Our Guide to Finding the Best Single Blade Razor
Plus a Brief History of Razors
In the search for the ultimate shave, the major razor manufacturers have continued to push the envelope, adding more and more blades to their cartridge razors. It wasn’t that long ago that men didn’t have to search very hard to find the best single blade razor, as it was the only kind of razor around. However, that all changed in 1971, when Gillette introduced the world’s first double blade cartridge razor, the Trac II, which was a direct response to Wilkinson Sword’s single-blade “bonded razor” cartridge system that was released the year previously. Both of these were several years before Bic unveiled the world’s first fully disposable razor in 1974.
From the very beginning, some people were already questioning whether more than one blade was necessary. Even Saturday Night Live got into the act, as the show’s debut episode in 1975 featured a parody commercial for the “Triple Trac Razor.” The debate slowly died down over the next 25 years, as there were very few advancements in razor technology. That all changed in 1998 though, when Gillette shocked the world by unveiling the infamous Mach 3, the world’s first three blade razor!
Schick/Wilkinson then responded by creating the first four blade razor, the Quattro. Of course, Gillette couldn’t just stand by and let themselves be outdone, and so in 2006, the Fusion five-blade razor was produced (Mach 3 vs Fusion). The best part about all of this is how hilariously predictable this move was, so much so, that satirical newspaper The Onion actually predicted Gillette’s exact move two years prior.
Upon releasing the Trac II (check out this original 1971 ad from Time magazine), Gillette claimed that the twin-blade razor was not only much more efficient, but offered a closer shave. The Trac II was marketed under the slogan “it’s one blade better than whatever you’re using now.” The claim is that the first blade doesn’t just cut the hair off, but it also grabs ahold of it and pulls it further out of the follicle to allow the second blade to cut it even closer to the skin. Makes sense, right?
The razor companies continue to persist with this claim and have used it to justify the added blades. After all, if two blades is more efficient than one, then five blades must be five times as good. The only problem with this claim is that it’s never really been substantiated by anyone other than razor manufacturers and their so-called experts. Be sure to check out our infograhic on the science of wet shaving. Still, that has not stopped Gillette, Bic, Wilkinson Sword and other razor manufacturers from trying to outdo and one-up one each other in the fight to dominate the global shaving industry. And why not, considering that it’s worth well over $15 billion a year!
And the reason the industry has grown so massive has to do with the business model that they all use. You see, at some point, Gillette and the others decided they weren’t making enough money simply selling razor blades for a few pennies each, which is one of the major reasons they switched from producing double edge safety razors and move into disposables and cartridge razors.
Still not satisfied, they began adding more blades to the cartridges in order to raise the price and boost their profit margins. Of course, they claim that the increased number of blades provides not only a closer shave, but that each additional blade they add only increases the comfort of the shave.
By now you may be asking yourself, why does this all matter? Well, the answer is simple. It’s all about breaking out of the vicious cycle of consumer enslavement created by Big Shaving; or better yet, grow a beard and kill the shaving industry altogether. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic here, but really, there’s no reason to keep wasting your money on expensive cartridge razors when a high quality single blade razor will give you a closer shave and less irritation for a fraction of the price.
Granted, the best single blade razors may require a bit more of an initial investment, but its smooth sailing after that. While a single five-blade cartridge often costs well over $3 and only lasts for a few shaves, even the best safety razor blades like Feather are generally less than 30 cents apiece and can easily last for a week or so.
All it takes to start the savings and a better way of shaving is to buy a razor and get going. To help you on your way, here is our list of some of the best single blade razors. Be sure to check out our thorough comparison of safety razors vs cartridge razors.
Best Single Blade Razors: Double Edge v Single Edge Safety Razors
Pretty much all single blade safety razors on the market today are double edge razors, meaning both sides of the razor blade are exposed. However, in the past, numerous companies produced single edge safety razors as well. As far as we can tell, there is really only one company that produces single edge razors now, a company by the name of Beluga, which successfully used a Kickstarter campaign to get their business up and running. Still, we can’t really comment on these razors, as we’ve not yet gotten a chance to try them out.
If you’re interested in trying out a single edge razor, you can easily pick up vintage models online or possible at pawn shops, garage sales, classified ads, etc. Even though the razors are no longer produced, there are still plenty of companies that produce blades that will fit pretty much any vintage model. Some decent vintage options are the GEM Bullet-tip Micromatic, Ever Ready 1912, GEM 1912, GEM G-Bar and GEM Feather Weight. Of these, the Feather Weight is probably the best for beginners. GEM also produced an open comb version of the Micromatic, which is known to be one of the most aggressive safety razors out there. No joke, this thing can give one of the absolute closest shaves around, but usually at the cost of a couple of layers of skin.
For those who’ve never tried a single edge razor, we can highly recommend it if you’re looking for an extremely close shave, and we do mean extreme. The blade in this type of razor is at a slightly different angle and requires a special technique, but even so, most single edge safety razors are going to be about the most aggressive shave you’ve ever had—so be warned and don’t blame us if you end up bleeding like a faucet!
Since we’ve previously written a full post about the best DE razors, we’ll only list a few of our favorites here. For more information, you should definitely check out our list of the best double edge safety razors. In narrowing down from our more comprehensive list, we’ve decided to focus on what we consider the all-around best DE razors in terms of affordability, usability and durability. While there are plenty more expensive or fancy razors out there, nothing beats these true classics, which is why they remain popular among wetshavers the world over.
- Merkur 33C Classic & 34C Heavy Classic. If you’re looking for a razor that provides a lot of bang for your buck, the Classic or the Heavy Classic are both outstanding options. These are some of the best Merkur safety razors. Not the flashiest of razors, but they definitely get the job done and are among the best-selling DE razors on the market today. We’ve recently reviewed the Heavy Classic and have put together a short video intro on it so you can see how it stacks up to all the others.
- Edwin Jagger DE89. Although the company may not be as big as Merkur, Edwin Jagger can definitely compete when it comes to quality (Edwin Jagger vs Merkur), as the DE80 definitely shows. Although it’s a bit lighter than other razors, it makes an excellent choice for beginners or anyone prone to razor burn as it’s not nearly as aggressive as so many other DE razors. I learned to shave using the Edwin Jagger DE89, so maybe I’m just being nostalgic, but I have to admit it’s still one of my favorites.
- Baxter of California Safety Razor. The ultimate razor for the ultimate man, or at least that’s what many of the reviews I’ve read say, and I must admit I have to agree. Manufactured in Germany by Muhle who produces the ever so popular Muhle R89, this beautiful razor looks and acts the part. Although it’s not overly aggressive, I find that it slices through my thick, coarse beard hairs like butter. Still, the thing I like most about this one is that it’s somewhat in between a classic and a barber’s pole (long handle) in length. Whereas most razors are either 3 or 3.75 inches, this one is about 3.5″, which makes it the best of both worlds (although it may take some time to get used to). It should also be noted that Baxter made our list for best face lotions for men and best aftershave balms.
- Feather All Stainless Steel. Ok, now I know I said that these were the best DE razors in terms of price and all that, but I really couldn’t resist putting this one on here even though it costs around $200. For men who demand the best, it really doesn’t get much better than this one, which is carved entirely out of stainless steel. Not only is it durable and built to withstand rust, but it is absolutely perfect for anyone who wants to virtually eliminate the chance of even minor post shave irritation. It offers a mild, but surprisingly close shave, which only gets better if you use the ultra-sharp Feather blades that it was designed for.
If you’re new to wet shaving, you probably shouldn’t put too much thought into finding the absolute best single blade razor straight away and instead just buy a good beginner’s model. The thing is, you won’t know what you like and what you don’t until you’ve given it a try. Short handle, long handle, aggressiveness, weight—all of these are important characteristics when choosing a razor, but only once you know what you’re doing and what feels best.
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