried a couple vintage Super Speeds and a Fat Boy adjustable but my personal preference is for more modern razors.
Good list. I have come across a number of recent razors I would nominate for inclusion:
Phoenix Artisan Double Slant — it is made of plastic and comes in various colors. Despite its low price ($27), it is remarkably comfortable and remarkably efficient.
Phoenix Artisan Quantum — a modern version of the venerable Eclipse Red Ring, it comes with two baseplates. The Ω baseplate was perfect for me. Very cool razor with unusual guard: not bar guard nor a comb guard but a rib guard.
The Razor Company offers a stainless steel razor that has an interesting handle and shaves like a dream.
Yaqi offers a number of razor heads, and some of them are excellent. The stainless steel ones I particularly liked were Slope (a very nice slant), Tile (very like the Henson Shaving razor, but in stainless steel), Vostok 70DC (bar guard one side, comb guard the other; Flipside is a non-stainless version at a lower price and is also excellent). I also like their Mellon DOC head, but I have tried some that were definitely not for me (Knight Helmet and their “very aggressive slant”).
Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean) says
I thought this was a list of Mantic’s PERSONAL favorite razors. I don’t think it’s a list of good/great razors. What am I missing here?
I was suggesting some razors that I thought he (and others reading the article) might want to try because to me they seemed good candidates to become favorites in 2023. After all, we still have 8 months to go. 🙂
The razors I listed seemed appropriate since they are both good/great razors and are also recent/new.
I probably should have made that clear.