“Convenience” and “speed” are two of the most prominent words in the marketing language surrounding the shaving industry for the past few decades. The idea has largely been that shaving is a struggle, something you just need to get through so that you can move on with your day. However, is this the right approach?
In recent years, we’ve seen more and more men turning to the time-honored shaving rituals of their fathers and grandfathers with the straight razor shave. There’s no denying that this can look very daunting, but it just takes a little bit of work to master this skill and you’ll never go back.
The Tools of the Trade
The most important piece in the shaving kit is, of course, the razor. Moving directly from disposable razors to straight razors can come with a bit of a sticker shock. But remember that when you buy a high-quality straight razor, it will last a lifetime, so the cost is not as high as it may initially appear.
The blade itself should be high-quality tempered steel. You can choose a variety of handle materials and weights. But you need the metal to be quality, as that’s where the razor will do its work. Here’s one way to tell the quality: press your thumb along the side of the blade, then use a medium amount of pressure to flick off the sharpened edge. A metallic ring should emanate from the razor. The louder and clearer the ring, the better the steel.
Stropping your blade smooths out the rough edges of the blade, setting the edge in alignment. This is the main reason a straight razor can give a better shave. You’re ensuring that the microscopic edge of the blade is as sharp as it can possibly be, contrary to a disposable blade.
The most common type of strop is the hanging strop, which consists of one canvas strip and one leather strip. A high-quality strop will use soft canvas and leather, allowing you to keep the blade intact without dulling it. Cheaper models will often use coarser materials, which can reduce the blade’s lifespan.
How to Shave
It’s common for men to have their own way that they approach a shave, whether going against the grain or with the grain and starting on the left or the right. However, straight razor shaving does come with a bit less flexibility. Here’s the most well-known method.
First of all, hold the blade at about a 30-degree angle. If you hold it at a sharper angle, you risk cutting yourself, but if you hold it at a lesser angle, you probably won’t get all the hairs.
Start on one side, then use the hand on the other side to pull the skin taut, with your hand going over your head. This will raise the hairs and make it easier to run the blade over the skin.
When you start, only shave with the grain. Once you’ve mastered this, you can shave against the grain, but this can provide a higher likelihood of injury for beginners.
Here are a few other tips to improve the quality of your shave:
- Soften the beard hair by taking a shower before you shave or wrapping a hot towel around your face.
- Use an exfoliant before shaving. This will clear away oil, dirt, and dead skin cells.
- Give yourself enough time to shave. You should never be scrambling to shave as fast as possible. This makes injury more likely.
The process of using a straight razor is all about thinking about the process of shaving. It can give you an even closer shave than when compared to other types of razors, as well as giving you a sense of luxury and ritual in your day-to-day life.