The Art of Manliness: Shaving with a Straight Razor

Skills at Risk of Dying Out

Over the past 15 years I have found myself with a curious hobby… to learn skills that are dead or dying. Skills that my grandparents and their parents would have considered everyday responsibilities. Things such as hunting, bushcraft, gardening, canning, and even cooking are becoming dying arts to one degree or another.

This Winter I used my last Gillette razor cartridge. I could not bring myself to spend $20 for something I knew was going to go in the trash.   So, I tried some disposable razors (yes, $3 for something I knew would go into the trash).  They cost nearly 1/7th the price of the Gillettes and I was about 1/7th as impressed. They simply weren’t sharp enough and often pulled as they cut. The test of a close shave is to put rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and use it on your face, both with and against the “grain” of your beard.  I had cotton fibers all over my face.

So there I was without a decent razor, so I did what any man man would do… I grew out my beard.  It was not out of laziness or frugality; I simply had stuff to do and couldn’t be bothered with shaving with poor or overpriced gear.  But 6 weeks later I realized that I had a problem… Summer was coming.  I needed to lose the beard.  At that time I decided to give straight razors a try.  And why not?  I sharpen them so I might as well use them.

Buy once, cry once.

Yeah, I know, buying a straight razor is going to be more expensive than a 5-pack of Gillette cartridges.  But it can last a lifetime.  They don’t have to be expensive, either. For $49 I was able to purchase a straight razor kit which included a good razor with a strop, brush, and shaving soap from Classic Shaving.

You can easily spend over $200 on a great straight razor designed & made in the USA or Germany. These pieces are often appreciated not only for their excellent steels, heat treatment, and blade geometries, but also because they have a classic styling with nicely finished wood handles.  Some are even hand made and, as a result, unique.

What you definitely want to avoid is anything made in Pakistan or China that is being sold on eBay, Alibaba, or other marketplaces. Avoid anything that is inexpensive which advertises “Damascus” steel (a quality Damascus knife steel is going to be pricier than its “normal” steel counterparts).   BUT, a shop such as Classic Shaving builds its reputation on selling good shaving products.  And yes, the straight razor kit by Gold Dollar is made in China but it is made to the specs required by Classic Shaving.

The Ritual

Apprehension, Fear, Concern…  some of the feelings I had when I shaved with a straight razor for the first time.  Those feelings quickly dissipated as I realized how easy it was and how well it worked.  Strangely, it was easy and yet awkward as I learned what I needed to do. But it got easier (or I got more proficient) each and every time.  Still, even the first shave was great.  It was smooth.  I did not cut myself.  And the resulting shave was far better than with the Gillette.  I quickly realized that Gillette, while good, was NOT the best a man can get.  I did the cottonball test after shaving with the straight razor.  Smooth.  Not even a single strand of cotton fiber anywhere on my face.  Even with the Gillette, the cottonball test would leave some cotton on my face – even if it wasn’t much.

Now I look forward to the relaxing ritual of shaving… rather than it being something else that needs to get done so I can move on to the next thing.  It’s an opportunity to slow down and take my time. I’m reminded of a saying from another hobby which is:  “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”.

1 thought on “The Art of Manliness: Shaving with a Straight Razor”

  1. Wow! Since I am a gal, I do not need to deal with the daily face shaving ordeal that you guys have to endure, but until now I was unaware that the straight razor was still an option! Even though you prepared us by saying that you had not cut yourself, I found myself holding my breath as the demo proceeded. Fascinating! Laura

    Liked by 1 person

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