Razor sets can contain anything from a safety razor with disposable blades to a straight razor and a sharpening strop. Many modern razor sets contain a safety razor with blades, shaving cream and aftershave lotions. Classic shaving kits are more likely to come with a straight razor, strop, shaving brush and other other old-fashioned items. The set you choose will depend upon your personal shaving preferences, such as whether you are most comfortable shaving with a straight or safety razor.
Many classic razor sets contain a standard straight razor. This razor has a blade that folds out from the handle. It is a single, sharp blade that may take some practice to use properly. Straight razors were commonly used for shaving until users began to switch to safety razors when they became available in the early 1900s. Some barbers still use straight razors, but safety razors or electric shavers are more common in home use.
If you want that classic shaving set that might have been popular 100 years ago, then look for a set with a quality, stainless steel straight razor. High carbon steel is the original material from which these blades were made and may still be available. These steel blades will generally sharpen faster, but may not last as long as stainless steel. They can also rust if not properly cared for. Stainless steel blades may take longer to sharpen on a strop, but are usually much longer lasting and easier to maintain.
The strop in the razor set will generally be made from leather, though sometimes a type of canvas is used. This can be hung and used to sharpen and polish the straight razor blade. Some kits may also come with a whetstone, or hone, that can be used to sharpen the razor. The best razor set should typically come with a pre-honed blade, which may make a stone unnecessary. Stropping the blade, or stroking it a certain way across the strop, typically keeps the edge thin and sharp.
Classic sets may also contain such items as a shaving brush and shaving soap. Shaving brushes are usually a handle with short bristles sticking out from the end. If you want a razor set like many men owned in the early 20th century, look for a brush made from badger hair rather than synthetic bristles. These are said to create the best lather when rubbed on shaving soap, and are supposed to be the most luxurious for applying the lather to the face. A razor set of this kind may also contain a mug for the soap, where the lather can be created.
A modern razor set can also contain a brush, soap and a mug, but is more likely to include a safety razor than a straight razor. These sets may also contain a can of shaving cream or foam rather than shaving soap and a brush. Safety razors do not require strops because the blades can be removed when dull and replaced with new ones. They also make it less likely that you will cut yourself by providing a frame around the blade that offers some control and protection.