FAQ: The Gear

Before you can experience your first traditional wet shave you'll need to acquire several essential pieces of shaving gear.  There is a lot to think about here so in this section we've detailed each piece of your shaving kit and explained the ins and outs of each.

The Razor

This is my razor, there are many like it, but this one is MINE.

What's the difference?

Your razor is the most important item in your arsenal and you'll soon learn to wield it like a seasoned swordsman.  The first thing you need to know is that their are two, significantly different, types of wet shave razors: the double edge safety razor and the straight, or cut-throat, razor.  You've seen both of these in film and on tv but for a visual reference, Donald Drapper uses a safety razor whereas Sweeney Todd uses a straight razor.  It's really up to the individual but we recommend starting off with a double edge safety razor as most beginners do.
When choosing a double edge razor, there are lots of choices but not a lot of distinguishing information to make a decision from.  The main factors you are going to want to consider when selecting your razor are size, weight, material, manufacture, and, of course, the look and feel.

  • Size: You’ll want a razor that’s size feels comfortable in your hand.  The handle length can vary, usually, between 3 and 4 inches.  If you have larger hands, we recommend going with something with a bit more length, otherwise standard short handled razors are usually a good fit.
  • Weight: The weight of the razor is what will be doing most of the cutting come shave time, so make sure to choose a razor with some weight behind it. We recommend your razor weighs at least 2.5 oz and not much over 4 oz.
  • Material:  The durability and longevity of your razor will largely be based on the material the razor was manufactured with.  Make sure your razor is primarily made of metal and avoid any that are mostly made of plastics.  Some razor may have handles made of non-metal finishes or grips which is fine.
  • Manufacturer: Again, durability and longevity of the razor is a factor here. You’ll want to choose a razor from a proven manufacturer or risk shoddy craftsmanship.  Some of the most popular and proven manufacturers of safety razors are Edwin Jagger, Merkur, Muhle, and Parker.
  • Look and Feel:  This one is up to you.  Do you prefer an all chrome, barber pole style razor or one with an ivory finish and sleeker style grip?  The choice is yours.

You may come across some other variations of safety razors but for the time being you’ll want to avoid slate, adjustable, open tooth, and other variants until you are a more advanced wet shaver.

Which should I get?

With all these selection criteria considered, two of the most common beginner razors on the market are the Edwin Jagger DE86 and the Merkur 34C Heavy Duty.  These are all around great razors that are used by new and advanced wet shavers.


The Blade

What's the difference?

Here’s another item that has seemingly endless choices and little information to inform your selection. Even more daunting is the fact that blade preference varies drastically from one individual to another and even the style of safety razor used can affect preference.  There are many factors at work here but essentially what you need to know is that different brands and types of blades vary in sharpness, coating, and material.  So based on the razor you are using, the sensitivity of your skin, and the qualities of your beard, you will get better and more comfortable shaves from some of these blades over others.  Again, it’s all about personal preference here.

Which should I get?

Well you’re in luck because others have had this same, head scratching conundrum in the past.  To solve this, many retailers offer blade sampler packs which include a few blades from several different manufactures for you to try out.  We recommend getting yourself one of these sample packs to test drive as many different blades as possible so that you can find the one that fits you best. Otherwise, check out the blade selection we offer here.

Some words of warning before you begin your quest for the most epic blade.  Avoid Feather brand blades until you are more experience with your razor.  These are by far the sharpest blades on the market and can turn your face into swiss cheese if not wielded correctly.  Once you’ve got your technique down you should definitely give these a go.


The Brush

What's the difference?

Now we’re getting somewhere.  If you've never used a shaving brush before, you are in for a real treat.  Brushes are a bit easier to break down that the last two items.  Since the brush is what you will be using to create your lather and apply it to your face your ideal brush will be one that is soft on your face but firm enough to create build a nice lather.  

First, there are three major types of bristles that brushes are made from (in order of quality and expense): Synthetic, Boar, and Badger.

  • Synthetic brushes are, you guessed it, made from synthetic materials to mimic one of the more quality types of brushes.
  • Boar brushes are made from harvested boar hairs which generally are firmer and bit rougher on the skin, but will produce a better lather than the synthetic variant.
  • Badger brushes are made from, yes, badger hair, and will be softer on the skin and will hold more moisture. These, generally, produce the best lather of all types.

Since both Boar and Badger brushes are made from animal hair, there can be some smells associated with your brushes, especially during the first few uses.  Badger brushes tend to lose the stinky odor fairly quickly while some Boar brushes may hang on to the stank indefinitely.

Badger hair brushes can be further broken down into four quality variants (in order of quality and expense): Pure, Best, Super, and Silvertip.

  • Pure badger brushes are made, primarily, from the belly hair of the badger and are the most common type of badger brush.  The bristles of a pure badger brush are often trimmed to an even length and will be the roughest of all badger types.
  • Best badger brushes are made from more desirable, softer hairs of the badger on the back and sides of the animal.  Bristles are generally lighter in color and more tightly packed which will help produce a more desirable lather.
  • Super badger brushes are made from select, softer hairs from the animal’s back and belly.  The hairs selected are finer than those found in Pure and Best brushes and will often be dyed to resemble a Silvertip brush.
  • Silvertip badger brushes are made from the rarest type of badger hair found on the animal’s neck area.  The hairs are naturally colored with distinct banding and a silver coloring on the ends of the hair.  Silver tip brushes will be the most expensive brushes available but also the softest and produce the best quality lather.

Which should I get?

For the beginner wet shaver, we recommend starting with either a boar or pure badger brush which will produce a respectable lather and won’t cost too much.  Again, you’ll want to stick to the more reputable brush manufactures, like Omega, Edwin Jagger, and Simpson,  or risk having your brush fall apart on you.  Two of the most common starter brushes on the market are the Omega 10048 and Omega 10049 Boar hair brushes.


The Soap/Cream

What's the difference?

You may be accustom to canned goop but for a traditional shave you’ll need some traditional shaving soaps and creams.  Most will be made from all-natural ingredients, unlike the chemically ladened mass marketed crap, and will incorporate simulating aromas and qualities.

So, while soaps and creams are both used to generate shave lather, there are some basic differences between the two.  Formulation and production methods aside, the first and most obvious distinction to note is that while soaps are solid, creams are, well, creams.  As a result of this, you’ll see a variety of packaging methods that are different for each but usually fall into one of the following categories: tubs/bowls, pucks, sticks, or squeeze tubes.  Other distinguishing traits to consider are that creams are easier to lather and soaps will, generally, produce a more lubricating lather.

Other than these fundamental difference, shave soaps and creams will also have varying scents and ingredients.  Some of the more popular scents include Bay Rum, Sandalwood, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Citrus, and Menthol but there are many others to explore.  

Which should I get?

There are so many awesome soaps and creams to choose from but some of our favorite starters include Taylor of Old Bond Street’s Shaving Creams and Proraso Eucalyptus & Menthol Shaving Soap.  This is one area that you will want to delve into and try as many as you can possibly get your hands on.  It will soon become an addiction.


The Aftershave/Balm

What's the difference?

A shave without a proper aftershave or balm can leave you vulnerable, dry, and wanting more.  Much like your soaps and creams, you are going to have a similar offering of different products to choose from.  Again, you are going to see a large variety of scents and styles to choose from here.  So what’s the difference?  Aftershaves are more viscous, typically contain alcohol to close pores and act as an antiseptic, and often have a stronger scent.  Balms will not contain alcohol, and its antiseptic qualities, but will help to moisturize and soothe the skin while offering a more subtle fragrance.  If you suffer from dryness or significant razor burn after your shaves, you’ll want to try a balm to see if you can get it under control.

Which should I get?

Once more, there are too many quality aftershaves and balms to list and you should have some fun exploring all varieties as you develop wet shaving techniques.  To start you off, we recommend a classic, inexpensive balm like Nivea’s Replenishing Post Shave Balm or aftershave like Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum & Sandalwood Aftershave. Both of these are great for beginners but are often staples in more experienced shavers routines.


The Other Stuff

There are some other items that you may want to consider purchasing to further indulge in the wet shave experience, but these are not required:

Now that you know everything you need to know about traditional wet shaving gear, grab one of our starter kits to get started right away!