I think it’s pretty safe to say, at this point, that safety razor shaving or straight razor shaving is more than just a fad. Men are finding that to really get the close shave they want, they only need one blade, not a multi-blade, vibrating cartridge razor with a rotating head from Gillette. If you still need some more convincing, be sure to check out one of our most popular blog posts. I’ve been planning for a while to put together a blog post on a wet shaving starter kit. I think one of the biggest obstacles to getting started with wet shaving is knowing where to begin. Maybe you are looking at getting started yourself, maybe you already are a wet shaver and want to pass on some advice to your friends, maybe you’re a wife or a girlfriend looking for Father’s Day gift ideas. Whatever your reason, I want to go through the shaving process step by step and offer one or two great starting products. In addition to choosing products based on quality and universal appeal, I am definitely cost-focused in this post. I would hate for anyone to dump a ton of cash into this hobby, only to find you hate it (not likely). So you might be an experienced shaver looking at this with a response of, “but product X is better than what you said!” Just remember, that this list does take price into consideration.
I’m going to steer away from the pre-shave oils here, and recommend using a pre-shave cream. I think oil and skin can sometimes react in funny ways, and you’re already going to be monkeying around enough with your face making this switch. Sticking to a pre-shave lotion will be gentler on your skin, while providing the benefits of a protective pre-shave. The pre-shave cream I use more than anything else is made by Proraso (read our full review here). I love the menthol, the quick application, and that it rinses off my hands easily. If menthol isn’t your thing, or you think it might not mix well with the scent of the shaving soap or cream you’re using, try the sensitive cream from Proraso.
Shaving Cream / Shaving Soap
Personally, I am more of a shaving soap user than a shaving cream user. I tend to get better shaves with soaps, and I think they are a bit slicker. However, I do think creams can be a bit easier to lather when first starting out as well as more cushioning for a novice wet shaver. So, with that in mind, I’m going to recommend a soap and a cream. I think the perfect cream to start with is this one from Taylor of Old Bond Street. The scent is classic and timeless, and the performance is incredible. If you would prefer to try out a soap, I think the shaving soaps from Wet Shaving Products are some of the values out there right now. I personally like the “Tobacco” scent (you can read our review here), but they are all fantastic. If you’re really having trouble deciding between a cream or a soap, why not try a “croap”. A “croap”, also known as a soft soap, is just that, a softer soap for easier lather with amazing slickness. Invented in 1899, the Cella shaving soap is one of the best ever made. Literally. (Be sure sure to check out our review of the Cella here).
In my humble opinion, there are two great razors with which you can start. One is made by Merkur and the other by Edwin Jagger. They are both moderately aggressive, well constructed, and decently priced. The Merkur is slightly more aggressive, with a more manly, workshop type look to it, and you can read all about it here. The razor by Edwin Jagger is a little more forgiving, and carries a higher level of sophistication and charm; be sure to read our full review here. Both are excellent razors, and both will last decades. Between the two, it’s more a matter of preference and style than anything else.
I’m sure I will get a lot of other recommendations here, but I think the best brushes out there for the money are made by Semogue. Semogue mostly makes their brushes from boar bristles instead of badger, but all this really means to you is that your brush will take a few weeks to break in. Since you’re going to be progressing as you go, it stands to reason that your tools should too. I’m partial to the 1305, and you can read our full review, while the 1800 and the 2000 are exceptional as well.
Here is another example of divergent paths. Some men prefer an aftershave splash based in alcohol; others prefer an aftershave balm with additional moisturizing properties. There’s no right or wrong here, just preference. Part of the fun with wet shaving is experimenting with new products. Honestly, only time will tell whether you prefer splashes or balms, but I have two great starting points to recommend. If you want to try an after shave splash, Fine Accoutrements makes some of the best regardless of price. Check out our review of the Clean Vetiver. One of our favorite aftershave balms is made my by Soap Commander. With just the right amount of menthol and an excellent fragrance, I absolutely love it, and you can read more about it here. Finally, a word about alum blocks. I use one almost every day, and highly recommend you get one too. They will heal any nicks or cuts, stop bleeding, and protect your face after shaving. I love this one from Razorock with its own travel case.
Razor blades are the trickiest of all products to recommend. Each blade is so unique, and each blade responds differently to every person’s skin. That being said, my first recommendation is to always buy a sample pack and see what blades you like before you dive in. However, if you’re looking for some blades that a generally accepted as a quality blade, I can recommend either Astra SPs or Gillette Silver Blues.
I know this was a longer post than usual, but I hope it helps anyone thinking about getting started in the world of traditional wet shaving. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would be interested. If you think I missed the mark in any category, or just want to offer another recommendation, please leave a comment.