- You can’t beat a classic, and the British-made Edwin Jagger DE8 safety razor is our favorite due to its excellent construction, great fit and finish, and timeless design that looks as good on your shelf as it feels in your hand.
In an age of electric razors, multi-blade cartridges, Axe body spray, and canned shaving foam, old-school barber-style shaving is making a big comeback. This is largely due to an information-rich internet that has allowed younger generations to re-discover things that have been left behind in our modern sea of mass-produced consumer products. Or maybe we could simply chalk it up to men being tired of crappy shaves, irritated skin, and expensive disposable razor cartridges. Whatever the reasons may be, traditional wet shaving is here to stay.
It’s not difficult to see why more and more men are taking notes from grandpa when it comes to their shaving routine. Traditional wet shaving offers a number of benefits over modern electric and cartridge razors. Namely, it’s easier to get a closer shave and it’s easier on your skin. It can also save you money in the long run, as safety razor blades and shaving soap are considerably cheaper than cartridges and canned foam. They’re also better for your face.
The fundamentals of wet shaving haven’t changed much over the centuries. The first rule is, naturally, to select a good razor, and the majority of wet shavers rely on the trusty safety razor due to its low cost and ease of use. This razor type uses a double-sided blade covered by a guard that exposes only a sliver of the edge, preventing major cuts.
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up five of the best safety razors you can buy. We graded them for durability, fit and finish, hand-feel, and ability to deliver a great shave when used with a quality blade. I personally use and recommend US-made Personna and Japanese-made Feather blades.
Here are the best safety razors you can buy:
- Best safety razor overall: Edwin Jagger DE8
- Best long-handled heavyweight safety razor: Merkur MK38C
- Best open comb safety razor: Mühle R41
- Best adjustable safety razor: Merkur Futur
- Best high-end safety razor: Feather AS-D2
Updated on 10/29/2019 by Amir Ismael: Updated links, prices, and formatting.
The best safety razor overall
Classic design, high-quality English construction, great handling characteristics, and a decent price make the Edwin Jagger DE8 safety razor the best choice.
Founded in 1988 in Sheffield, England, Edwin Jagger has quickly become a household name in the world of wet shaving. Although the company’s history isn’t as long as that of others such as Gillette or Merkur, it has earned its well-deserved reputation as a maker of excellent razors and other shaving products.
The DE8 series of safety razors is Edwin Jagger’s flagship line and remains a favorite among beginners and veterans alike owing to its gentle shaving characteristics, great fit and finish, and excellent hand-feel. All of the DE8 razors feature the same overall design utilizing a three-piece construction (consisting of a two-part head which screws into the top of handle). The difference between models comes down to different metal finishes and handle colors.
In fact, the DE8 is one of the few safety razors on the market to offer such a wide array of style options, including some handles with rougher grip surfaces for you butterfingers out there. These choices, along with the DE8’s sleek aesthetics, make Edwin Jagger’s razor one of the most attractive razors available. This isn’t necessarily a selling point – after all, a razor is a tool – but something that looks great on your shelf is always a nice bonus and shows off Jagger’s high-level Sheffield craftsmanship.
In terms of size and weight, the Edwin Jagger DE8 is in the “Goldilocks” zone – it’s just right. The handle is not too short and not too long, not too light and not too heavy, but is perfectly balanced for most wet shavers. It’s heavy enough to let the weight of the razor do most of the work (a too-light razor will require you to use pressure to shave, which will result in cuts and irritation), but not so large and unwieldy as to be uncomfortable or awkward to use.
Its timeless design, slick looks, quality Sheffield craftsmanship, and ideal balance of size and weight make the Edwin Jagger DE8 safety razor the perfect choice for any man new to wet shaving or for those just looking for an upgrade. And at around $30, it’s also a great way to bring your morning grooming regimen to the next level without breaking the bank.
Pros: Sturdy English-made handle and head, an attractive design with multiple finish options, great balance and handling, and its affordable price makes it the perfect starter razor
Cons: The cast alloy head is prone to breaking at the neck when dropped
The best long-handled safety razor
The German-engineered Merkur MK38C offers some extra length and heft, making it a great choice for shavers who prefer the weight of a heavy-duty razor.
Merkur, a subsidiary of Dovo, is a top manufacturer of safety razors working out of Solingen, Germany. Like Sheffield, Solingen is a city with a long history of fine cutlery manufacturing, a tradition that continues to this day. Merkur- and Dovo-branded razors have proliferated throughout the world since the firm was founded more than a century ago in 1906.
Today, the company’s double-edged safety razors bear the “Merkur” name (whereas its traditional straight razors are made under the “Dovo” brand) and remain a favorite of many, this author included. The decades-old Merkur Classic and its heftier cousin, the aptly-named Heavy Duty, are still highly regarded among wet shavers, but the standard-length grips fall a bit short for some hands.
Enter the excellent Merkur MK38C. This member of the Merkur family is similar in overall design to the Heavy Duty, but it boasts a longer barber pole-styled handle that offers added weight and improved grip purchase. This makes the MK38C the perfect pick for users with larger paws as well as any others who simply prefer the feel of a beefier, heavier razor in the hand. The plus-sized grip provides more real estate for your fingers, and the heft makes it easier to let the razor do its thing via gravity.
Although it oozes classic Merkur quality, the MK38C’s heavier build does have some quirks. The razor features a non-standard three-piece form factor, with the razor head’s long shaft screwing into a sleeve that fits up into the handle from the bottom. This is different from other three-piece Merkur designs wherein the two-part razor housing simply unscrews from the handle and then comes apart to receive the double-edged blade.
The Merkur MK38C is not at all difficult to assemble or disassemble, but this hollow handle does require some more attention when it comes to fully drying and cleaning the surfaces in order to avoid rust.
With a bit of proper care, however, this sturdy razor should offer a lifetime of great shaves, while its substantial, satisfying hand-feel and excellent German quality cement its status as the best long-handled heavy-duty safety razor on the market.
Pros: Excellent German construction, high-quality fit and finish, and its long heavy handle provides better control for users with larger hands
Cons: The non-standard three-piece design requires more care when drying and cleaning
The best open comb safety razor
The open comb Mühle R41 is a high-quality German-made safety razor that is perfect for experienced wet shavers with hard-to-tame facial hair.
Double-edged blades are second only to old-school straight razors when it comes to getting a close shave. The main reason that safety razors don’t offer the same precision as straight razors is due to the guard, which is the very thing that makes the design “safe” by only exposing a sliver of the blade and restricting the angle at which it glides across your skin. This guard helpfully prevents nasty cuts, but the limitations it imposes can make it tricky to get a baby-smooth shave, particularly on angular areas of your face like the jawline.
More experienced wet shavers and those with tougher whiskers don’t necessarily need to ditch their double-edged blades and buy a straight razor, however. Open comb safety razor designs like the Mühle R41 cut away part of the guard so that the blade can glide more closely across your skin. This stands in stark contrast to the standard closed comb guard which consists of a straight bar extending along the entirety of the blade’s edge.
Mühle, as you probably surmised from the name, is another respected German manufacturer of shaving tools and accessories. The Mühle R41’s sturdy build quality, excellent machining, and attractive corrosion-resistant chrome-plated finish all stand as a testament to this pedigree. The three-piece design is not a departure from that of other European razor makers like Edwin Jagger or Merkur, the obvious exception being the R41’s open comb guard.
This guard is notched along its length to allow the razor to deliver a closer and more aggressive shave. It’s a simple and elegant solution: By removing some of the surface area of the guard bar, more of the blade’s edge is exposed so that it can cut deep enough to tackle stubborn stubble that normal safety razors can’t seem to get. Compared side-by-side to standard razor designs, the R41 achieves a super-close shave with minimal effort.
It goes without saying that open comb razors like the Mühle R41 are best suited for more experienced wet shavers as well as those who have thicker whiskers, as the aggressive shave is more likely to result in nicks, cuts, and irritation in an inexperienced hand and on those with sensitive skin. But if you’re the guy who has a five o’clock shadow at two o’clock and you’re steady with a blade, then the Mühle R41 might just be the one for you.
Pros: High-quality German design, great fit and finish, and a well-executed open comb guard that offers a closer shave than standard safety razors
Cons: Relatively expensive compared to other razors, and the open comb may be too aggressive for novice users and those with sensitive skin
The best adjustable safety razor
The Merkur Futur represents the next generation of safety razor design, with its adjustable head for six different guard settings and a personalized shave.
One of the main drawbacks of a safety razor, and what makes it slightly less capable of getting a perfect shave when compared to a straight razor, is that the head locks the blade in place and keeps only a certain length of the edge exposed. This greatly minimizes the range of the blade’s angle relative to the surfaces of your face, and while this is an important part of the safety razor design that keeps it from slicing up your skin, it’s also a “one size fits all” solution that is less than ideal.
Leave it to German engineering to reinvent the wheel: True to its moniker, the Merkur Futur represents the next leap forward for the classic safety razor design, featuring an adjustable head that allows you to alter the amount of the blade’s edge that is protruding from the guard. This means you can customize the razor’s performance to match your own skin and facial hair type – a welcome departure from that offered by standard double-edged razors.
The Futur’s adjustable design is surprisingly simple, which leaves one wondering why it took more than a century for razor manufacturers to figure this one out. You can switch between six different settings with a simple twist of the head. This increases or decreases the amount of the blade’s edge that is exposed so you can use the razor as gently or aggressively as you need.
Wet shavers with sensitive skin and/or softer facial hair will benefit from less blade exposure, while others with thicker stubble can choose to have more of the edge protruding for a closer cut.
You could also, for instance, use a low setting for easy-to-shave parts of your face, then move to a higher setting for trickier areas like your jawline where difficult stubble likes to hide (just bear in mind that the Futur adjusts via twisting the head, so don’t try this with bare wet hands when a blade is loaded).
This unique adjustable design successfully attempts to solve a similar problem as open comb razors like the Mühle R41, but the Futur is a better choice for novice users and any others for whom an open comb is just too aggressive.
Pros: Adjustable head system lets you change the amount of exposed blade edge for a custom shave, sleek modern aesthetics, excellent German build quality, and it has a longer handle than standard safety razors
Cons: Notably more expensive than traditional designs, and the smooth handle would benefit from some knurling for a better grip
The best high-end safety razor
The Feather AS-D2 may cause sticker shock for some buyers, but this expertly-crafted Japanese razor is worth every penny.
Japan’s blade-making history should need little explanation. High-quality swords treasured by collectors and warriors alike have been forged in the Land of the Rising Sun for centuries, and while the age of the samurai may have passed, the country remains one of the biggest exporters of high-quality kitchen and utility knives today. This pedigree is the rock that the Feather company was built upon when it was founded in 1932.
In the wet shaving world, Feather is most well-known for its stainless steel double-edged blades which many people (myself included) use in their safety razors. Feather blades are renowned for their sharpness, excellent edge-retention, and ability to deliver a smooth shave with minimal irritation – a testament to their finely-machined edges. Feather also carries a number of different razors such as the all-stainless AS-D2, which is arguably the finest safety razor on the market today.
The AS-D2, despite bearing the Feather brand name, is actually manufactured by Seki Edge in Seki, Japan. Think of Seki as the Japanese sister city to Sheffield and Solingen: A town known for its long tradition of cutlery craftsmanship (and yet another one, curiously, that starts with the letter “S”). Authentic katanas are still forged in Seki using centuries-old techniques, but the city mostly now produces world-famous knives and, of course, Feather razors.
The Feather AS-D2 is notable not only for its extremely high level of craftsmanship but for its all-stainless steel construction. This stands distinctly apart from the chrome-plated alloys from which most razors (including the others on this list) are built.
This stainless steel precludes the need for chrome plating and imparts a noticeably heavier weight to the razor, making your work easier as you allow the heft of the handle and gravity to do most of the work when shaving. The beefy handle features very aggressive knurling for a great grip as well.
The Seki Edge AS-D2 is also notable for delivering a very mild shave – great for those with sensitive skin – although admittedly, men who need a more aggressive razor might be underwhelmed with its performance.
For best results, pair this razor with the excellent stainless steel Feather blades for a baby-smooth, near-effortless shave. This is the most expensive safety razor on our guide by a wide margin, but the first time you use it, you’ll know why. Buy once, cry once, and enjoy shaving with the last razor you’ll ever need.
Pros: Superb Japanese craftsmanship, excellent hand-feel thanks to its hefty weight and aggressive grip knurling, tough and attractive all-steel construction, and it delivers a smooth and mild shave with very little effort
Cons: It’s considerably more expensive than other razors, and it may be too mild for some users
Pro tips from a long-time wet shaver
As someone who has used a safety razor and practiced wet shaving for years, I’ve come up with a few tips.
Avoid gimmicky designs or fly-by-night brands that rely on obnoxious marketing. The best razors made today typically hail from Solingen, Germany; Sheffield, England; and Seki, Japan. There are exceptions of course, but this is a handy metric to start with when shopping for your first razor. Cheaper options, typically manufactured in India or China, are not really worth the little bit of money you’ll save – if you save any at all – and frequently provide a sloppy blade fit that can lead to an unpleasant shaving experience.
Furthermore, “butterfly” safety razors that feature a head which opens up like wings to accept the blade are advertised as being easier to use, but they trap water in the handle and are all but impossible to properly dry out and clean (a recipe for corrosion, bacteria, and rust). Stick with time-tested two- or three-piece designs. It may take a few extra seconds to get your blade ready, but these are still dead simple to use and much easier to clean, which will extend the life of your razor.