What is the difference between a straight razor, a double edge razor and a cartridge razor and what kind of people do they suit? Read on for an unqualified amateur psychological assessment.
Straight (Cut-throat) Razor
What Is It?
The straight razor is an impressive and slightly unnerving looking piece of hardware. It evokes images of Sweeney Todd and Reservoir Dogs. It consists of a handle and a long sharp cutting edge. It is the definition of low tech - you have stubble that needs to be cut - here is a sharp, exposed blade with which to do it.
Why Use It?
Using a straight razor is a statement. It says "I am willing to forgo the contrivances of modern technology to use a somewhat dangerous instrument because it is the best". It's a bit like driving an E-Type Jaguar, despite that fact that modern cars have more technology packed into a single door handle. It requires skill and precision, but when used properly delivers the best shave possible. As it’s a single piece of steel that can be sharpened again and again, it should last you a lifetime, and you’ll never have to pay for replacement cartridges or blades again.
The owner of a straight razor probably fixes his own car or motorbike. He is good with his hands and is never in a hurry - he likes to take his own sweet time. He is an obsessive collector of at least one thing, be it comics, stamps, fossils, butterfly larvae or something similarly obscure. He forgoes fads and trends to forge his own path, and is not concerned in the slightest with being seen as ‘cool’. He might very well roast and brew his own coffee, sleeps in very old flannelette pyjamas, and his favourite movie is either 'Citizen Kane' or 'The Great Escape'.
Double Edge (Safety) Razor
What Is It?
The invention of the safety razor is often credited to the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Perret, but they did not really gain popularity until King C. Gillette's double edge model with disposable blades hit the production lines in 1904. The Gillette version required no stropping or sharpening, and because it was easier to use than a straight razor, men began to shave themselves rather than entrust the job to their barber. The double edge razor consists of a thin, two- edged flexible blade which is held in place by a safety guard, which allows only a tiny portion of the sharp edge to protrude.
Why Use It?
Like a manual car, shaving with a double edge razor commands a bit more attention, but the user is in control. Blades are really cheap and users can feel satisfied that their morning ritual is creating less landfill waste than the cartridge razor user. Shaving with a double edge razor takes some skill and effort, but it shouldn’t be seen as dangerous or difficult.The process will generally take a bit longer than using a cartridge razor, but as it only has the one blade, a shave with a double edge razor generally results in less skin irritation and ingrown hairs than a multi-bladed cartridge variety.
The owner of the DE is a disciple of self-improvement, likes to be in control and likes to utilise "the right tool for the job". He has a penchant for vintage items, will walk a few extra blocks for a good coffee in the morning, sleeps in clean white boxer shorts, recently sat through seven seasons of 'Mad Men' and re-watches 'Goodfellas' at every opportunity.
What Is It?
The cartridge razor became wildly popular in the early 1970s when both Gillette and Schick launched massive advertising campaigns extolling the virtues of shaving with multi-bladed razor heads.The standard cartridge razor consists of a plastic handle that is generally sold very cheaply, and disposable razor heads, which are replaced as they wear out. The razor comes with a lubricating strip and pivoting head - both designed to make shaving as quick and easy as possible. Contrary to propagated wisdom, less may actually be more when it comes to the number of blades, and cartridges that contain five or six blades and vibrating handles don’t necessarily provide a superior shave to cartridges sporting only two or three blades.
Why Use It?
The cartridge razor is quick, easy to use, and almost foolproof. If you don’t suffer from ingrown hairs or irritation, don't mind forking out your hard-earned for the replacement cartridges, and just want to shave with minimal fuss and effort, the cartridge razor would be your weapon of choice. Even if you are a staunch straight razor or double edge user, the cartridge razor may still have it's uses, particularly when travelling, or when shaving time is limited.
The cartridge razor man opts for the functional over the aesthetic. He is motivated by convenience, and drives an automatic car that might almost be able to steer itself to the nearest drive-thru. He is a man on the move, often in a hurry, drinks instant coffee, wears polyester pyjamas, and his favourite movie is invariably 'Die Hard', the original, starring the fiendish Alan Rickman.