As Movember reaches its conclusion today, I thought now would be an opportune time to introduce readers to the delights of the straight razor. While the single edge blade has a steep learning curve, the wonders that await you once you’ve mastered the basics are well worth the effort.
Before you can start learning the art of straight razor shaving, you’ll need to gather together a collection of several important items.
The Straight Razor
Firstly, and most obviously, you’ll need a straight razor. While it’s tempting to buy the coolest looking device you can find (such as a black lacquered razor adorned with fire breathing dragon) keep in mind it may not be your first choice when it comes to a good quality razor.
Blade quality is highly variable; take some time to investigate the various brands and avoid cheap imports from auction sites.
When purchasing your razor, you’ll also want to ensure it’s been honed; this process sharpens the metal blade ready for shaving. While this procedure can be done at home, it’s recommended that beginners and amateurs purchase pre-prepared straight razors, as it requires a high degree of skill to hone blades correctly.
During the buying stage, you’ll also need to be weary of terms like ‘shave ready’ and ‘factory honed’; a skilled human can produce a far better result than a manufacturing robot – if in doubt, buy only from a retailer who guarantees a hand-honed service before delivery; it may cost a little more, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Secondly, you’ll need a strop. This is usually a taut, flexible length of leather you run the edge of your blade against to keep the razor in tip-top condition. Again, it’s going to take some time to learn how to strop correctly, so it’s well worthwhile taking a quick look at a few online tutorial videos before practicing.
Finally, if you want the truly luxurious shaving experience, you’ll need to invest in a good quality badger shaving brush and a block of shaving soap. Don’t underestimate the effect these will have on the quality of your shave – if you don’t already know the reason why you should be ditching the canisters of shaving goop, you should check out my two articles on making the switch to ‘wet shaving’ right now!
Taking your first Straight Razor Shave
Okay, I’ll admit it to you – unlike its forgiving double-edged counterpart, a straight-edged razor will likely take a few chunks of your face with it on the first couple of occasions.
Therefore, it’s important to reserve plenty of time when taking your premiere shave. Make sure you’ve prepped your face thoroughly. You’re going to need plenty of hot towels to soften your whiskers before you begin; try taking a long, warm shower first to really penetrate those follicles.
Always begin with the soft, flat parts of the face as they’re the easiest to start off with. Hold the opened razor against your stretched skin at a thirty-degree angle for optimal cutting; too flat and you’ll experience tugging and tearing – too steep and you’ll cut your skin.
As with any other method of shaving, always make the first pass in the direction of the whisker’s grain; as you gain more confidence, you can begin to take multiple passes with the razor, but don’t try to run before you can walk!
Straight Razor Care
You’ll need to ensure your razor is bone dry before storing. Carbon fibre blades will rust very easily if left in damp conditions for too long. If you plan on storing your razor for an extended period, you may want to consider a light coating of oil to protect the surface from moisture and airborne dirt; should you do this, remember to clean off all the oil before using the blade again.
Should your razor become damaged for whatever reason, don’t ever start shaving with it; you’ll need a professional to regrind the surface or you risk cutting yourself quite badly.
Want to Learn More?
If you fancy trying a Straight Razor, but aren’t quite convinced just yet, head on over to one of the following resources or online stores for more details: