It’s an ideal time for discovering your favorite way to shave, as there have never been more options to choose from in the razor department. The technology is hitting new heights, with some devices packing self-heating and/or vibrating functions all in the name of a smooth, easy shave, and giving the grooming aisle at virtually every drugstore a Sharper Image circa early 2000s vibe.
However, not everyone is springing for a high-tech shave. In fact, a growing number of people are eschewing the multi-blade design altogether and opting for old-school single blade styles like straight razors and shavettes, inspired by their simple design, economical approach, and time-honored results.
As pared down as shavettes and straight razors are, there is still plenty to learn about how they work and what makes them different, so we hit up two grooming experts to get the lowdown on each. Whether your morning shave involves a three-step ritual and a Bluetooth connection or you prefer going from stubble to baby smooth in under a minute, keep reading for the ultimate guide to shavettes vs. straight razors.
MEET THE EXPERT
- Robert-Jan Rietveld is a barber and the co-founder of Reuzel, a line of grooming products designed for optimal hair and skincare.
- Soren Roi is a senior barber at Fellow Barber in SoHo, New York City.
What Is a Shavette?
If you haven’t heard of a shavette, chances are you’ve still seen one because, over the years, the term “straight razor” has become the more common way to call both types of razors that typically comprise the fold-out blade arm and handle design. However, Roi explains that the main difference between shavettes vs. straight razors is that a shavette has a replaceable blade, whereas a straight razor’s blade is part of its design.
Pros and Cons of Shavettes
One of the biggest advantages of a single-blade type razor in general is that it allows for more precision when shaving, Roi explains, making it easier to get crisp, clean lines on the edges of your beard. This goes for both shavettes and straight razors, though you should know the replaceable blade of the shavette comes with its own set of pros and cons.
- Cheaper to Use: Those high-tech razors we mentioned above may be worth every penny, but they often require proprietary cartridge blades, which can be quite expensive, especially compared to conventional blades. Roi says that disposable shavette blades are much cheaper than multi-razor cartridges, making shavettes less expensive to use regularly.
- Low-Maintenance: Cost aside, Rietveld says that using a shavette for your daily shave requires little to no maintenance, aside from the occasional blade change. Compare that to the charging, syncing, and overall fuss some of the more high-tech models can throw at you, and the shavette is the no muss, no fuss option.
- Easier to Use: “Beginners are typically ideal candidates for a shavette because they are easier to master,” Rietveld says. “If you are still learning how to properly maneuver a blade, it is best to start with a shavette first.”
- May Have a Learning Curve: Before using a shavette for the first time, those who grew up on the classic Mach III or have never used a straight-type razor before will need to get the hang of how it works. “They can take a bit to get used to if you have never used one before,” Roi says. “You have to learn the correct angle and pressure to use for your beard.” Our advice: Hit up a barber for an official lesson before taking the blade to your skin.
- May Cause Razor Burn: “Since the blade is thinner, the vibrations that occur when shaving are more likely to cause irritation and burns,” Rietveld says. This is especially true for those with sensitive skin, who may want to avoid a shavette.
- Changing Blades May Be Dangerous: Roi stresses that because the blades used in a shavette are extremely sharp (we’re talking razors, after all), those less adept at handling them run the risk of getting cut while changing blades. Just be careful.
- Blade Length: The blade of a shavette is only as long as the razor blade itself, which is typically shorter than the blade of a straight razor. This means you may need more passes to get clean-shaven.
What Is a Straight Razor?
A straight razor is the classic, fold-out razor with the old school barbershop aesthetic that looks straight out of a Humphrey Bogart movie. It’s very similar to a shavette except for one major detail: Instead of a disposable razor, it’s got a solid metal blade. “One side is the handle, which you hold, and the other is the blade,” Roi explains. “The whole tool folds in half and, when folded, the blade sits inside the handle for safety.”
Pros and Cons of Straight Razors
Just like shavettes, straight razors have some major benefits—as well as some potential drawbacks—related to their unique design.
- Provides Smoother Shave: Rietveld points out that the shorter handle enables a straight razor to maneuver more easily over the surface of the face, resulting in a smoother, more efficient shave.
- More Comfortable: Although at first it can be tricky to use, the effortless movement of a straight razor causes less potential irritation, leaving skin less irritated afterwards.
- Clean, Precise Lines: As with shavettes, a straight razor makes it easy to get sharp beard edges with minimal effort.
- Most Economical: Since the blade of a straight razor is part of its design, it’s meant to be sharpened rather than replaced, making it exceedingly more economical in the long run.
- Can Be Difficult to Master: Similar to a shavette, Rietveld says it can take a while to get the hang of a straight razor, meaning you may experience the occasional nick and cut at the outset.
- Blades Need Sharpening: Roi says that straight razors must be sharpened before each use with a special tool called a strop, a skill that can also have a learning curve.
Shavettes vs. Straight Razors
Deciding between shavettes vs. straight razors comes down to practicality. Both will give you that old-school barbershop shave, both will allow you to get precise edges on your beard, and both are the ultimate tool for those looking to embrace a proper shaving ritual. However, if you’re a newcomer to the single blade arena, both Roi and Rietveld recommend starting with a shavette. “Not only is a shavette easier to use because it doesn’t require sharpening, [but] it is also cleaner because the blades can be disposed of after each use,” Roi says. After you get that down, then by all means go for a straight razor.
The Final Takeaway
For many, shaving is serious business, and each element—from razor to aftershave—must be chosen with care and consideration. “The context in which you hold the act of shaving is decisive to your experience of it,” Roi says, pointing out that more and more guys are landing in their local barber shops for traditional hot towel shaves. “It uplifts the experience from a chore into a self care ritual.” Therefore, choosing the right razor for your daily shaving can bring a bit of that barbershop ritual into your own home every morning, elevating a simple shave to an act of self-care.