As seen in Westerns, the straight razor is always wielded with slow deliberation, complete with a heroic, steely gleam in the eye to match the deadlines of the blade. There’s something fantastically calming about having the patience and steadiness of hand to produce a completely perfect shave from what is effectively a super-sharp weapon. Yet, some guys buy straight razors as their discreet opportunity for morning meditation. It’s good alone time. Nobody needs to know that you’re using that ten minutes of concentration to empty your mind of all the week’s stresses. Straight-razor shaving is good for the soul.
On a more prosaic note, straight razors are less likely to encourage ingrown hairs to develop, and you’ll be saving the planet by ditching the disposables. There are countless good reasons to go straight edge with your shaving, but where do you begin?
While looking at the kits available, we used a couple of criteria to decide which were appropriate “beginner” kits, even if not specifically labeled. Firstly, we wanted to include comprehensive packages so that you have a good supply of accessories. Secondly, we wanted to ensure that the kits were set up with quality blades which are shave-ready so that the business of learning to use one is as easy as possible.
After our list of favorites, you can read our buyer’s guide on how to evolve as a user of straight razors, having bought your starter kit.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
Top 5 Best Straight Razor Kits for Beginners
OUR TOP PICK
Two things make this kit stand out.
Firstly, it’s the only kit which provides both a safety razor and a straight razor. This is perfect if you’re not entirely sure that you want to spend nearly $80 dollars on an experiment in cutthroat shaving techniques.
The second distinguishing feature is the presentation of this kit. The design harks back to La Belle Epoque (or Gilded Age), just after the turn of the 20th century. Everything, from the box’s latch to the typesetting on the tip sheets, makes this a gorgeous vintage collection of accessories. It’s a good era to derive inspiration from, too: your Edwardian man of fashion had to combine outrageous mustaches with baby-soft cheeks. Depending on their metropolis of residence, they might even have thrown some extravagant sideburns into the mix.
As Cardinham and Killigrew are a premium skincare company (based in Delaware), they take the quality of their balms and soaps seriously. They’re not just a cosmetic afterthought. That’s why you can order the kit according to which kind of scent you would like, and there is a choice of six.
Here’s a quick-fire list of what you get: straight and safety razor; shave balm; shave brush; shave soap; 10 stainless steel extra blades for your safety razor, and a tip card for how to perform your old-school shave.
The blade itself is nicely weighted, sharp right out of the box, and easy to use. If you want a bowl and stand which blend in with your vintage kit, then this little stand-alone nugget by Anbbas fits in nicely. More from Anbbas later in this list.
- Beautiful vintage presentation
- Great value for money
- Beautiful scents and skincare
- Choice of blade type
- No stand or pot
- Straight razor is functional but basic; looks a little anachronistic with the rest of the kit
Wind back a decade or two from the aesthetics of the early 20th century, and you get the stark elegance of Victoriana. This Naked Armor (NA) straight razor kit looks like it would belong on a ledge in a washroom with a prairie view. You’d give this to someone who wants to release their inner Wyatt Earp.
This vintage kit is more than double the price of the C&K box, but the straight razor is the centerpiece of this gift set. NA knows how to make blades. Altogether, the blade, shank and tang are 6.5 inches long. The blade is adapted from a half-hollow design to provide a wider (or taller) blade suitable for beginners.
With a full hollow blade, the spine will seem quite bulbous compared to the shaving edge. A half-hollow blade tapers more gently, giving you a heavier blade. NA’s razor is a hybrid, giving you a nice handling weight and plenty of edge to work with. The handle itself is beautiful, made of algum (sandalwood) with warm tones that complement the copper-gold caps around the pivot and base. This blade is elegant with a nice palm fit.
The razor isn’t ready to use right out of the box, but only a short delay is required: you need to use the strop the night before you want to shave. Knowing this in advance, you can plan your delivery date.
Inside the crafted wooden box, enclosed in the plush red foam interior, you will find: a soft case for the razor; a leather strop and paste; 7oz organic shaving soap, and a badger-friendly brush. Incidentally, badger-friendly does not mean that the brush is synthetic; it means that no badgers have been harmed in the making of this brush.
This kit comes with a guarantee for free blade sharpening if you’re not satisfied, and a lifetime money back guarantee.
- Elegance: great for gifting
- Easy-use razor
- Soap lathers fast
- Lovely soft brush
- Strop and paste provided
- The price
- Could’ve been a little more generous with starter accessories for the price
The razor has a 5/8 blade made of rust-resistant J2 stainless steel with a 45-50HRC rating. This makes it a relatively soft steel, but that also means that it’s not prone to brittleness. It has an ergonomic wooden handle which warms quickly in the palm for a comfortable grip.
The strops are great. You use the coarser tan for sharpening, and the black for a nice finish. When strops come as extra accessories, there is a slight tendency for the leather to flake. Not so in this case.
Beyond the strop and razor, here’s what the kit contains: 1 soap pot, 3oz soap included; a wooden shaving stand; a lavender and citrus aftershave balm, and a brush.
Aesthetically, the kit comes together well. The brush’s knot is made of resin (which is more durable in a wet environment) but it has a wooden look. Their brush is synthetic, and the soap vegan. The finish on the stand needs a little work: we’d recommend putting a paper towel or doily beneath it to begin with to check how the wood stain handles the humidity in your bathroom. The pot has a walnut finish and a nice inlay pattern. There is a drying layer at the base for your soap, which you can remove if you want to fill it with conditioning shave cream.
It’s a nicely comprehensive package for a beginner at an attractive price point.
- Generous package
- Easy-use ergonomic handle and blade
- Sharp right out of the box
- Strop included
- Synthetic brushes can smell very chemical at first
- The stain on the brush stand doesn’t seem to stand up well to high moisture levels
This second kit by GBS is a nice choice for the hot shave barber shop experience. You’ll see several of the same contents as with the beginner’s shave kit: the same razor and brush, a strop, and a nice soap.
Instead of a stand, this kit comes with a nice apothecary-style bowl with a pommel handle. It’s ceramic, which helps it to retain heat for longer.
From their product specifications, they appear both proud and defensive of the synthetic brush. It’s made unnecessarily clear that any brush can be expected to lose 25-50 hairs at a time, for example. However, it does appear that synthetic brushes have evolved in the past couple of years. The water absorbs better, the smell is less powerful, and the soft-feel quality of the bristles has improved. Overall, the brush achieves the thick, soft lather required for protecting the skin from irritation or injury.
One item which distinguishes this kit is the inclusion of an alum block, which is a wholly natural after-shave skin soother. It has natural antibiotic qualities and is suitable for sensitive or hypoallergenic skin.
- Nice price for several accessories
- Good quality bowl for lather
- Nice soap
- Strop provided
- Some customers didn’t find the blade as sharp as expected
This is our final suggestion, and the lightest on your wallet.
Now, we’re going to be frank—most of the negative feedback about this item relates to the quality of the blade handle and the cheap look of a couple of the accessories. The plastic brush stand is plasticy, as is the resin bowl. The razor case doesn’t look like real leather. This seems reasonable, as it’s sold as artificial/faux leather. “You get what you pay for” is a common refrain for any product at the cheaper end of the market.
There is a lack of elegance and this kit wouldn’t make its way onto our list of favorite shaving gift sets, for example. However, if all you want is a package that has everything you need to get started with using a straight razor, then this provides you with a great start. You can always evolve from here.
So, let’s look at the extras first. With the straight razor and artificial leather razor bag, Anbbas provide: a badger-hair brush; brush stand; resin bowl; goat milk soap and 10 replacement razors. Yes, 10. Changing the blades has been a little fiddly for some because it does involve loosening and tightening a very small screw. You might need to keep an equally small screwdriver in your bathroom.
By the time you’ve gotten through ten of those blades, you should have a good idea of whether straight razor shaving is for you. If the technique appeals, then you can invest in a nicely balanced razor and strop.
The blades themselves, discounting the issues of replacing them, are praised for their quality. The shaving edge is a neat 1.46”, helping you to slide around the awkward angles beneath the jaw. When tucked into the blade case, the unit is 6.5 tall, and around 0.65 wide. It’s light, the blade follows the line of your hand, and it produces a smooth shave.
Even the more critical reviewers took the time to say that the brush and soap were both really nice.
- Low cost
- Nice brush and soap
- Actual blade edge shaves nicely
- Generous supply of replacement razor blades
- Lack of elegance, particularly with the blade handle (looks unfinished)
- Some customers have had trouble with the screw that changes the blades
Best Straight Razor Kits for Beginners Buying Guide
In this section, we’ll run through a list of things which may be important to you when choosing which kit to buy, along with some cool tips of what to consider when eventually replacing or expanding the items in your kit.
Is a strop provided?
You can buy one alongside your kit if it’s not part of the package. When choosing one, try to find one that’s 2.5-3” wide if you can. 2” strops are common as accessories and they can work well, but it does mean that you have to make criss-cross motions with your razor. This takes a while to get the hang of. If you’re spending under $60, then buying a separate strop set is a good investment, both for this kit and future razors.
When stropping your razor, you should always keep the blade flat to the strop’s surface and only turn it with the blunt spine facing the leather. It’s much easier to get the hang of this with a straight up-and-down motion.
Do you need a bowl to mix your water and soap?
It’s a lovely thing to have in a starter kit, particularly a vintage-looking item, but it’s also the most easily improvised item of any set of shaving gear. If you’re feeling like you don’t want to supplement your new kit with a household bowl or mug, then keep your eye on auction sites. Antique apothecary pots come up all the time. It won’t take you long to find something that blends nicely with your shaving area.
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Is the type of brush important to you?
The only brushes featured here are badger hair or synthetic brushes which have a similar loft (hair length) of up to a couple of inches. However, you can also buy brushes made of horse or boar hair. Boar bristle brushes will hit your wallet less hard than badger hair, should you find yourself on a tight budget. If you take a vegan approach to your care products, then this is one of the best synthetic brushes with decent water absorption and ease of drying.
The kind of style you want to maintain also directs your choice of brush. If you’re hoping to sustain a permanent two-week stubble with tidy lines, then you’ll need a brush with a shorter loft so that you have better manual control over where your shaving soap goes.
What kind of skincare will you need?
It’s worth seeing if you can get the skin products alone if what’s on offer appeals to you. That way you know you have back-ups if the soap happens to work really well with your skin type. Further, what kind of skin do you have? A drier skin, for example, would benefit from a soap with a higher fat content for a sleeker movement of the razor. You may also find, if it takes you time to get used to using the straight razor confidently, that it’s worth investing in a pre-shave oil. These will reduce the irritation that your skin experiences from the incredibly close blade. There’s a wide choice on the market, but they need not break the bank.
Incidentally, in case you’re wondering about our apparent obsession with Vikings, we honestly do not have a Viking obsession with Vikings. It’s the guys in charge of shave product branding who suffer from that particular idiosyncrasy. It must be that eras-old association between terrifyingly sharp steel and vigorously curated facial hair.
Best Straight Razor Kits for Beginners FAQ's
1. Can you use a belt to sharpen a razor?
It’s not advised. If you have a 100% leather belt, then you’ll want to look after it, and definitely won’t want to put paste on it (unless it’s really old and it’s no longer an active part of your working wardrobe). A cheaper belt can contain a lot of particulate grit which will neither refine your blade nor polish it.
2. Why do so many brushes use badger hair?
When you’re shaving, you use warm water. Badger hair is both absorbent and good at holding heat. Because of its density, it’s a great choice for producing a lather. It has the added bonus of being easy to rinse clean and being quick to dry. If you’re after a premium brush, look for silvertip hair, from the badger’s neck.
3. What does HRC mean to describe a blade?
HRC stands for Hardness on Rockwell Scale C. It’s essentially the value returned following a test where a diamond tip is pressed against the steel of the blade and the point at which the tip creates an indent in the metal is recorded. An HRC of anywhere between 45 and 60 is fine for a straight razor.