For most men the first thought that comes to mind when you say straight razor is a hardened street thug or flashes of a Sweeny Todd story line and its grizzly scenes. Even with this disturbing imagery, men around the country are flocking to sharp steel more and more regularly. The driving force behind this new wave is a close and smooth shave. There is a phrase that rings true in this realm; sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
For those men looking to go beyond a quick and sometimes questionable shave, the world of straight razors may be for you. In short, the world of the gentleman and the lifestyle that goes with it has seen a resurgence. Men are ditching plastic face scrapers and embracing the straight razor as an elegant replacement. If it is not in your skillset yet, you need to learn how to use a straight edge razor.
Choosing The Right Equipment
Before you start slinging the blade though, there are a few things to know. Things that will keep you from bleeding out on the counter as you try to shave. Straight razors are more than just a glorified knife. It is simply a work of art. Some of the most accomplished razor makers in the world produce blades that will literally last lifetimes and in fact become family heirlooms if maintained correctly. You may be tempted to find an inexpensive razor on the growing number of sites, but you will be well served to stick with a high-quality steel razor.
Cost does for the most part dictate the quality of product because well-tempered steel just takes more time and money to produce. A well-tempered blade will make a distinct “ting” if you catch the point of the blade under your thumbnail and let it slip off quickly. A dull sound or no sound is a sign that the blade is more than likely not tempered well and will not hold the edge you need for a long-term good shave experience. While looks may drive part of your purchase, I encourage you to stay with a blade in the 5/8” size. It is simply easier to use and handle.
While I encourage you to actually take a shaving lesson for straight razors in person, I will offer you a few tips to get you started and help keep you from slicing an artery.
How To Use A Straight Edge Razor
- Try to shave in the shower. This allows you to keep your face in a warm moist area and will improve your shave.
- Wash your face with warm to hot water to help soften the beard. If you have serious time on your hands, use a hot moist towel on your face prior to shaving.
- Get a comfortable grip on the razor. While there are many ways to grip it, one of the most basic and effective is as follows: Place your first three fingers on the back of the blade. Put your pinkie on the tang. Your thumb will sit on the side of the blade near the middle. This position will allow you to shave most of your face. You will need to make small adjustments as you move around your face, but it is a good base.
- Go slow and with the grain. Use slow, even strokes in the direction of the beard growth. Sitting the blade at about a 30-degree angle will work best.
- Do one side at a time. Use your free hand to draw your skin up or down in the area you are shaving. Do your cheeks first and then move under your jaw. Once again, remember to go with the grain. Some men’s beards grow downward on their face and upward on their jaw and neckline.
- Do it again. If you want the super deluxe shave, a second pass will be necessary. Wash your face and lather up once again and follow the same pattern. After you become skilled at controlling the razor you can add a pass going across the grain as well. Get some time on the blade before you try this though.
- Finish up. Once you are satisfied, rinse your face with cool water. This closes the pores and will help keep your skin healthy. Use a quality aftershave. While the manly aroma is important, the real truth is that it helps reduce skin irritation and helps the skin look good.
It Just Feels Right
Shaving with a razor-sharp piece of steel is just damn manly. In the age of softer and easier, the act of straight razor shaving to many is a tip of the hat to stronger times. Shaving to many is almost ritualistic and meditative. It is not something that is done quickly unless you have a case of band-aids handy. It’s time to embrace the old ways and get a shave you have to experience in order to appreciate.