I gave my husband, Oscar, a starter kit to straight razor shaving. Today he shares his adventures in learning to shave like a vintage gentlemen.
Recently I have bought something that I had been wanting a long time. A straight razor. Straight razors have been in the movies as long as I can remember, but they are usually used as a weapon. Sometimes, however, they are used to shave peoples faces. My reasons for wanting a straight razor is they look cool and I wanted to experience what it would be like to shave with something that is insanely sharp and its main purpose is to glide along your face and neck near your most important arteries and remove hair. I honestly can’t believe how it must have been when everyone went to barbers or did it themselves and had their faces shaved with straight razors that are also weapons or so I have seen. For this post, I will not go into much on how to use straight edge razors as that has been covered already by other blogs like this one, which is where I started on how to do everything. First a brief, brief of history on the straight edge razor.
Straight Edge Razor History
The first straight edge razor was manufactured in Sheffield, England in 1680, and they eventually fell out of favor when the King C. Gillette invented the safety razor in 1901, which used disposable steel razors instead of forged steel like the straight edge razor. When I was researching this, I found out that King C. Gillette died poor — according to Wikipedia at least. That is crazy to think about, especially since he invented a product most men use on a daily basis.
Well, that bit of history was mainly to talk about how long the straight razor has been in existence. Barbers are still schooled in straight razor shaving. I even had the chance to discuss this with my current hair cutter lady and she said that in California for the beauticians license they still have to shave a balloon with a straight razor. They get 3 balloons to shave before they are disqualified. I still have to try and lather up and shave a balloon. I guess that is the sign of greatness.
The main reasons I wanted a straight razor is because they look so intimidating in movies. Think about when you saw them used in Sweeney Todd or Boardwalk Empire or Desperado or Unforgiven or any number of movies where they want to convey a sense of heightened awareness about the two characters. Sometimes the scene is used to convey tense moments between the shavee and the barber, who holds in his hand the tool that could either take your life in seconds or give you a great baby faced shave so you look good for the ladies. Sometimes the shavee and the barber are enemies, which makes for good cinema. So yes of course I wanted to use one, especially being a man interested in vintage things.
I started by reading the above blog post and then went on the hunt for a blade. The links on the post above were too old, so I searched Amazon and got acquainted with the brand names and prices and read a lot of reviews. Eventually I settled on the Dovo brand from classicshaving.com. It seemed like it was a good brand everyone talked about but not the crazy prices Art of Shaving charges. I did, however, pick up a strop at Amazon.com and my wonderful lovely wife did get me a starter kit that was put together by Art of Shaving (but sold for cheaper at Bloomingdale’s) that has oil and a brush and some moisturizer. So it seemed like I got everything I needed except a hone (which is used to sharpen the blade) but the blade came pre-sharpened so I will not have to use one of those for a while. The following items are a list of everything you need to start straight edge shaving (minimal list):
I like the strop I got at Amazon. Cheap and good reviews.
Shaving Brush and Lather
Shaving brush and shaving lather (recommended but not needed. Look for a kit.)
After shave moisturizer
I really like the one I got from The Body Shop. Shop around for one and don’t pay too much!
Now you are ready to begin your adventures in shaving.
The First Straight Razor Shave
So when I finally got all these items in my hands, I ran upstairs in my house to check out all this stuff. I tell you the first, first thing I did was take out my straight razor, open it up, and cut myself. No joke. It was a cut on my thumb, and I knew in the back and front of my head that this is the sharpest thing ever made and is used to kill people and such, and for some crazy reason my brain decided to put my thumb to the blade to test that theory out. Yes, it is medically sharp. So sharp, in fact, that the small cut I did get by barely touching my thumb to the blade did not hurt, as the pain from cuts comes from dull blades not sharp ones (Think paper cuts). Anyways, after that incident, I was ready to shave. I used the lather and brushed it on my face after a hot shower, which was not anything too daring, and then I was ready to apply the steel.
I gripped it just like in the video and made a small motion at a 30 degree angle to my face and then I shaved in that small area. I was holding my breath the whole time, as I thought it was going to take off part of my face. After a few swipes, I was feeling braver, so I continued down the path and made more and more “shaves.” Eventually, I had most of my face shaved and a few cuts on my chin as I could not figure out the angles to shave that area. Again, the cuts do not hurt and bleed for only a little while. I used a backup safety razor to clean everything up but my mission was accomplished. I shaved with a straight razor and lived.
Now I shave less often with the disposable razor because I like the experience of the straight razor better, but I need to have about a half hour to shave. I am sure with more practice I can cut that time down. No more do I feel the intensity of holding something really sharp to my neck but I still enjoy the experience. I have had the razor for a few months now and I haven’t needed to get it sharpened. I have only had to use the strop to sharpen it a few times. My next goal is to be able to shave against the grain after shaving with the grain. That is another challenge and I still use the safety razor for the against the grain shaving. Everyone has always said not to shave against the grain but it leaves a smooth, smooth face and I haven’t had too many problems as long as I use the right moisturizer.
-Debbie’s 2 cents- A shave with a straight razor is amazingly soft! And it lasts longer then a standard shave. I love it when Oscar takes the time to shave with the straight edge razor. He is much more kissable! This vintage lady votes YES to vintage straight razor shaving.