Straight Razor & Shavette Differences
Superficially, the difference and similarities between straight razors and shavettes seems pretty clear. Whilst a straight razor is a fixed blade that requires regular care and attention, shavettes aren’t burdened by this.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the different parts of a straight razor, we recommend that you check out the diagram on our detailed guide.
Instead, shavettes feature a mechanism that lets you clasp or slot a razor blade along the spine. Usually, these are simply double edge safety razor blades that you cut in half.
However, some specialised models will have special injector blades that only fit them. These premium models are rarer and their blades tend to be expensive, which undermines the point of shavette shaving. Furthermore, sometimes they are only available to barbers.
In fact, there are several types of mechanisms that you can find on a shavette:
- Clasp: The most common, the razor’s spine is actually two pieces between which the blade is then fixed by a clasp.
- Pinch: Similar to the clasp, the spine is a single piece with a clasp that locks in the blade.
- Slide/Insert: A central piece comes out of the spine’s centre and is used to slide to blade into place.
- Slot: The spine is folded metal into which the blade is pushed.
- Screw: Quite rare, the blade is held in place by a screw.
- Knob: Very rare, the clasp rotates on its centre to hold the blade.
The different mechanisms can have an effect on the quality of the shave. If the blade is held loosely, it may vibrate, causing an uncomfortable and hazardous experience. However, most blades tend to feature either the clasp or insert mechanisms, which function quite well.
Shorter Cutting Edge
As you may well notice, shavettes only have a cutting edge as a long as the safety razor blade’s width. Meanwhile, a straight razor’s cutting edge goes from the shank all the way up until the point.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to these different configurations, which we’ll compare further down this guide.
Weight & Balance
As straight razors feature a full-metal blade, they tend to be somewhat weightier than their disposable cousins. A high quality straight razor will also feature scales or a handle of a similar weight to give you the perfect balance.
Conversely, the disposable blade on a shavette is lightweight and quite small. Therefore, its mass is far less than on a traditional straight razor. Usually, shavettes are made with light materials such as plastic or aluminium to ensure balance.
However, keep in mind that a razor’s weight plays a large role in the shaving experience. Some people insist that a razor should have some weight behind it in order to let gravity do the work. If you have to apply too much pressure, you may cause nicks and cuts.
Nevertheless, there are those that prefer lighter razors as this give them more control in hard-to-reach areas.
The Advantages Of A Shavettes
There are a number of advantages to shavettes over straight razors, which can be factored by maintenance, cost and practicality as we’ll explore below.
As mentioned earlier, the clear and most attractive reason that people flock to shavettes as their first straight is the low maintenance. As stropping is a chore that needs doing before every shave, some may be put off by this.
Furthermore, stropping requires a good technique otherwise you may end up damaging the cutting edge. Additionally, honing is another inconvenience that requires even more skill, which is usually factored as an expense as it’s best undertaken by experts.
Shavette Cost & Expenses
With regards to cost, even the best shavettes are much cheaper than good budget straight razors. The only expense will be purchasing new blades when needed. As they’re less precious, it’s also less important to take good care of them as they can be replaced.
As was noted earlier, barbers and stylists are obliged to use shavettes for hygiene reasons. In fact, there are few countries where barbers are still allowed to use traditional straight razors.
Furthermore, barbers won’t only use shavettes for faces and beards. Traditional barbers actually swear by straight razors as alternative to thinning sizes as it allows the hair to grow back naturally.
Therefore, a shavette is ideal for their needs as they can quickly and cheaply replace the blades between clients. Likewise, they don’t have to worry about regularly stropping between shaves, which makes their job much more efficient.
Similarly, tonsorial artists will use shavettes for contouring and hard partings. In this instance, the shorter cutting edge provided by a shavette is ideal as it will allow them to work accurately on smaller areas.
With a shorter blade you also find that you’ll have increased visibility, which makes shavettes ideal for touching up your beard or facial hair.
Disadvantages To Shavettes
Whilst shavettes certainly have their advantages, they’re not without their own drawbacks. In fact, it’s very important to realise this before jumping right in and shaving with one.
An Unforgiving Blade
Firstly, shavettes are probably the most unforgiving razors that you could use. By that we mean that if your angle is slightly off or you make a false move, you will likely endure some razor burn.
Given that the blade is extremely thin and lightweight against a long arm, the blade vibrates against your stubble and skin. This phenomenon may cause irritation and cuts.
The same blade in a safety razor is braced by heavier metal against a handle that’s a short distance from your hand. Therefore, it vibrates less for a smoother and more comfortable shave.
Meanwhile, straight razors are large and heavy blades by comparison, which means they vibrate less. Whilst they may be just as sharp, the thicker metal in the grind makes each stroke probably kinder to your skin than either alternative.
Therefore, these aren’t razors that are best suited for beginners as they require a good foundation of skill. In fact, we’d actually dissuade newcomers from trying shavettes as the experience may put them off wet shaving entirely.
Safety Razor Blades
Although the cutting edge is indeed the same width as a safety razor, it feels easily surpassed by a straight. Given that straight razors have a long blade, they require fewer passes, which is one of their benefits over safety razors.
Therefore, it feels like a step back when using the narrow blade of a shavette. Similarly, even the best safety razor blades tend to have inferior quality steel than straight razors.
After all, they’re not designed to last very long so why use truly premium steel? However, the blades of a straight razor can last several lifetimes if properly maintained.
Another drawback is having to break or cut safety razor blades in half to use them. Whilst they can be torn with your hands, it’s known for that to backfire and people seriously hurting themselves. You can of course use scissors, but it’s something of an inconvenience.
Fortunately, some razor blades do come with a slight seam down the centre so this can be done easily.
Despite there being some very good shavettes that we recommend, they are rarely as premium as straight razors. This isn’t an issue with the shavettes themselves per se. However, it is something that you may notice.
As they’re sold on such a low price point, it’s not particularly surprising after all. In order to be supplied with something so cheaply, costs must be cut somehow. In fact, the majority of shavettes that you’ll see online are of inferior quality and their cheap build causes poor balance and a weak hold.
Fortunately, we’ve tested dozens of shavettes to see which are worth buying and we’ve found some excellent options. If you want to learn more about the best and most trusted shavettes, head to our shavette buying guide.
There are some members of the passionate shaving communities that swear by shavettes. However, they tend to have endured many years of experience before enjoying their full potential.
Additionally, a lot of people who continue to use shavettes started with straight razors then actually moved back to shavettes. As they are much more unforgiving than straight razors, they’re ironically not the best choice for beginners.
If you’re serious about learning a type of traditional shaving, we recommend that you try real straight razors first. Among the best straight razors, the cheapest we recommend is only $30 and comes shave ready. If you do enjoy it, then you can invest in all the other apparatus such as strops.
If not, safety razors are also excellent for a daily shave and still thoroughly enjoyable. We also offer our own recommendations for the best safety razors to buy online.
However, if you’re just looking for a shaving tool for touching up a beard’s cheek line, shavettes are the ideal companion. Their short cutting edge and higher visibility make them far easier to use than either straight or safety razors.
Want to learn more about shavette and straight razor shaving? We have plenty of resources for you to explore including: